The Obstacle Is The Way

The crux of personal development is taking the struggle and improving yourself instead of ruminating in it. Making efforts to enhance your quality of life is what moves you forward and evolves your being. Obstacles are the crucial part of the equation of life that enforces this growth and development. Instead of looking at your struggles as obstacles, start looking at them as opportunities.

In his book “The Obstacle is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph“, and also explained in his YouTube video, Ryan Holiday explains this interesting philosophy. Holiday says in his video that Marcus Aurelius summed up this concept well when Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way.”

This concept is key to a philosophy called stoicism, which highlights the idea that one does not control what happens to them, but one does have control over how they respond to the things that happen to them. Holiday says that within stoicism, there is no such thing as an obstacle, but instead an opportunity to do something differently. For instance, maybe what was given to you was not what you wanted in that situation, but it’s what you needed.

This tool for navigating a world full of unpredictability is described as a philosophy for robust and resilient individuals. The ancient yet timeless philosophy is for those who know that they cannot control their external forces, but that they can certainly control their internal forces. Holiday uses the examples of people from Gandhi to Steve Jobs, showing that responding to adversity and turning it into opportunity is what made these individuals great.

Instead of being paralyzed by circumstances or blaming others, if you shift your mindset and think, “What if this thing wasn’t so bad?” this attitude would push you forward in positive ways. Inside of every difficulty lies opportunity, and this realization is lifechanging. Life goes from unfair to full of hope.

Holiday then explains how the stoics focused primarily on perception, action and will. Focusing in on perception changes how one views their problem. The story that you tell yourself in your head about your problem has a large impact on how that situation will end up playing out for you.

Action involves responding to your obstacle with persistence and creativity. Using what you have to the best of your ability is much more productive than letting your obstacle linger.

The stoics said the will is the way one looks at the things they cannot control. Understanding that there are things that are bigger than you are, and accepting the things that happen in your life build fortitude and strength.

It would be unrealistic to say that you can always stay positive about the obstacles that come your way. But accepting that you cannot control what hardships you face and deciding to let go of control will play into the way you view your circumstances, and lessen the weight of your current difficulty. Through these concepts, one can learn how to seize the events that paralyze everyone else.

Holiday says that there is always an opportunity to practice excellence and virtue even when we suffer. Instead of trying to reduce the number of obstacles that you face, you should learn how to take advantage of them and willingly accept them. Holidays says one should “take what’s in the way, and turn it into the way”.

As Ben Franklin said, “The thing which hurt, instruct.” How will you respond to your next obstacle?


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