It might seem odd to suggest that obstacles are the source of success versus failure. But it is true. Whenever obstacles present themselves during the process of manifesting our goals, they should be viewed with appreciation. They should also spark hope, deeper determination, and inner-drive. So often in today’s society, we allow this wonderful source of inspiration (obstacles) to deter us because we view them as failures. A better understanding of what failure is will allow this new perspective regarding obstacles to begin to rise within our consciousness and help us embrace and welcome obstacles.
Failure Is An Illusion
I was teaching at New York University recently and during my Interviewing Strategies class, I mentioned that failure was an illusion. Naturally, my comment sparked quite a spirited dialogue and it turned out that none of my students agreed with my point of view. As we discussed it further, I said that failure is a term that usually is viewed in an absolute way, a way that would signify a complete end or loss. If you look at the various ways the word is defined, it becomes evident that it does not always signify a complete end. I have listed six ways the word “failure” is defined below that I got from my “Word-Dictionary” that I use with my computer.
1.A lack of success in something, or an unsuccessful attempt at doing something
2. Something that falls short of what is required or expected
3. Somebody who or something that is unsuccessful
4. A breakdown or decline in the performance of something, or an occasion when something stops working or stops working adequately
5. Inadequate growth, development, or production of something
Each of the definitions above uses words that either imply an end or a temporary end. I would say that the the words that imply a temporary end are more accurate and based in reality. Things don’t necessarily end, if we choose to never give up. The important thing is to view them as temporary setbacks versus absolute failures. Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into an absolute way of thinking that can only result in an end instead of a momentary set-back. During the discussion with my students at New York University I asked them if they thought Gandhi failed in what he wanted to achieve. Surprisingly, to me anyway, most of them said that he had failed. When I asked them why, one student said with passion, “he was assassinated.” Once the class quieted down, I reminded them that living was not Gandhi’s ultimate goal and that he had in fact achieved his goal of helping his country achieve its independence. In the end my students saw my point. Certainly, I am not suggesting that we need to risk our lives to make our goals happen, but it is an undeniable fact that risk is necessary in order to win big. This brings us to my initial point, that obstacles should be a source of inspiration and hope. For when we risk, we are inviting obstacles, which prove that we are on the right track. Let me explain further.
Obstacles Are the Source of Hope
Much of my work with clients entails assisting them in developing a better relationship with the challenges that occur as they engage in the transformative nature of choosing exactly what they wish to be professionally and personally. In an effort to explain what I mean by this I use exercise as an educational tool. When people begin to exercise it is usually to feel better, yet when they first begin, they feel worse. Their muscles are not used to being challenged in this new way and the result is pain or “obstacles” to their ultimate goal of feeling better. So, in order to feel better, they must first feel worse. The same holds true when we strive to have a better job, romantic relationship, or to make more money. If you pay attention, you will see a pattern in the occurrences that surround your goal, whether that goal is about money, love, or friendship. We will discover that we have been repeating similar situations if not the same ones over and over. Paying attention to the patterns are very important as they will allow you to see the choices that are not working for you, which is the first step to figuring out better choices. It can be very difficult to recognize the choices that are getting in our way, which is where I as an outside consultant come in. As an outside party I am able to help individuals identify those things that either they are not able to see or are unwilling to admit. I have listed below what I believe to be the elements of creating fundamental change.
1. Decide to make the change and commit to it no matter what happens.
2. Acknowledge the negative pattern and how you created that negativity by identifying the choices you made that were not the most valuable.
3. Begin to make better choices WITHOUT blaming or shaming anyone else, including yourself! And remember, a new girlfriend or new job will not make things better. You will just attract the same or similar situation. You must make the change from the inside out, not the outside in.
4. Have a perspective that decides to make your current situation better versus get a new situation. Wanting a new situation puts the blame on the outside versus allowing you to take responsibility for how you created the negativity that you are faced with.
5. Understand that you can’t make someone change, but that your job is to truly be a source of inspiration for that change until you have exhausted all possibilities. This is tricky as it is easy to just give up. Yet, if you listen to your heart and not your head, you’ll know when to let it go and move FORWARD by looking for a new job or relationship. But only after you have exhausted all possibilities and given the old situation a legitimate chance to get better.
6. Finally, remember that things will get worse before they get better. Just like the exercise analogy that I discussed above. Welcome these obstacles as the source of your success!