The all-time-greatest basketball player in my mind, Michael Jordan, once said this about obstacles in life: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” We can’t necessarily control when or what obstacles appear in front of us, but having to overcome them is definitely a part of life.
My first major obstacle in life happened when I was a rising 5th grader. Without any prior conversations, my parents transferred me from a public school to a private school to get a better education. My dad picked me up one day after school and took me to check out the new school campus. As I ran around and played in the empty school yard, dad came over, stopped the swing set and simply said: “this is your new school, and you will be coming here starting tomorrow.”
This big change of the learning environment after the start of a new semester introduced endless amount of obstacles. First, I had to deal with a 2-hour commune to school each way. The commute started with a walk to the bus station, the bus ride to the local train station, then the train to the ferry terminal. Then there was this long dusty walk from the ferry terminal to the school. Physically it was simply exhausting, emotionally it was lonely. Because I had no idea what would have been taught at the new school, I loaded up my backpacks with all my textbooks covering every subject possible. I often thought about the friends from my old public school whom I never had a chance to say goodbye to, the good times we shared… I very quickly slipped from the top of the class in my old school to almost-the-bottom of the class because the new school was hard and competitive. I didn’t have just one obstacle which I had to overcome, everything at that time seemed to be an obstacle between 5 o’clock in the morning to falling asleep feeling completely exhausted.
This part of my life still feels horrendous even as I wrote this blog. However, looking back, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to analyze the situation. Mom and dad told me that was good for me, and that was good enough. I knew they loved me, made much sacrifice for us kids, and I needed to just do my part. I slowly started to climb up the school ranking, came to America for college, and earned my MBA. A few successful career moves later, I am loving life helping my clients as a life and career coach.
Tips on overcoming obstacles
Based on this reflection of my childhood and many others, I’d like to share some of my learnings and observations about overcoming obstacles. I hope you will find encouragement and wisdom in them, and they will come in handy when hard times come. When things don’t go your way, remember you can climb over, go around, or fight right through them.
Don’t overthink, don’t overact
I had to say that I handled the school transfer announcement quite well right on the spot. I didn’t cry, scream or object; I just listened to what my dad had to say.
Oftentimes, when you overthink, worries, fear and even anger get in the way, and when emotion takes over, you don’t function and think logically. Remember to stay calm in any dire situations.
Identify the obstacles
When an obstacle hits, the first step is to identify what it is and what’s involved in it. If it helps, write it (or them) down so that you have a clear picture of what to take on. As for my experience, the first obstacle was that I didn’t know which textbooks to bring to the class the next day. Instead of panicking for the unknown, I just brought all the textbooks I could to be 100% ready.
Determine what you can control and can’t
Identifying what you can and can’t control will give you a sense of power when facing a challenge. Most of the time, you can control your attitude, effort and commitment. Focus and work on what you can control and let go of the worry for what you can’t.
See beyond the current situation
Stop personalizing your obstacles; rather, focus on something bigger than the obstacles. If I fixed my eyes on the terrible long commute, lack of friends, and teachers who might not like me, I would not have survived the first week of the school because everything seemed to have a downside to it, and there was just too much unknown ahead of me.
Break down the obstacles and keep a plan
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That also applies when you take on your challenges. It is crucial to break down your obstacles into bits and pieces and develop a plan and check list to tackle them one at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to take on the mountain top all at one shot.
Track your progress and stay positive
I believe tracking progress and staying positive go hand in hand. As you see your progress, you feel good about yourself and your effort, which gives you more strength and hope to continue your forward movement with your obstacles. Write down the progress you make, set milestones and celebrate when you achieve each milestone.
Seek support and encouragement
You need support, especially when you experience doubt facing obstacles and challenges. My biggest support was my mom during the first couple years after my transfer. She never showed her doubt or worries but continued to gently nudge me forward. I found out from one school teacher a few years ago that my mom at that time was actually extremely worried about me and my transition, she reached out to school numerous times for support so she could continue to be a good cheerleader for her daughter. I found my support and encouragement from mom who also reached out for support from my teachers.
Forrest Gump said in the movie, “life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you are gonna get.” There will be obstacles, doubts and mistakes, but these are also opportunities to discover the courage, strength and resilience you never think you have. We will never grow if we aren’t challenged. Contact me if you need a fresh perspective, positive mindset, or an attitude adjustment so we can celebrate your success while going around, over or right through the challenges you are facing in life. Let’s find a way together to overcome obstacles.
About Faye Weng
Your Online Life and Career Coach
Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.