By Shari Lash
Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere, you’re ready to go, you’re on your way and a parked UPS van is blocking your driveway?
These kinds of annoyances are everywhere. And our responses are usually the same: Are you kidding me?!” “How can they be so inconsiderate?” “Didn’t they notice me backing up?” When you’re so wrapped up in being the victim, all you see is an intolerable impediment to your progress. When we’re hopelessly caught up in the snarl of cars or people (and even construction), how much effort would it take to heed the sage advice, “You need to watch where you’re going”?
We heard it a million times when we were children. If we didn’t watch where we were going, Mom and Dad warned us, we’d bump into things and people, fall into a hole or walk into oncoming traffic. Or worse! As adults, we know that obstacles are part of life. Our journey is littered with people and things blocking our way, causing detours and delays.
Instead of suffering the physical consequences of not paying attention like when we were children, we now face the deeper pain associated with money, people, work, family, and health. All have the potential to be, and often are, unpleasant, and all too frequently we don’t meet our obstacles head on. We avoid them, walk around them, step over them, and even ignore them.
So why are we so impatient with blockages? Why do we so quickly jump to conclusions? Perhaps we need to explore who’s really blocking our driveway or sidewalk. Spoiler alert, it’s probably you and here’s what you can do about it:
- RECOGNIZE without judgment. One of the hardest things to do when we’re faced with an obstacle is to put the brakes on and notice what’s happening. Do you have a hold on your thoughts or do they have a hold on you? Notice how your body feels, where your breath is, and what’s going through your mind. Facing an obstruction is where negative, absolute statements don’t help. (Do they ever?) Notice when you say things like, “I’ll never get a good job”; “I’m always struggling to make ends meet”; “I can’t catch a break.” Recognize these negative thoughts and don’t judge them. They’re real. See if you can passively observe them they may start to ease their grip on you.
- RESPOND with compassion. Responding is very different from reacting. When we react, rational thought quickly goes out the window and we move into blame. When we respond, we’re taking the time to reflect on the bigger picture. When you do nothing but focus on that boulder blocking your path, you miss out on the wider landscape that reveals alternative routes to your destination. What would happen if you approached an obstacle with compassion instead of conflict? Who are your allies and companions? Make use of the supports available to you whether they’re people, services or organizations. When you realize that isolation isn’t necessary and can be remedied, anger turns into kindness and kindness makes space to see around obstacles and reveal new possibilities.
- RESET by taking baby steps. It’s all well and good to turn that frown upside down and focus on the positive in a negative situation. But life isn’t that simple, nor should it be. You can’t step away from the facts. Maybe you don’t have enough education to change careers (yet) or there isn’t enough money to buy new shoes for your kids (yet). Maybe you’re just too damn depressed to get out of bed in the morning (today). Overwhelm is the killer of hope. It constricts movement until obstacles appear insurmountable. So, how can you chip away at that boulder one little chunk at a time? Simply focus on one small thing you CAN do right now. Maybe it’s opening a LinkedIn account or phoning that employment agency someone told you about. It could be as simple as calling a friend and making a plan to get out. By taking action you’re breaking a negative, disempowering pattern. One small step can lead to another one until that boulder may not seem as ominous anymore.
Breaking down an obstacle is not obliteration in one fell swoop. Movement forward is a process that requires your attention, kindness and intentional action. Whether it’s the UPS truck or a traffic jam, trust that you have the manoeuvres to navigate through life’s detours and roadblocks. No matter how fast or slow you’re moving, remember to celebrate both the destination and the delays along the way.
Shari Lash, M.A. is the founder of WholeSTEP. She is a writer specializing in authentic bios and profiles and a workshop designer/leader focusing on self-compassion, career exploration, resiliency, and transition. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org