Taking Steps to Overcome an Obstacle

14801522_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Leslie Kolb, MSW.

Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes, and we come up against them everyday. Maybe your tire was flat when you got to your car this morning, or your coworker called in sick just when you needed to work together to meet a deadline. But what about emotional obstacles? Mental obstacles? Perhaps you struggle with being vulnerable with your partner because it feels unsafe; or you wonder why you always seem to sabotage yourself before getting the promotion you believe you deserve. These kinds of obstacles are often more difficult to overcome than changing a tire or meeting a deadline.

Obstacles can frustrate us, making us feel helpless, as though we have no options. But those feelings are just constructs we develop in response to situations or experiences that seem overwhelming or even impossible. Even the most intimidating of obstacles can be surmounted when you are equipped with the right skills and tools with which to do so. Take some time this week to consider what might be holding you back. Are you having trouble meeting a goal or growing as a person? What do you consider to be obstacles in your life?

Overcoming an obstacle can be difficult—otherwise it wouldn’t be an obstacle, right? But if you find yourself up against one, try working your way through these five steps to overcome it. We can use a straightforward problem such as lack of sleep to illustrate this process.

1. Identify Your Goal – It seems simple, but take some time to consider what exactly it is that you want or need. For example, let’s say you feel tired during the day and know that you need more sleep. In this case, your goal would be to get more hours of sleep per night.

2. Identify Your Obstacle – Once you identify your goal, you can then identify what obstacle stands in your way. Again, this seems simple, but it can be tricky. Sometimes we can steer ourselves off course by focusing on the “should” instead of the “want” or “need.” Just because you feel like you should be doing something doesn’t necessarily make it a need, or even a want. Using our example, you feel as though you should spend your evenings with your friends or your partner, but you know you need more sleep. The “should” in this situation is getting in the way of the “need.” By identifying the goal, you can set about making that goal a reality.

3. Form a Plan –How are you going to proceed? Consider forming a plan. It’s important to avoid getting bogged down in the “what ifs,” but you might want to consider what the results of your plan could be once you put it into action. It’s perfectly okay to take time to think through all the possible ways of overcoming your obstacle. Meditate, be mindful, talk it through with a therapist or a trusted loved one. There are many ways to find the right plan, and with practice, you will find what feels comfortable and effective for you. Following our example, you might explore what exactly it is that is making you feel obligated to spend so much time with your friends or partner despite your exhaustion. Is it coming from within, or are they pressuring you to do so? In considering these possibilities, you can create a realistic plan to start setting different boundaries to meet your needs.

4. Take Action – It’s finally time to put your plan into action. This step holds the potential to be very rewarding but can also sometimes feel discouraging, because it may take a few attempts before you see results. In addition, you may have to adjust your chosen plan if you see certain aspects are not aiding you in achieving your goal. Don’t give up! In keeping with our example, if you see that you are feeling left out or missing your social life, add some time back in slowly to find the right balance. Eventually, you will find what works for you.

5. Maintain Your Plan – After putting your plan into action and adjusting to find what works best for you, you may find yourself slipping into old behaviors and habits. Mindfulness and therapeutic guidance are both incredibly effective tools to monitor your ongoing needs after surmounting a big life obstacle. If exhaustion was your initial problem and your social life was prohibiting your getting rest, it would be important going forward to be mindful and aware of your level of tiredness. In doing so, you can continue to make adjustments to suit your needs as they evolve.

During this month, if you find yourself up against an obstacle, take a deep breath and give these five steps a try. You might be surprised at your ability to overcome!

Elana Clark-Faler
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