Self-esteem comes from not letting obstacles get you down.

Obstacles can materialize in many different ways. The appearance of a pink slip from your employer when your goal is to get pro- moted. A rejection letter from a literary agent when your goal is to get published. Divorce papers when you saw yourself living happily ever after with the man or woman of your dreams. A series of roadblocks when trying to finish a project or reach a goal.

Recently I was trying to get into San Francisco for a meeting at noon. On a good day, the drive takes about twenty minutes, but during rush hour or when it’s raining, it easily takes an hour. To be safe, I gave myself an hour and a half to get to the financial district, park my car, and comfortably arrive at my destination. And I even took reading material just in case I had time to spare. On this day, for some reason, the traffic going south on 101 was unusually backed up, all the way into Sausalito. As I sat in the same spot for twenty-five minutes, two things occurred: (1) I was happy I gave myself extra time, and (2) there was something else I could do in the face of this obstacle. I would have been so freaked out in the past that I couldn’t think straight. Today I felt in control of my mind, even if I had no control over my situation.

Inch by inch, as I approached the last exit before the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided to turn around, go north on 101 to the Richmond Bridge, and take the East Bay into San Francisco. That new strategy took me exactly fifty-five minutes to reach my destination. I walked into my meeting with five minutes to spare. While I wished I had had more time to settle in, I wasn’t late. Despite the obstacles along the way, I met my goal of getting to my appointment on time. Obstacles that could have ruined my day. I could have continued to sit in traffic, complained about the unfair situation, and gotten myself sick with anger. Instead, be- cause I had some extra time, I was able to think of options that al- lowed me to get around the problem to a solution that worked.

Obstacles are a part of life. They are perceived barriers to reach- ing a goal, completing a task, or satisfying a dream. They happen when we least expect them, and they often take on lives of their own—when we let them.

There are big payoffs to being stuck in a problem, benefits to al- lowing hurdles in our lives to become the focal point. We feel justified in feeling like a victim, we can get sympathy, we can give up without making a good-faith effort, and we have an excuse to avoid dealing with the challenges in life.

However, there is a greater return on our investment when we dare to walk through our discomfort and face our challenges head-on. When we don’t let them wear us down and force us to give up, we ultimately reach our destination—perhaps a little shaken, a little weathered, and sometimes a little late—but we get there. The more we practice facing challenges, the easier the pro- cess becomes. While it’s never really easy to overcome obstacles, be- cause we’ve done it before, we know we can do it again. We gain real self-esteem because we stretch beyond our comfort zone in ways we never thought possible to discover a solution to the seemingly impossible.

It’s easy to do what’s easy. It’s easy to be happy, joyous, and free when life is free of challenges and complications. It’s easy to follow our dreams when every tool is readily available. But overcoming life’s difficulties often makes us emotionally, mentally, and some- times physically stronger.

Below are some suggestions to help you get over the hurdles:

  • When possible, give yourself plenty of time to deal with the potential obstacles. When the pressure of time is removed or lessened, you can think through your options.
  • Know you won’t die. Sometimes it seems that you’ll never get past the difficult situation. This too shall pass.
  • Don’t resort to blaming. Blaming others keeps you stuck and un- able to focus on solutions. Furthermore, you often play a part in what happens to you.
  • Keep the end in mind. You’ll want to give up when the road gets a little bumpy. Don’t. Keep your end in mind. What are you try- ing to accomplish? Where are you headed? What’s your ultimate goal?
  • Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” Obstacles provide us with great learning opportunities.
  • Ask for help and be open to a new and different strategy. When it comes to your own issues, you may be myopic, able only to see what you want. Sometimes it takes an objective person to help you see what went wrong or what you can do to get out of the uncomfortable situation. Regarding my example of driving into San Francisco, I called my husband while sitting in traffic, and he suggested I take a different route.
  • Talk about your feelings with others. Sharing helps you know you are not alone, removes the sting, and enables you to help others who might be suffering in silence.
  • Don’t let a failure or rejection or mistake stop you in your tracks. Depending on the situation, you may have to try again. Remember your goal. You can try again—maybe not tomorrow, but sometimes.
  • Let go temporarily. Depending on how consumed you are, you might need to let go, rest, recharge, regroup and review your strategy.
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