I want to thank my dog, Hanno— not that she is reading this— because she is a constant reminder of living in the present and of pure and honest joy.
- Ryan Holiday
Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps. It begins with how we look at our specific problems, our attitude or approach; then the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities; finally, the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty. It’s three interdependent, interconnected, and fluidly contingent disciplines:
PerceptionThere are a few things to keep in mind when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We must try:
- To be objective
- To control emotions and keep an even keel
- To choose to see the good in a situation
- To steady our nerves
- To ignore what disturbs or limits others
- To place things in perspective
- To revert to the present moment
- To focus on what can be controlled.
ActionNo one is coming to save you. And if we’d like to go where we claim we want to go— to accomplish what we claim are our goals— there is only one way. And that’s to meet our problems with the right action. Therefore, we can always (and only) greet our obstacles:
- With energy
- With persistence
- With a coherent and deliberate process
- With iteration and resilience
- With pragmatism with strategic vision
- With craftiness and savvy
- And an eye for opportunity and pivotal moments
Will is fortitude and wisdom— not just about specific obstacles but about life itself and where the obstacles we are facing fit within it. It gives us ultimate strength. As in: the strength to endure, contextualize, and derive meaning from the obstacles we cannot simply overcome (which, as it happens, is the way of flipping the unflippable). In every situation, we can Always prepare ourselves for more difficult times.
- Always accept what we’re unable to change.
- Always manage our expectations.
- Always persevere.
- Always learn to love our fate and what happens to us.
- Always protect our inner self, retreat into ourselves.
- Always submit to a greater, larger cause.
- Always remind ourselves of our own mortality.
- And, of course, prepare to start the cycle once more.
The philosopher and writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb defined a Stoic as someone who
“transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking.”
It’s a loop that becomes easier over time.