Imagine you are the main character in a fantasy novel who is on a grand quest (to rescue a kingdom, to find long-lost treasure-the end goal is up to you). You’ve been traveling for days and days when suddenly, a large wall scaling miles and miles appears, blocking your path. There was no record of this mysterious wall on the maps you had scrutinized so carefully beforehand, and you did not anticipate this obstacle on your journey. Are you going to simply call off your quest and turn back around?
Probably not. That wouldn’t make for an interesting story, after all. You might need to hear a few inspiring speeches from your sidekick or spend a minute throwing rocks at the wall in frustration, but you eventually find a way around the wall to reach your destination. Maybe you climb over it, and your newfound climbing skill becomes essential during your final mission to ascend a tower to slay a dragon. Or after surveying the wall, you find a secret tunnel that becomes your method of escape later on.
Life is full of obstacles no matter who you are, and we are bound to run into them as we progress towards our goals. Obstacles can be major (losing your job) or minor (the store is out of your favorite cereal), but they all require adaption. Some may be more stressful to deal with than others, but it is important to not only view the drawbacks of the obstacle but the benefits as well.
My life is no exception-I have experienced plenty of obstacles, even before the pandemic. A few years ago, a hurricane destroyed the town I was living in. I made out better than most, but my apartment building had water damage. My roommate and I had to move out all of our things and had to make a decision: end our lease right then or wait an entire month before we could resume living in the apartment complex again.
Even though this was a stressful situation, I felt like it was the moment I began to think clearly. I assessed the situation and realized that I was doing nothing to empower myself and advance my life in that town. I was working two dead-end jobs to the point where I did not have time for myself, and I was in a relationship that was not going anywhere. In a way, the hurricane allowed me to realize this and provided me with a chance to escape and start new.
I decided to end the lease and move out. Without a stable job, I moved back in with my parents. I ended my relationship. I experienced frustration and worthlessness as I had previously enjoyed my independence, but I also felt relief.
I did not suddenly end up living my dream life (that’s still a work-in-progress), but I at least started progressing somewhere. I was no longer trapped in an unsatisfactory relationship and an endless cycle of work; I found a flexible part-time job and started a new degree. I had more free time to explore what I wanted my future to look like.
Unplanned changes occur all the time, but only you can determine whether you treat them as an obstacle or an opportunity.
For example, losing your job also creates stress from the loss of income for some time, but what if it also allows you to secure a better position that fits your dream lifestyle? Or you may be disappointed that the store is out of stock of your favorite cereal, but what if it leads you to try one that you like even better?
It’s normal to feel frustrated and angry at first, but once you calm down, you might find that hardships can enlighten you with a new perspective. It might not be the road you chose, but the obstacle can be a new opportunity.
Unplanned changes may not be the ideal situation for anybody, but there can still be silver linings.
Have you ever heard the phrase “if one door closes, another opens?” If something does not turn out the way you expected it to, maybe there’s a reason behind it; there might be another direction that’s better for you.
Whenever something unexpected comes up in my life, I try to look for the bright side. I ask myself, “how can I make the best out of my situation?” and I figure out my next steps from there. Obstacles can be daunting, but I am not going to allow them to stop me from getting my life together.
While I have great days where I am motivated and crossing off things on my to-do list like crazy, there are times when I pull out my playlist of sad songs and dwell on the state of the world. Even with an optimistic outlook, you are still likely to have down days and moments. Do not be ashamed to have them; no one is invincible, so do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Obstacles present themselves all the time, and while they may not be something to be celebrated, we should not allow them to defeat us. We may be distracted by the disappointment at first, but challenges also present us with clarity and new opportunities that we can use to our advantage.
I’m not saying you need to immediately bounce back when faced with an obstacle; it’s necessary to put aside time to express your emotions and to distract yourself with things that make you happy. If you do search for the opportunities presented with each drawback, however, you will likely find yourself in a better state than you were before. Opportunities are alluring; once you discover them, you will forget that they were an obstacle in the first place.
Next time something unexpected comes up in your life, try to assess the situation with a positive outlook. View it as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. It may be different from what you prepared for, but it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Nothing ever goes completely to plan, but hopefully, it will be the step in the direction you never realized you needed to take. While some life changes are inevitable, you have control over the tone of your story, so make it a good one.