Four ways of approaching obstacles

Obstacles

There are four ways to look at obstacles.

One is to see them simply as obstacles: something getting in the way of you doing your work, an annoyance to be removed.

Another is to see them as part of your job: obstacles will always arise, and your role is precisely to overcome or get past them. The obstacles aren’t a barrier to the job — they are the job.

A third interpretation is to see them as learning opportunities. Ten years ago the obstacles you face today wouldn’t have come up for you, because you didn’t have anywhere near the skills or capabilities needed to address them. But what seemed like a challenge for you ten years ago is easy for you now, just as the challenges of today will seem easy in ten years time. Obstacles in this light are not ‘obstacles’, they are simply an indication of the level your abilities have reached. Looking at them this way, obstacles are an opportunity to learn new skills: either to remove the obstacles, skirt round them, or avoid them in the first place.

And the fourth interpretation is to see the obstacles as a test. A test of what you truly care about. Because if you find the obstacles are grinding you down, is it because they are not really worth overcoming? Is the issue not so much about the obstacles and more that you are travelling in the wrong direction? If you had a different role, would the obstacles matter less, because you would be pursuing a goal worth fighting for?

The way you choose to think about the obstacles you face will determine the energy and enthusiasm you bring to meet them.

The most useful way to think about them is as learning opportunities. But to do that you have first to know that you are on the right path.


The Churning is a book on leadership in times of change.

It contains seven chapters on inner leadership that help you work out what you care most about and articulate that as an inspiring vision.

The seven chapters on outer leadership give you the tools to implement that vision.

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