A question of getting over it

An obstacle doesn't have to be the end of the road, life coach Jan Aitken writes.

Today we're continuing to look at overcoming the things that can stop us achieving our goals and intentions.

In previous columns, having figured out some goals we wanted to achieve this year, we went on to look at being a little better prepared to deal with the normal fears, doubts and procrastination that can creep in and sap our self-confidence or slow our progress.

The final spanners in the works that are worth taking a look at are the obstacles that we hadn't anticipated.

Building some strategies and resilience around obstacles can be a huge help in all of the different facets of our lives, for example, our relationships, work, sport, leisure, and health.

Dealing with obstacles that appear out of the blue is a really useful skill that we can all learn. It'll help us navigate our way through life.

The maze of life can be a bit like the wooden maze some of us played with as children. The aim was to manipulate a ball bearing around the wooden maze using only a couple of knobs to tilt the maze - simple!

However, there were a series of awkwardly placed holes in the maze that your ball could drop through: game over if it did.

We'll all drop down holes as we move through life, some will be bigger than others.

Often when something unexpected does happen it stops us dead in our tracks, we see it as being totally unmovable and disruptive and it derails us and throws us completely off course.

If we were heading to a friend's house for dinner and the usual road we took was closed would we ring and cancel dinner?

Probably not, chances are we'd take another route. We'd whip out a GPS (or possibly an old paper map!) and figure out an alternative way to get there. We might be a little late but we'd still get there. We'd find a way around the obstacle.

It's more helpful if we can learn to view obstacles as game changers not game stoppers.

So what do we do when something gets plonked before us threatening to derail our plans?

Beverly Flaxington, a professor at Suffolk University, in Boston, believes that identifying obstacles is not just healthy and cathartic, but when it's done right, it can also open the floodgates to problem-solving, allowing you to move around an obstacle.

She suggests that, in order to use obstacles in an effective manner, there are three basic steps. For example, let's say you're really unhappy at work.

1. Take a minute to understand what's in your way.

Why are you unhappy in this job?

What's holding you back from being happy?

What problems do you encounter on your road to being successful in the job?

List everything and importantly, don't judge it, just write it down.

2. Now categorise the obstacles.

Which ones are in your control?

Which ones are within your sphere of influence?

Which are completely out of your control?

Move the obstacles around so they are in these three lists.

She advises being generous about what's in your control or influence.

There are really few obstacles we face in life that are completely and totally out of our control.

3. Now, look at what you can control and can influence.

What plans can you put in place?

How would you move this obstacle and make it work for you?

What could you do day by day, week by week to minimise the impact of the obstacle?

What options do you have to deal with this obstacle?

You may not like all of the options but there'll still be options.

Sometimes the process of listing the obstacles and categorizing them allows our minds to search for answers. Instead of "I'm stuck,'' we start to think "How could I ...?'', "what if I tried ...'', "maybe doing x, y, z could help''. Figure out your obstacles and see what you can do to remove them, or even turn them into opportunities.

Along with taking a pragmatic view of the things that come along and stop us in our tracks I think it's really important to look after ourselves, so here are my suggestions to help deal with the hard times.

• Accept that occasionally falling down holes is part of life.

• Accept that things can hurt. Pushing uncomfortable feelings away won't make them go away. Face them and work through them.

• Be compassionate towards yourself, good and bad stuff happens. The bad stuff doesn't mean you're a failure.

• Take time to make sensible and considered decisions. You might want to get out of a situation as fast as you can, but try to avoid short-term solutions that will come back to bite you.

• Get help if you need to, employ a professional who's trained in the area you're struggling with.

• Take action, even if you're on the right track you'll still get run over if you just sit there!

Obstacles don't need to stop us from achieving our goals. With a bit of planning we can take an alternative route to get to our destination.

• Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.

Twitter:@jan_aitken

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