It’s easy to be happy and carefree when things go smoothly.
But what happens when life throws you a curveball?
Whether you’re brand new to this site or a return visitor, you may have seen the phrase, “When life has curves.” That is a topic I love to discuss because….my life has been curvy!
So pick up your feet, forget your problems for a few minutes, and read my top tips for staying calm and productive when you are facing difficulties.
Life Doesn’t Always Go To Plan
Most people don’t like obstacles. And yet, they are just about as inevitable as taxes.
When you’re working hard to achieve a goal or even trying to keep your head above water, the last thing you want is something standing in your way.
Obstacles have a tendency to keep us from getting where we want to go. They cause us to lose whatever momentum we’ve built up. In worst-case scenarios, they become the roadblocks standing in the way of allowing us to ever reach our goal or survive our situation.
I think we’ve all looked at the road ahead and thought, “I’m not really sure I want to/can do this.”
How To Deal With Setbacks
But what if?
What if obstacles weren’t as bad as you thought? What if the one thing you’re facing right now might hold the solution to the very problem you’re trying to solve?
Consider this for a moment: What if you can see an opportunity instead of an obstacle? That it’s your emotions holding you back, making you think an obstacle is a stopping point, instead of a new beginning?
It’s time to rethink obstacles.
It will likely take a mindset shift. But it is possible.
It’s time to see the opportunities you never imagined were there and to travel new roads you’ve never been down before.
1. Take a minute to stop and feel
Whatever you’re doing when you hit the obstacle, stop for a breather.
When you stop, you give yourself time to consider the options without all the emotions flaring up. You guard yourself against acting impulsively in a way you might come to regret later on.
To do this, start by taking a deep breath or two.
Define the emotions you’re feeling, then wait for them to calm. Knowing whether you’re sad, or angry, or frustrated will help you to find that calm place faster, as you would address each emotion differently. For example, ask yourself what you’re angry at if you are indeed angry. If you’re sad, accept the sorrow as being a natural part of the disappointment of meeting something that keeps you from your goal.
As challenging as it might be, don’t try to rush through the feeling or push it down. The best way to use this setback as fodder for out-of-the-box thinking is to embrace the emotion, no matter what it is. Own it and feel it in your body.
Once you feel it’s settled, you’re ready to move on. This process may take an hour, a day, or a week, depending on how major the project and how substantial the complication.
2. Accept where you
Realize obstacles happen. The more you fight them, the worse they’re going to seem. Like standing in quicksand, the sooner you come to accept the situation, the better it’s going to go for you.
It’s the struggle that pulls you down. So, take a minute to tell yourself this is a natural and healthy part of the process. Remember, the emotions you’re feeling are legitimate and real. It’s where you are, right now, at this moment. But the feeling won’t last forever.
3. Flip the switch on your emotional brain and start to use logic
After acknowledging the emotions of the moment, choose to let them go. It’s time to switch over to the logical side of your brain, where you store wisdom and experiences. That’s where you’re able to process what just happened and consider your options.
Next, take a step back and look at the obstacle from an outside point of view. That means looking at it as if you were a stranger standing on the outside of your life looking in.
What would they see right now?
Is it possible they could see a solution that you are unwilling to consider?
4. Get creative in problem-solving
Here’s where a little flexibility is going to go a long way. Start examining the alternatives.
Be as creative as possible and don’t discount anything offhand for being ‘too silly’ or too far outside the box. Sometimes it’s those silly ideas that are going to get you thinking along a different path entirely.
Yes, it’s normal to feel some disappointment at this point. Chances are you had a plan and were ready to move forward. But when you consider all the new possibilities, it’s possible to get excited about trying something new. Use this energy to fuel you toward the next step.
5. Embrace the Lesson
Maybe you’ve heard the acronym ‘OTI’. We used it constantly when I directed our county’s Elections department. It means Opportunity To Improve.
And at the VERY least, every obstacle holds an OTI.
Ask yourself what you gained in facing the roadblock. How are you looking at the world differently? What can you share with those around you about your experience?
When you cannot only ask these questions but also answer them, you’re discovering the meaning in the encounter. You haven’t wasted your experience, and even roadblocks can hold a purpose.
6. Break Things Down
Frequently our problem with obstacles starts with trying to take on too much at once. As the old saying goes, “you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.”
In other words, take a large problem and make it smaller.
You can also try to re-examine the goal you were trying to accomplish. How can you break down your goal into smaller steps? By focusing on these more modest goals, you’ll find it easier to move ahead. Also, you won’t be quite so overwhelmed by the big picture.
7. Admit You’re Only Human
Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone encounters difficulties.
By allowing yourself to fail, you’ll accept obstacles that sometimes occur due to human error. In some ways, these feel like the worst obstacles because it’s easy to get caught up in blaming yourself (or others) when these happen. You start to question yourself and your abilities and are more likely to give up.
Here’s where it becomes crucial to keep things in perspective…
By acknowledging you are only human!
You’ll be better equipped when you make mistakes again in the future. Because you WILL mess up again in the future. We all do.
8. Reconsider the Goal
When you evaluate, you might find that the obstacle was related to a specific goal or plan. It’s possible the goal either wasn’t well thought out or isn’t what you needed to do in the first place. It might be time to consider the original goal again. Is this obstacle trying to tell you something?
Sometimes the obstacle comes because you’d made a shift in what you were trying to do. Have you somehow changed your goal midstream? It might be you need to rethink your plan of attack entirely. When this happens, your obstacle has instead become an opportunity to move in a direction that suits your purposes better.
9. Don’t Forget to Celebrate!
It might seem odd to be thinking about celebrations when talking about obstacles but consider this: When you celebrate your accomplishments, you embrace the journey you’ve been on, barriers and all.
Even if you’ve stalled out completely, you can celebrate the progress you made and the work you put in. These are all worth getting excited about, and the emotions here are worth embracing.
Then when the party is over, ask yourself where you want to go from here. Make choosing a new goal part of the celebration. That’s also something to get excited over.
Bonus tip: Ask for Help
On a side-note, you don’t always have to do hard things alone. When you’re facing an obstacle, it’s okay to ask for help.
Mentors and support systems are integral to the process of working your way through difficulties. The benefit of a mentor is clear: they have likely been in this position before, and have the wisdom and insight to lead you through to the next stage of development.
Support systems are made up of those friends, co-workers, and relatives who can act as the bulwark to shore you up when you feel like you’re falling flat on your face. This group should only ever be made up of people who support you wholeheartedly.
That’s not to say they’re all cheerleaders or ‘yes-men.’ A sound support system is willing to speak up when they see you heading in what they perceive to be the wrong direction. They’re also there to encourage you and to remind you why you’re working toward this goal in the first place.
Also, don’t discount professional help where it’s needed. If you find you’re having trouble separating your emotions from the process, you might need a bit of help in working things through. There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice from a counselor or medical professional if you find you’re overwhelmed and unable to proceed.
Bringing It All Together
In the end, by embracing the obstacles you meet in trying to attain your goals, you’re likewise embracing a new way of thinking. You’re adjusting your mindset to one of success instead of failure.
There is power in accepting there are different ways to do things, and that the things standing in your way are more often new opportunities than a true stopping point. You’re looking at life in a way new way. One that allows you to go places you never thought possible before.
The key here is in control. Don’t let your emotions hold you back. It’s okay to feel ‘the feels’ when you meet with an obstacle. The key is in not staying there when it’s time to move forward again because you will move forward again if you keep trying.
Join me on Instagram to see more on struggles and victories!
Don’t forget it. Pin it!