Photo Credit: Michael Rosner-Hyman, Unsplash.com

Written by Jason Young
June 3, 2020

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

-Marcus Aurelius, 1956, Book 5.20

The obstacles are the way. This statement seems contradictory, but please allow me to make my case.

I’ve had many opportunities to focus on the stumbling blocks throughout my life, and happiness has often been elusive. How can I prepare for the unknown? Protect myself, my family, and my livelihood from threats that are unseen? These are the questions haunting many right now.

When an invisible virus can take away my job and stability, my hobbies and escapes, my friends and family . . . how do I keep moving forward?

For years I was unable to reflect upon my own obstacles in a productive way. Now I see that instead of impeding me, persevering through these periods in my life allowed me to successfully reach destinations of my choice–no matter the outside circumstances.  

Just like you, I have had many periods of my life when I struggled and my goals and lifestyle were threatened–not through any choices of my own. Where I could’ve given up and my life would’ve taken a completely different direction.

Here are a few of my struggles, both personal and professional, that I’ve dealt with successfully:

  • When I began working in Information Technology and web design, the dotcom bubble burst and many businesses built on Internet technology went bankrupt. I’ve successfully worked in this field since the late 1990s. 
  • When I was engaged to be married, the events of 9/11 happened within a few weeks of our wedding day. We pushed through that trauma and turmoil and have now been married for 18 wonderful years. 
  • Six weeks into being a parent, my wife and I lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. Now we are in an excellent financial position and have four wonderful children. 
  • When I finally started my own business after years of putting it off, the recession of 2008 hit. The business has been profitable and debt-free the entire time. 
  • In 2020, I decided to officially start my coaching business and then COVID-19 became a part of our vernacular. Life and work as we know it changed completely. Despite that, I’m now engaged as an executive coach to several CEOs of very successful brands.

Objectively looking back I realize that in these instances all I saw–all I focused on–was the outcome. I knew I’d reach my goal and was willing to do anything to prevail. I refused to be stopped by the obstacle and instead made each decision as it came to me, knowing that what I wanted would be mine.

Recognizing and integrating this concept deliberately was transformational. Had I boldly embraced my obstacles, and simultaneously been thankful for the experiences they gave me, there’s no doubt I would have been happier for most of my life. 

Sometimes I’m prepared for life’s obstacles. I save money, I buy insurance, I buckle my seatbelt–all to lessen the impact. But the struggles that I can’t foresee, sometimes they T-bone me. Over time and through many failures, I’ve learned that I can’t control most of what happens to me. The most empowering thing I can do is to realize that I’m in control of me.

Only I am in control of how I respond to a roadblock along life’s path. Only I am responsible for my thoughts, words, and actions. This simple concept can be exceedingly difficult to maintain. I find it much easier to go through life being a victim, at the mercy of every negative situation. But taking responsibility is what leads to happiness.

Recently, when COVID-19 began to take its effect on the United States, I was determined to live up to my values no matter what. Though there were many things I couldn’t predict, the one thing I knew was the outcome. There would be no victim mentality, no whining, no complaints. This would be a time that I became a better version of myself–pandemic be damned. 

In March of 2020, within a few hours of realizing that I wouldn’t be going to the office for several months, I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for anything and everything that COVID-19 could throw at me. Every day I choose to run towards the obstacles that appear.

Even as an introvert, I choose to be excited about video conferencing as a part of everyday life. I choose to be intentional about connecting with people–personally and professionally. The time that I’d normally spend commuting to work, going to the coffee shop, or eating out is now personal growth time spent reading, learning, praying, and meditating. Throughout my day I see my children, help with schoolwork, support them, and foster my relationship with them.

COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to reevaluate and refocus to become a better version of myself in multiple areas. I can see the differences in myself as a father, as a husband, as an employer, and as a coach. I know that when I look back on this period in my life I’ll be thankful for how far I came because of how I responded to something that many see as a disaster. 

Over the years, I’ve found that motivation comes and goes and passion is often nothing more than impatience or contrived obsession. Determination’s something I count on no matter what.

I’m determined to overcome anything that gets in the way of my living. I implore you to embrace the obstacle before you. Double down on your commitment to your values and know the outcome. Make the most of this chance and grow because of it. Don’t let this opportunity disguised as a problem keep you from living the life you’ve always wanted. Lean into the hard times.

Embrace life’s obstacles, for they are the way forward to what you desire.

References

Marcus, A., & Epictetus. (1956). Meditations [of] Marcus Aurelius. Chicago: Gateway Editions; distributed by H. Regnery Co.

Photo Credit: Michael Rosner-Hyman, Unsplash.com