Have you ever wanted to achieve something you deeply desire, but just as you start to make those positive changes you discover unforeseen (and some foreseen) obstacles attempting to thwart your progress? Maybe you’ve found a solution you feel is the answer to your problems or maybe there’s something your heart has been leading you toward that would bring you greater happiness, freedom, and peace.
So how do you cross that bridge and handle the setbacks and obstacles trying to stop you from your goals?
Let me answer that by starting out with a story. Two years ago my husband was offered a job that was an opportunity he wanted and worked at for a long time. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking to make big changes associated with this new employment, namely buying and selling homes, moving to a new city, changing the kid’s schools, and the start of my husband’s new position–all of which happened in the span of 4 months’ time.
Our kids weren’t excited about the move and struggled with the idea, so they were lacking in the cooperation department. I was stuck in this semi-paralyzed state trying to mesh reality with my unrealized desires and feeling totally frustrated. I hated putting my personal plans on the back burner so that packing, cleaning, and house hunting could take priority.
Soon after my husband started his new job, he also left for out-of-state training and was only home on the weekends, which meant the majority of the packing was left to me.
Holy moly, it was difficult.
During this time there were two truths I reminded myself of constantly.
The first was this: You control our attitude–no matter what is happening to or around you. You get to decide how you’re going to think and feel about situations in your life–no matter how dire it may seem. Gratitude is a powerful antidote for this as it literally changes your thought patterns. It brightens dismal perspectives and deepens appreciation as you look for silver linings.
That bit of knowledge alone is empowering, but the next truth is also a key understanding if you want to lessen those frustrations experienced when you implement “the good.”
It’s called the “law of opposition,” and it appears every time you move forward in an intentional life.
This opposition is easily seen in nature–from towering mountains to low lying valleys, from arid deserts to lush rain forests, and you even see it in your own biology. Your body needs to be both asleep and awake. You experience emotions from lows to highs, and you even need both productive days and low-key relaxing days. You are meant to experience opposition.
It was divinely planned this way. There is something about it that creates the perfect laboratory for progress and growth, and because progress and growth are vital to a joyful life, something interesting happens when you intentionally move toward good and healthy desires.
Think back to a time when you started a new goal or plan or felt compelled to move in a certain direction, maybe everything was great at the beginning, but eventually (around 2-3 weeks for me), you’ll notice opposition creep in. Maybe your schedule gets crazier, your life becomes busier, illness strikes, or you face another obstacle. This is the point where you’re tempted to give up, quit, or fizzle out.
Seth Godin once said, “You should never quit when it’s hard. Quit before you start or quit once you realize it’s a dead end, but quitting in the key moment is the wrong idea.”
If you don’t understand this principle of opposition, you’ll go through life much more deflated than you need to be. Once you do understand it, your concept of dealing with setbacks and challenges in this lifelong journey will change. There are 2 ways it can do this.
First, you’ll accept both the positives and the negatives in life.
Notice I said accept, not love. Accepting has to do with appreciating and recognizing the value of what you experience, good and bad. You’ll also not just accept but you’ll expect them. Again, it doesn’t mean you like the negative stumbling blocks, but it does mean you put plans in place to help you overcome the challenges you’ll inevitably face, all the while looking at what you can learn from the process instead of harboring the destructive mindset of giving up because of a few setbacks.
Second, it will help you examine your motives, desires, and actions.
Because of this opposition, you’ll ask yourself if your goals and plans are still moving you in the right direction. You’ll analyze if your solutions actually work and you’ll look at what might need to change. You’ll readjust your thinking in order to keep your “eye on the prize.” You’ll either continue firm in your resolve and look for new ideas to overcome your challenges or you may recognize subtle divine cues gently nudging you to take a new route.
If the course you’re on is still worth pursuing, then even during those moments of frustration and disappointment you can rest assured knowing that those challenges that come are a necessary part of the process. It turns you inward and heavenward and stretches you past the delay of natural opposition.
One of my goals in life was to get a college degree. I watched my mother struggle for years to go back to school to receive her formal degree, and I decided I would do whatever it took to get my Bachelor’s degree while I was young. My parents didn’t have money to send me to school, so I worked and saved and looked into every opportunity that would help me get there.
Then my senior year at the university, I became seriously ill. I was so close to my goal but almost gave up because of this enormous roadblock. Long story short, after tests and a hospitalization, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that rocked my world. I continued to plow through my classes after making a few adjustments like driving to campus instead of walking. The roadblocks seemed endless, and I had to remind myself of the “why” for my goal over and over.
There will always be opposition when you move forward realizing your dreams, but keep at it. With time, determination, and divine assistance, you can break past those obstacles and barriers and make those dreams a reality.
I’ll be reminding myself of that every time I begin to write, every time I log my food, every time I call my family for scripture reading, and as I gear up to organize my sentimental items (thank you Marie Kondo).
Remember the tortoise and the hare? Just keep moving–even if the pace seems painfully slow. You’ll make it through the opposition and eventually win the race.What are some things that help you when you hit roadblocks in life? How do you keep a positive attitude and persist in your goals?