Why Not . . . Celebrate the Obstacles?
Monday April 18, 2016

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“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” —Molière

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #99

A broken boiler, rejected for a new job opportunity, credit card debt, weight gain, a broken heart, a difficult colleague, a difficult boss, a loss of trust, locking the keys in the car in a remote destination . . . in the winter, taking the wrong bus in a foreign city to the wrong destination.

Each of these events, while many small and others mind-boggling without the right resources can appear to be a permanent roadblock in the moment in which they are plopped down in front of us without warning. After all, nobody plans on being rejected. Nobody wants to have their dreams crumpled up and tossed aside. We don’t want to lose hope. But sometimes, our hopes can be dashed . . . temporarily. In that moment we are unprepared and so are responses come forth without rationale or foresight . . . Where’s the money going to come from? How am I going to meet new people? It will be impossible to find a new job to love. Lose 20 pounds, are you kidding me? 

From the observation of others as well as my own first-hand experience, I have bore witness to the fact that struggle offers the opportunity for a fine polish to occur of the person that you have the potential of becoming. However, it is our choice to use the proper tools and ointment to reach a state of beauty which is always possible. Because we can also choose the harsh, abrasive scouring pad and rub ourselves raw and ragged, so much so that we no longer resemble the person we once were, and not in a good way. In other words, our attitude, our response, will dictate whether we rise or remain wounded. And, here’s another analogy just for fun, if we don’t tend to our wounds properly, they can and will become infected and adversely effect our health.

Today, recall for a moment the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome. At the moment it arrived, what were your initial thoughts? Angst? Doubt? Dismay? Dubious apprehension? Defeat? Fear? Whichever negative response you had, you now know you’ve since overcome the obstacle and landed on the other side. Each of the examples I mentioned above are a glimpse of obstacles I’ve had to strategize, maneuver and did eventually solve in the past three years. All of us have obstacles. And all of us can overcome them, even if in the obstacle’s infancy we aren’t sure we ever will be able to.

Recently, I was reading an article about the definition of success. Written by finance expert Suze Orman, I was curious to see how she was going to define this ubiquitous term, as it seems there are as many definitions as there are articles. Having read more than a few articles on this topic, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by her definition . . . but I was, pleasantly so. Here is what she had to say:

So to answer the question at hand: My metric for that fleeting moment is when I have totally blown past the goal I was trying to achieve. Success is when the results are far beyond my wildest dreams for I did not even know how to dream that big. For me, the key component for something to be truly successful is that I had fun and loved every minute doing it.

In thinking about the true definition of success, I have decided that when all that you have been defined by ceases to be and you still know who you are and like what you know — then you have truthfully succeeded.

While I know she isn’t speaking directly about fear or obstacles, the element of unexpectedness is something we forget about when we’re shoved up against a seemingly immovable brick wall. We think we can’t budge it.

But you see, if we’re passionate about the journey we’ve chosen, if we’re enamored with the topic, the issue, the goal we are pursuing, if we can’t imagine doing something else, we won’t let any obstacle get in our way, no matter how deeply entrenched it is.

We will successfully overcome the obstacle when we gain a broader peripheral vision to learn of new ways to maneuver around it, when we recognize our timeline may have to be adjusted, when we accept we may not be as ready as we thought, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be eventually.

I can remember vividly the precise moment each of the obstacles I shared above came into my life uninvited as well as the thoughts that were swirling in my head. And it is precisely because of these obstacles that I sought out new skills, discovered new alternatives that I had been previously too ill-informed to appreciate, and developed into a better version of myself (albeit, I, as we all are, am still a work in progress, thus I know more obstacles will arrive, but now at least I know I can overcome them as well). I accepted, sometimes reluctantly due to in certain scenarios to my immaturity at the time, that I had something more to learn, that I needed to improve. And as I reflect on these moments, it was as if the universe was asking me, So do you want to grow up? It’s your choice. 

Because guess what? Each time an obstacle arrives, it is our choice to, after having a temporary moment of grieving (it’s okay for a limited amount of time), take a deep breath, pull on our boots and start doing the hard work that is needed.

“Well, if it can be thought, it can be done, a problem can be overcome.” —E.A. Bucchianeri

Yes, it would have been easier if I had keys to unlock my car. Yes, in five minutes, had I not locked my keys in the car, I could have been at a cozy aprés ski lounge sipping hot chocolate and resting my feet. But that’s not the case. I did lock the keys in my car. I made that mistake, and now I have to figure a way out. Put yourself in any scenario, and there is always something in hindsight we could have done to avoid it or prevent it, but we can’t live backwards. We can only apply the lesson moving forward. And perhaps, just perhaps, we’re learning this lesson, so that we can appreciate something far more grand down the road. And when we do finally apply successfully the lesson, we won’t haphazardly let it go or take it for granted as Sarah Dessen so beautifully states below.

“It was so risky and so scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Maybe the truth was, it shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder — if not impossible — to lose.” —Sarah Dessen

Obstacles don’t happen because we deserve them, because we’ve done something wrong. Rather they happen to give us an opportunity to improve, to show us that believe it or not we can handle it and when we choose to do so, what we will discover (even though it may take some time) will be worth the effort we expend with interest.


~Why Not . . . Be Brave?

~How to Live a Courageous Life?

~20 Ways to Banish Worry

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Obstacles | The Simply Luxurious Life, Www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com

6 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Celebrate the Obstacles?

  1. Dear Shannon, sometimes it feels like you watched me all weekend to make sure that your podcast gives me the help that I need. Keep up with your glorious work! I learned a lot from you.
    All the best from Germany,


  2. I totally agree in overcoming obstacles and not letting things stand in our way, it’s all part of the power of positive thinking and having the right mental attitude to overcome things. Yesterday I wrote about Celebrating Life over on the blog, the pleasure in simple things, but also the power of nature and fresh air to clear one’s mind.

  3. Thank you Shannon! I have been following your blog and podcast for about a year and just now felt compelled to comment. This podcast came at the perfect time. I just ended a very loving relationship with my boyfriend last week and your words really helped. Although I miss him terribly, it was the right thing to do by both of us and I have so many happy memories to get me through the dark times. I know there are so many lessons I learned that will help me emerge stronger on the other side!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Your voice is strong, and while I am sorry that a loving relationship ended, but you sound confident in your decision as you recognize the pain that while temporary is inevitable as you cared for this person. Thank you for sharing your experience. 🙂

  4. Hello Shannon. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog & love your book. This post has been very illuminating & has allowed me to consider a new approach to life. My husband was diagnosed with incurable cancer 2 years ago. Whilst in many ways it has proved to be life enhancing and we’re happier and more committed than ever, it has produced an insatiable desire for perfection, and we both tend not to cope with everyday obstacles. (Eg he was having radiation treatment yesterday and I became crazily upset over scraping a heel on my new shoes & he was driven to distraction by slow internet speed). The last two paragraphs are exactly what I need to hear going forward. Thank you.

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