If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere interesting.
— Frank A. Clark

What is an obstacle?  Obstacles are things or life events that make getting what you want harder to achieve.  Obstacles can be something as simple as hurdles you have to jump over during a race or a difficult test you must take to enter college.  Obstacles can also be other people’s behaviors that you have to deal with, like your mother or father saying “no” when you want to hear “yes,” or a friend disappointing you. Obstacles can even be in your own mind, like thoughts and worries that keep you up at night. How do you overcome the obstacles of your own mind being negative? There are many kinds of obstacles. 

One thing that many people agree on, is that whatever obstacles you encounter they are generally not pleasant.  However, just because something is unpleasant does not mean it is “bad.  Is it possible that overcoming obstacles is in fact a part of life that helps you to grow strong mentally and physically?  And, consider this-- without obstacles, life would be rather boring.  By overcoming the challenges, difficulties, and problems that present as obstacles, life becomes more meaningful.  Sure, the easy, simple, fun pleasures of life, (especially for teens) are enough to make life meaningful.  But, a life well lived is a life that overcomes obstacles.  

So, if you ask yourself, what are the big obstacles in my life today, what might you say? Is it your dislike for homework and a teacher giving you bad grades which are both an obstacle to going to college?   Is your mother or father keeping you home or making you do things you hate, which is an obstacle to having fun?  Is your health an obstacle to feeling good?  Or, your negative thinking?   

One way to overcome obstacles is break them down into smaller parts.  For example:

  1. Identify your obstacles.

What is getting in your way and what do you need to overcome?   Be as clear as possible.  Give your obstacle a name.   Like, “if I go to bed late that is an obstacle to getting up early.”  You can also “be smart” by anticipating what obstacles might arise.  For example, a long distance runner may get a muscle cramp during a long race, and should prepare accordingly.

  1. Address each obstacle.

Come up with specific actions you can take to address the obstacles.  This is also called having a strategy for coping with the obstacle.  Specific strategies (not just saying (I am sure I can deal with it) can offer you some emotional resilience in dealing with them.  For example, for the long distance runner, pre-conditioning and proper diet improve muscle response.  

  1. Reflect and Evaluate.

After you have carried out your plan and done your best to overcome the obstacles, (it may takes several tries over several days, months, even years) ask yourself, “how did it go?”   Look at what went well and what was more challenging about overcoming your obstacles.  Are there things you want to do differently, next time?  Evaluating how your plan turns out is a crucial step in deciding what works and what does not work for you. Are there things you want to do different next time?

Obstacles are a part of life for both young and old.  Being an adolescent is a unique time for overcoming obstacles.  But with practice and the right attitude, the is a good chance you will grow emotionally strong and succeed. 


Marc Aronoff