Do You Want To Overcome Obstacles?
My knuckles turn white as the blood drains from my hands. I grip the handle bars of my mountain bike so hard that my wrists begin to hurt. I can feel my speed pick up and the wind caress my face as I struggle to navigate the dirt trail deep in the woods in upstate New York, near the West Point campus.
Sweat drips from my chin as I attempt to avoid every stump or rock along the path. It becomes overwhelming as obstacles seem to pop up too fast for me to avoid. I hold my breath when I sense my front tire slam into a stump and my body flies over the handle bars. A sharp pain explodes in my back when I hit the ground. I can feel the air escape my lungs as I wince in pain. I hear my friend, Jack, scurry back up the trail to check on me.
“You alright, man?” He asks.
“Yup.” I struggle to answer as I collect myself and double check to make sure body parts are intact.
“Nice one! Now that you got that out of the way, maybe you will loosen up and enjoy the rest of the ride.” Jack smiles and turns his bike back on the trail and starts back down it.
I pick up my bike and cautiously start back on my journey. My handle bars wobble as I attempt to avoid the obstacles on the trail. I seem to hit every rock, pothole, stump, stick, or anything else that gets in my way. I eventually find Jack patiently waiting for me further down the trail. He stops me before I can go any further.
“Listen, stop focusing on the obstacles and instead focus on the path you want to take. Your bike goes where your focus is. Focus on a stump, and your bike hits the stump, but focus on the path around the stump and you avoid the stump, got it?”
“Got it.” I smile back. I gingerly make it down the trail without incident, fairing a lot better once I start focusing less on the obstacles and more on my path. I was happy to finish the ride without a trip to the emergency room and realized that mountain biking was just not my thing.
Even though I never pursued the sport of mountain biking after that, I remember the lesson I learned that day. I can walk away from mountain biking, but I can’t walk away from life. Like mountain biking, life is full of obstacles.
Obstacles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common. Obstacles distract us from our path and slow us down and restrict our access to success. Like mountain biking, our lives follow our focus. Focus on the negative aspects of our life, like the obstacles standing in our way, and we follow the path of negativity, failure, and mediocrity. However, if we choose to focus on the positive aspects in life, like a path around our obstacles, then we enjoy success.
So how do we avoid the obstacles of life? Here are four things that help me:
- Acknowledge the obstacle. Obstacles are real problems that must be addressed. I’m not suggesting that you ignore the obstacles in your life. I recommend that you don’t dwell on them and allow them to become an excuse for failure. An obstacle is anything that holds you back from your goals. It can be a negative friend, an illness, a financial setback. Life’s obstacles are very real and can be very painful. Recognize them, acknowledge them, but make the necessary adjustments to move around them.
- Identify your options. It’s frustrating when something gets in your way; however, there are always alternative paths. Identify your alternatives and assess which alternative best fits you. You may be limited in your options, but there are ALWAYS options. Find them and decide which one will help you overcome your obstacle.
- Take action. Choose an option and move forward. Don’t allow yourself to lose momentum because of inaction. When a setback occurs don’t allow it to weigh you down and hold you back. When it came to mountain biking, I found that I wrecked more often when I rode too slowly, but when I yielded to momentum and gravity as my speed increased and began to focus on the path I chose, then I gained confidence and reduced my wrecks significantly. Life is no different. Action produces momentum, and momentum leads to success.
- Focus on the alternative. Don’t dwell on the obstacle that got in your way. If you experienced a setback, work around it, but don’t allow it to define your week, your year, and most of all don’t allow it to define your life! Instead, focus on the path you are on and enjoy the journey and recognize that you are still moving towards your goal.
Life can be rough, unpredictable, cruel, and unfair. We don’t have a lot of control over the things that happen to us, especially many of the obstacles we encounter along the way. However, we do control how we react to them and how they affect us both in the short term and long term. Have you experienced a setback lately? Get back on your “bike”, dust yourself off, and then follow the path God intended for you.