Dare180: Overcoming Obstacles and Setbacks
You don’t need me to tell you that the shit will go wrong because the shit will go wrong. This is experience and the understanding of the chaos that is life speaking. That doesn’t mean we tuck our tails and run or throw up our hands and decide “Nah, this isn’t for me.” If it’s something we really want to accomplish we will find ways around, over, under, or through so that we can reach our ultimate goal. I know they say that the journey is often more important than the destination and that you learn a lot about yourself through the trials you go through getting to where you want to be however, I find you don’t really see that appreciation until you get to the end. Or to a new beginning depending on how you view things. If you give up in the middle, during the hard part, there’s never a sense of satisfaction at a job well done. Maybe you can say, "At least I tried", but you can’t if you gave up at the first sign of trouble.
What I do know is that giving up is easy and it’s understandable. I’m going through it right now as I try to complete building a sewing table for my mother. First, the plywood was the wrong thickness, then I had to change the design when it was nearly complete to account for her wanting to change the height by one inch, bought the wrong screws, broke my circular saw when I only had three cuts left, and finally got sick the weekend before it was scheduled to be finished and had spend the time recuperating. What would have taken two weekends to finished has turned into a month long saga. It’s almost as if this table doesn’t want to get built. So I get it. I don’t fault anyone for giving up, but I don’t praise them either if I know what they truly wanted would have been found if they kept going. Sometimes giving up is the right thing to do. Those are cases when it does more harm than good to stay the course but that’s a post for different day. So what do you do when you know you’re easily brought down by even the slightest kink in the works and how do you get back on track?
1. Accept that bumps are a part of the road
There’s no such thing as perfection so you shouldn’t expect it when you start working towards a new goal. The path you take to achieve your plans may be well worn or newly blazed but it will not be without twists, turns, and of course bumps.
2. Embrace the creativity that comes with new problems
Instead of getting completely undone learn to get excited about how the challenge strengthens your creativity and forces you to look at the problem a new way. Most often you'll find you've gained skills you didn't know you needed and valuable insights to yourself and the thing you're trying to accomplish; things you would not have gained if you had given up.
3. It’s usually worse the first time you try something
Never fear, like most things you do it’s harder the first time and there are many things that happen that you didn’t know you needed to prepare for, and that's with excellent preparation. As you keep going your experience will build and you’ll instinctively avoid and prevent the same kinds of trouble from popping up again and again thus, things will seem easier. Things aren't easier. You have just gotten better at handling them.
4. There always seem to be more bumps when you’re in a hurry - slow down
One of the best and strangest bits of advice I’ve ever gotten is that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Often we’re too much in a hurry to get things done or moving that we trip over ourselves and cause more problems than would be if we had taken a step back, re-evaluated, and proceeded with care. Being quick doesn't always mean being the best or that you've done something right. A methodical approach usually helps rather than hinders. As they say slow and steady wins the race. Yet don't be afraid to work quickly when you must, just try to avoid rushing otherwise you will be tempted to cut corners and unnecessarily sacrifice quality for completion.
5. Add time for the unknown to reduce stress
There’s a good reason why it’s said that it takes a task as long as the time we give it to complete it. I’d say this is mostly true, but when we are being realistic about how long it takes to do something, factoring in as many variables from our lives as possible, there should be no issue with padding the deadline a bit. Not because it takes that long to actually complete the task but because shit inevitably happens (Refer back to Paragraph 1). Like getting sick, or car accidents, or shipping mishaps, or a multitude of things that have nothing to do with your earnestness and motivation to get the job done. It takes some trial and error to find a sweet spot which is why I recommend working to beat your deadline. If you finish early, great! But so too if you finish on time. Creating a reasonable deadline gives you flexibility.
6. Take a break
Despite our best efforts to maintain optimism, work ahead of schedule, prep and plan for the worst, shit goes so sideways and we get upset. Depending on where you are in the task and your deadline you should take a moment, up to 24 hours, to get out all the frustrated feelings and disappointment. Then if the project isn’t totally blown out of the water you go back to it leaving the negative feelings behind and starting with a fresh and revived optimistic mindset.
Sometimes obstacles are tangible, sometimes they’re in our heads, and sometimes they’re blessings in disguise. Whichever kind they may be we owe it to ourselves to do our best to work through them. Identify them for what they are, allow only honesty about your role in the problem, and then keep moving forward. Yet, what if we get stuck and find that reaching our goal has met more than just a bump in the road but instead has come to a dead end? Take notes of where you are and what the follow-up steps will be once you can get going again. Then move on to the next thing on your to do list. You can’t nor should you try to control everything. Recognizing what you can and can’t control is just as important as keeping your head up while you get through the ugly bits of accomplishing your goal. But keep looking for the opportunity to get back to a plan put on hold. It may mean asking for help or trying something you hadn’t considered or dismissed before. Give yourself the space to be human: you will get upset and irrational, you will fail and make mistakes, but then you have to get awesome. That's not asking for too much.