Are you moving towards a life you want? How do you know so? How will you know if you're off course? Long ago, Aristotle told us that we are teleological, that we need to have targets. We benefit by setting targets and working towards them. In working towards them, though, we'll hit obstacles. That's a good thing, it wouldn't be much of a target if we didn’t have any obstacles to overcome. Not all obstacles are worth overcoming, and not all targets are worth their pursuit as we learn more about the journey — building clarity on what is or isn’t worth our time is helpful. The key is what we do when we reach obstacles.
Do we use obstacles and what we learn along the way to course-correct and establish new and more meaningful + aligned targets? Or do we allow our emotions like fear, shame, and blame to hold us back from our goal — and maybe even from setting new targets?
Before we get into how we can best approach inevitable obstacles, what's one target you have? Maybe it's a long-term impact goal, or maybe it’s something you want to do today or this week. No matter the timeline or size of your target, you're likely to meet an obstacle.
When we meet obstacles, we would benefit from thinking clearly and neutrally. We can do that by employing the 3 A’s of targeted thinking:
- Step One: Accept everything, including obstacles, exactly as they are.
- Step Two: Ask the creator's question: What do I want?
- Step Three: Take Action.
When setting targets, it's wise to acknowledge that we will meet obstacles. The grander and longer-term the target, the more frequent and arduous obstacles we'll face. When we face obstacles, we must accept them completely. No matter the reason they came to be, they're here. Ignoring them doesn't help, pretending they don't matter when they do doesn't work, and letting one obstacle derail you from your target is unfair to you and the beneficiaries of the target you set. To combat the tendency to give in and quit, we can first accept all obstacles, and then...
Ask the Creator’s Question
In every encounter with an obstacle, we can be a victim to circumstance or the creator of what happens next. When obstacles present themselves, we can feel powerless. It's possible that something we had zero control over suddenly stands in our way, now what? We first accept what happened and then take the power back by asking the creator's question: What do I want?
We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. - Epictetus
Asking the creator’s question focuses our energy on finding a solution rather than lamenting on the obstacle. We've accepted that there's an obstacle, and now we're creating a solution. Maybe you want to overcome this obstacle, and you're willing to pursue pathways A-Z and back. Maybe this isn't an obstacle you are ready and willing to face at this time, and you decide to create a new target. Maybe you’ve learned that you want something else. The key is that you are in control, you decide how you respond. Once you’ve decided what you feel is worthy of your next move, take...
Taking action will enable you to continue making progress towards your target. With more action and less emotional thinking, you’ll be meeting obstacles with increasing velocity. That is a good thing, it means you’re working towards something worthwhile. Accept these obstacles each time they appear, ask the creator’s question, and then...take ACTION!