Plans, goals and objectives – those are the words that come to mind when thinking about the activity of planning: mapping a route to a predetermined destination. Usually, we specify a goal, and then list the specific tasks needed to carry it out. We follow the plan step by step, ticking off each task until we finally reach our goal. But what happens when you reach an obstacle that has the potential to derail the entire trip?
We all experience roadblocks in our lives. Even with the best laid plans, you can’t always divine a roadblock that lies ahead. Although you can plan for contingencies, you can’t anticipate them all due to an infinite set of variables that come into play when attempting to accomplish a goal. We have to accept that some roadblocks cannot be accounted for on paper; sometimes it is in the act of DOING that you actually come upon them.
We, as humans, are very resilient, and are endowed with problem-solving abilities that are unique to our species, which includes the ability to consider alternative courses of action. How well we handle roadblocks will determine to what extent we are able to evolve. Those who master this ability will go on to accomplish great things. And those who don’t will stagnate.
How can we strengthen our ability to handle roadblocks? There are 5 things that have helped (and continue to help) me to stay on track when presented with a roadblock:
- Reframe the situation. As mentioned in a previous entry, Changing the Frame, you can change your mind-set by changing the way you view the situation; strive to see the roadblock from another point of view. Instead of seeing it as a blocked roadway (negative), you could think of it as an opportunity to discover a new route (positive).
- Recognize opportunity. A “ROAD CLOSED“ sign is usually accompanied by a “DETOUR” sign, which is not the same as a “STOP” sign. It simply means that you must take an alternate route. You may find that you have to think harder, become more creative, or take more time to reach your destination. However, our brains are designed to work in a “use-it-or-lose-it” fashion, so embrace the opportunity to use it! New opportunities lead to growth, and growth leads to strength and resilience.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. In the same way that you would consult your GPS system, seek to engage others. Sometimes when we are hyper-focused on a goal, we develop myopic thinking, which can hamper our ability to see the big picture. Opening yourself to suggestions from others can help to expand your options. It is especially helpful to consult people outside of your normal social circle because if you limit your conversations to people who share the same perspective as you, you may not receive any ideas that differ from your own.
- Be flexible. Don’t lose sight of your objective, which is simply to accomplish your goal. It really doesn’t matter which road gets you there, so don’t confine yourself by becoming emotionally attached to the initially planned route. If you reach a bend in the road, then go with it. If you reach a hindrance, plan to go around it. Never rule out any option without contemplating its merit. Rigidity leads to stress. Instead, think about words such as fluidity and flow.
- Remain optimistic. Remember there is always more than one route to any given destination, with one route not necessarily being better than another. Have the resolve that you WILL accomplish your goal, and embrace the growth-promoting challenges that will inevitably accompany you along the way.
When encountering roadblocks, as with life in general, there is not an ultimate BEST or ONLY route; there is only the route that you ultimately choose to take . . . which actually ends up being the best, because it got you to where you needed to go. Lastly, consider that a detour can intrinsically make the trip (and goal) more rewarding. I can’t think of a better way to express this than with the words of Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(Excerpt from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)
*Image: Fashion Freebies for Men
When was the last time you faced a true roadblock in your life? How did you overcome it? Or . . . did you become derailed?
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