This question is useful if you are struggling with a problem, there are negative aspects to a situation you can’t do anything about, or you’ve failed – and need to get back on the horse again.

This week’s question is “Is the obstacle the way?”

This weeks question is based on the writings of Marcus Aurelius, a stoic philosopher – but I first came across it in a book by Ryan Holiday – called the obstacle is the way – here’s a link to the book. 

The question is based on the quote “The impediment to action, advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way’.

We all face obstacles to getting what we want or ‘problems.’

We all can be guilty of thinking, once we overcome that problem, once we reach that goal, we’ll be happy. One of the major issues with this is what’s called the ‘hedonic treadmill’. We tend to acclimatise to our situation or circumstances.  For example, If you received a raise from work – initially you’d be very happy with the extra money. But within a period of time – this would become the new normal – and that money actually wouldn’t make you any happier,

When you solve those problems – all you will be left with is a better quality of problem. So rather than bemoaning our problems – this week’s question encourages you to embrace them – and see them as an opportunity.

Some of the main sources of meaning, and thus happiness,  we have in life involve:  1. taking effort to overcome challenges and 2:  acting like the kind of person we would like to be. And our ‘problems’ give us an opportunity to both overcome challenges – and act or respond like the person that we would like to be. Would getting that new customer, getting that raise, learning that new skill, or getting  that project over the line be as sweet or satisfying, if it was ‘easy’. Would it be as gratifying if we could get someone else to do it for us?

In my own life, the things that I really proud of achieving, like going back to college, or starting my own business have been hard. But because they’ve been hard, getting that degree, or connecting with that first customer has been so much the sweeter.

I also find that  looking at our ‘problems’ as an opportunity to respond in a way that’s in line with who we’d like to be –  means we tend to embrace them a little more, be a little more creative in how we problem solve – because we are focused on achieving a positive (who we want to be) rather  than avoiding a negative (the “pain” of the of the problem.)

So, the next time things are hard, and you’re struggling, – ask yourself:  can you embrace the problem, the challenge or the grind?


Link to Finding Meaning in Talk

Book I mention – The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday 

‘Is the obstacle the way?”