Why Your Obstacles Force You to Level Up

We all face obstacles in our lives—sometimes we let them knock us back and other times they force us to level up in our lives.

Obstacles can be big or small, leave us feeling devastated or just mildly inconvenienced. However, every single obstacle we face can be a stepping stone for a new path in our lives.

There are always two choices when you face a stumbling block along your way to your goals. You can use it as an opportunity or you can give up on your goal. How you react is entirely up to you.

However, that isn’t always a truth that is easy to understand. If you are struggling right now, understanding the potential that your obstacles have might help you build something extraordinary.

Some obstacles help you define who you are

My childhood was filled with trauma and obstacles. I was kidnapped by my non-custodial biological father at five and then abandoned by my biological mother shortly after she got me back. My maternal grandparents raised me from age 6 until I was just weeks shy of 18.

I had one goal and that was to survive the emotional and physically abusive home I now lived in, and not end up like my mother. She was addicted to drugs and danger, and all I ever wanted was to be the opposite of that.

So, I poured every ounce of resiliency I had into being the perfect student so I could go to college and build a successful life. I wanted to be a journalist by day and a fiction author by night.

I was so close—college was set, my major was picked, and my dorm had been assigned. Then we went on a road trip that nearly derailed everything. We went to visit my biological mom who had been in witness protection since I was 14. She convinced me to stay there with her and start school there. I picked a new major, this time it was equestrian studies because I had always loved horses.

Those first few months were filled with obstacles and I nearly lost myself. Then, just six months into my new life, my mother was killed in a car accident. I decided to leave the school I was going to and find my father.

I gave up on the idea of having a career built around horses, and my father convinced me to study law, which had been my second choice after writing. I never even made it onto the new campus, instead, moving back across the country to live with my old boyfriend.

During this period of obstacle after obstacle felt like I was just giving up on my goals every time I made a decision. Now, looking back, I have learned two things. First, my main goal had always been to survive, and honestly, that was the only goal that really mattered at this moment.

Second, when your goal is broad like “survive,” “be happier,” or “improve your finances” the roads you take to get there will look like a plate of spaghetti until you make your goals more specific.

At some points in our lives, the obstacles are so big broad goals are the only ones possible

Every article out there will tell you to make SMART goals. That means goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The reason everyone says to set goals this way is that they work.

However, when we encounter life-altering obstacles, like the death of a loved one, divorce, or some other traumatic event it can be hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Specific goal setting is often put on the back burner and our goals become much more broad—like “just survive.” Survival is key to anything else, so if that is where you are, then focus on that.

Make your specific goal “get out of the bed today.” It’s measurable, attainable, and relevant. If you want to make it a little bit stronger of a goal, you can make it time-based and aim for getting out of bed by noon. Start there and when you feel stronger, make your goal a little more specific. Surviving whatever your horror is at this moment, will give you the opportunity to come out the other side.

When your obstacles come in the form of failures

Hopefully, you aren’t experiencing a traumatic event right now, and your obstacle is to a goal you have set. Maybe you had a small setback or an outright failed attempt at something. Maybe it’s not the first failure, and you are beginning to wonder if there is any point in continuing your goal.

First, remind yourself why you want it. I never really wanted to be a professional cowboy or a lawyer, so when those goals didn’t work out, I didn’t have the desire to keep pursuing them.

After the majority of my life was spent in the business world, and even earning multiple degrees in the field, I realized that had never been my goal either. I had accomplished it, and life was good, but I wasn’t living the life I wanted.

So, I set off to fulfill my dream of writing. Obstacles came in the way of haters and editors, trying to find clients, and my own self-doubt. Yet, I craved this life. It had always been what I wanted. Knowing “why” I wanted to keep going despite those obstacles helped keep me focused. I was forced to learn more about writing, overcome my fears, and take risks.

The choice was to be a better writer and learn how this career worked, or stop writing and go back to traditional work. Each failure taught me something I could use the next time. It was hard and it was discouraging at times, but as far as I was concerned, there really wasn’t a choice here.

This is the time to double down on making those goals as strong as possible. Channel your inner Edison and remember that you didn’t fail at something, you just found a way that didn’t work.

Don’t quit too soon if it is something that you really want

If the goal you are working on has a strong reason behind it, and you want it more than anything, then don’t quit too soon. And don’t be worried about starting too late.

If you do a quick Google search of some of the people who have been the most successful at what you are trying to accomplish, you will see, they all have struggles in common.

Very few people who are truly successful got there overnight. It might look that way, but when you dig a little deeper, you can see all the hard work and perseverance they put into reaching their goals.

Let’s look at some of the most successful writers, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

J.K Rowling

It took her six years to write Harry Potter. Her mother died when she was 25, just six months into her novel. Then she went through a divorce when her marriage of just a year broke down. She was now jobless, and a single mother. Despite all of this she continued to write her book for six years.

You might think her struggles ended there! She published Harry Potter and became a rich and thriving author. Well, you would be incorrect. Her book was turned down repeatedly. Finally, Bloomsbury decided to take a chance on the novel by the unknown author. What if she had quit when the publishing house immediately before Bloomsbury told her “no?”

We wouldn’t be able to drink butterbeer at Universal Studios (and that would be a shame), and J.K. Rowling wouldn’t be worth over a billion dollars now.

Stephen King

I often joke that I want to be Stephen King when I grow up. The man has written a sheerly ridiculous amount of novels, and everyone knows his name. Like literally almost everyone in the world. He lives in a big old mansion in Maine, and when I think of authors, I want to be as successful as he is.

But he was not always the incomparable Stephen King and literal King of the Horror Genre. In fact, his goal was to be an English teacher, except for the fact that he couldn’t land a position.

So, he started working in a laundry mat, writing short stories to help pay the bills. He finally got his teaching position, but he and his wife struggled financially.

In the same way that many of us do, not having enough money to pay the phone bill and the company disconnecting it. They lived in a double-wide that was old and drafty. He still wrote in his spare time.

Then came the moment. Nope, not the moment he realized all his dreams, but the moment no one would have blamed him for giving up the ghost. The school offered him extra money to coach the debate team.

The King’s car was held together by duct tape, and they could barely afford groceries. He felt he had no choice but to take the position. His wife, however, said no. It wouldn’t leave him any time to write.

Then he finished Carrie and became an instant success the moment the last word was typed—except that isn’t how it went. Over 30 publishers declined the novel. What if he had stopped then? We would have not ever had The ShiningPet Cemetery, or IT.

Don’t let the time right before you shine be the time you quit

Unfortunately, when we are living this life we do not have a crystal ball. Therefore, we can not see the world with hindsight. If someone had told Stephen King he would receive 30 rejections, and get his big break on the 31st, that would have made life much easier. We can swallow rejection when we know eventually we will win big!

Both Rowling and King didn’t know the magic number, they just knew that their obstacles were forcing them to choose between their dreams and a reality they didn’t want to accept.

Let your obstacles force you to improve your game (whatever that game is), and believe in yourself. You never know when that obstacle you are staring at is the last one you need to overcome.

Share some obstacles you have overcome with us in the comment section below. 

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