A mentor said to me recently, “the obstacle is the way”. The obstacle in your path holds the key to solving your challenges and taking the next big steps in your leadership journey. You can’t avoid it. You can’t go around it. You have to tackle it, otherwise that obstacle will keep showing itself.
I have shied away from plenty of obstacles in my time. There are a lot that I have surmounted too. But I often feel like have avoided more than I have tackled. I can see now that avoiding the obstacles in my path has only prolonged the problems, because the same obstacles keep coming up time and time again.
I recently came across a stoic saying that really illustrates this concept so well:
Easy choices, difficult life. Difficult choices, easy life.
In the TED Talk Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals, where I came across this useful piece of stoic philosophy, Tim Ferris talks through his process for fear-casting. By defining his fears, he reduces their power over him. Fundamentally, under every obstacle we face is a deeply held fear that leads us to shy away from tackling the challenge. We need to face our fears so we can tackle the challenges before us.
When I unhappy in my job, and sure that leaving was the answer, I shied away from discussing this with my husband. What was I fearing? Rejection perhaps? Disappointment? Not being understood? That he would see me as failure? Something held me back for a long time, but I eventually became so unhappy at work that it was affecting my parenting and my relationship. What seemed to me- at the time- to be a difficult thing to do, actually made my life much easier once I did it. The difficult choice made for the easier life.
That manager who micromanaged me and stopped me from stepping up to my potential. Instead of pushing back and standing up for my potential, I internalised a lack of potential. What started with me being told “you are not ready” became me telling myself “I am not ready”. How many of us working mothers take on these scripts? When we are undermined at work, we start to undermine ourselves. Instead of making the difficult choice to speak up, we make the easy choice to stay quiet. And things become far more difficult in the long run.
Because the thing is, while we internalise these scripts, there is also a small part of us that still understands our true potential. And this small part of us will become a source of dissatisfaction, reminding up that we are capable of more. Shy away from the challenges in our path and they don’t go away. They will keep reappearing until we face them.
So what is the obstacle in your path right now?
Are you finding it impossible to make time for exercise? Putting your own health last will not benefit your family, and you will probably find that you are a more balance and attentive mother when you have some time to take care of yourself. Find the courage to ask for help, drop the ball on a few things make sure that your fitness becomes a family priority.
Do you feel stuck in your career? This feeling of dissatisfaction will niggle away at you until it starts to affect your happiness and your well-being. Start exploring stretch opportunities or ways to resolve this sooner rather than later, because the longer you leave it the worse it will make you feel. The last thing you want is to become so unhappy in your job that it affects your life outside of work. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Are you battling with a overwhelm and anxiety? Have the courage to ask for help (from trusted friends or professionals) to address these feelings and develop new coping mechanisms. Don’t be afraid to need help or to reach out for support.
Are you unhappy with the working-caring-household split in your household? Better discuss this sooner rather than let patterns get too entrenched and be a source of dissatisfaction at home.
Do you want to make a complete career change, but are afraid to bring this up with your partner? You need to get it off your chest. It will niggle away at you until you do.
When it comes to obstacles in your path, this is a case of do as a say, not as I do. I fail at this all the time. So don’t feel like a failure if you find this as difficult as I do. But just know this- that you will need to will need to address these challenges eventually.
I am still trying to learn to make the difficult choices for the easy life. I haven’t got there yet. But I will keep trying to find my courage. Better late than never.
Take this topic further:
- Find your courage with the help of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly
- Get your fears down on paper so they can lose their sway over you. Check out Tim Ferris’s method in his TED Talk
- Find the courage to make your self-care important, and intentionally work towards the changes you want to see in your life with our self-guided program Design Your Perfect Week