This is a rewrite of an article written back at the first LLI, Planning for the Fog, re-posted here today for all of our NaNoWriMo writers and everyone else needing a little extra encouragement as we prepare to enter the long stretch called the holidays.
Stand Up to Your Obstacles and Do Something About Them, You Will Find that They Haven’t Half the Strength You Thought They Have.
~Norman Vincent Peale
Just when you thought you were getting somewhere…along comes some blip on the screen, some change in the plan, some unforeseen disaster that veers you off the course.
“Oh well…better luck next time…”
Many Monday morning diets have been blown a Tuesday goodbye kiss due to obstacles in the road. Many other well intended plans, started with enthusiasm and desire, lay dead in the path of these dreaded roadblocks.
What’s a person to do? You can’t plan for obstacles. Right? They just happen… They’re a random event. Luck of the draw….It’s not like it’s our fault or anything.
“Oh well…better luck next time…”
I’ll let you in on a secret that I have in my little bag of life’s lessons. You won’t have better luck next time. There is another obstacle coming. And another one after that. It’s this little thing they call LIFE…and…
The only thing that is going to make a difference next time is how prepared you are to deal with it.
The remarkable Florence Chadwick had already made a place for herself in history by being the first woman to swim the English Channel, when she made her decision to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. This was a woman of proven persistence, goal-setting ability and driven excellence. There was every reason to believe in her ability to meet her next challenge.
On the 4th of July in 1952, as millions watched at home on national television and with family and crew by her side, Florence began her swim. The water was icy cold. Sharks hovered around her, being kept at bay by rifle shots fired from the crew supporting her. A deep, murky fog enveloped the water, rendering Florence unable to see anything in front of her.
Cheers and cries of support rang out from her family and the crew in the boats above, urging her to carry on, but all Florence could focus on was the fog that blinded her path. Defeated, she asked to be taken out of the water. It was the first time she had ever given in. The first time she had ever quit.
Later, from the comfort of the boat, Florence was dismayed to learn that she had given up only 1/2 mile from the shore of victory. When interviewed by a reporter, she told him that it wasn’t fatigue or cold water that had stopped her, but simply that she had lost sight of the vision in her mind, and had been blinded by the fog.
A short two months later, Florence Chadwick returned to try again. She was not lucky enough to have clear skies and visibility. The same obstacle of blinding fog also returned to challenge her once more. This time, Florence was prepared. She had rehearsed over and over in her mind what the end result would look like. She imagined the fog and how she would swim through it and keep her mind firmly focused on the goal. As she swam, she was able to remind herself that the fog did not change the end result; the shoreline was there whether she could see it or not. She just had to remain faithful to continue swimming and she would reach it.
This time Florence did reach the shore. Despite the fog, she swam there in a straight path and broke the all time speed record set before her by the men by two full hours!
Obstacles come. Always. Wearing one disguise or another, they step in our path to block the goal that we had set before us. Without a clear and carefully defined vision, it is hard to defeat them. Like a child’s monster in the closet, they appear to be overwhelming, frightening and larger than life.
More often than not, they don’t really exist the way we thought they did in our mind anyway. With rehearsed planning and focused vision, they can be reduced to a minor inconvenience, a lesson to be learned or sometimes even an opportunity that turns out to help us on our way.
The largest obstacle that we truly face is our own defeated attitudes.
When she was in kindergarten, my sister wrote a story.
I went into a cave and there was a bear! I tried to get out of the window but there wasn’t any. I tried to get out the door but the bear was blocking it. So, I sat down.
The teacher wrote with her red pen, “And then what???”
This story was one of my first collections to be placed in the life’s lesson bag. And then what? What comes Next? How many times do we see an obstacle and then just sit down?
When you start to approach life from the angle that an obstacle is coming, so plan ahead…it isn’t the same as negative thinking. It’s being prepared. It’s making sure you have what you need in your suitcase to complete your journey. Thinking through in your mind, what types of things and experiences could possibly occur along the way and what you might need to do to stay focused and on plan.
It’s the constructive use of “What if?” instead of using it to worry and defeat us before we start.
It looks like this:
Finish these sentences for your goals and plans:
1. The end result of my goal looks like…..
2. The steps I need to take are…..
3. Possible obstacles that could stop me from reaching my goals are…
4. My plan for diffusing those obstacles is…..
5. The language I will use and the way it will look when I overcome the obstacles is…
Then, the more time you spend visualizing and seeing yourself succeeding in your mind, and overcoming those obstacles, actually rehearsing in your mind the language you would use, and actions that you would take to overcome those obstacles, the smaller and smaller those obstacles will be when they arrive. Your subconscious will already be engaged and know what to do.
Life happens. You won’t be able to predict and plan for everything. Some things are just learning experiences. Even an accomplished swimmer like Florence hadn’t planned for the fog the first time through. But she didn’t let it keep her out of the game either. She was back within a few months, mentally stronger, armed with knowledge and a better plan.
She won. So can you.
Obstacles are coming, are you planning ahead?
That life lesson bag of yours, Wendi – I want it!!
This is a great reminder for us. I can think of many times I’ve become “defeated” because of what life has unexpectedly thrown at me. I don’t let that happen much anymore. For example – I coach my son’s soccer team, and I am also the Cubmaster for his cub scout group. The meetings for cub scouts are setup in late summer for the whole next school year. And I’m at every one of them. Soccer schedules, I have no control over. And sure enough, life threw at me – a spring soccer game at 6 -7, and scouts at 7 – 8. And I usually have to get there early to setup for scouts. But I didn’t let it bother me at all. We talked through it, and determined my wife (a saint when it comes to helping me out) would go to the scout meeting, and get it started. I would stay and finish the soccer game, and arrive when I could. In the end, it all worked out just fine, because we planned how to handle it. In fact, it probably turned out better, because she put her own spin on how the meeting would go – and it was a nice twist to what I normally would have done. Maybe this is a small example, but it’s one in which we worked through an obstacle life threw at us (like it often does…) – and not only did it turn out ok, it probably was better because of how we handled it (I didn’t always react this way).
Wendi, this is an important reminder – that we plan for the unplanned…because it will happen.
Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day
Wow. This is an awesome post. It carries so much truth! I loved the way you told Florence’s story, too.
I’m a big believer in visualization and affirmations, mentally preparing yourself for the journey ahead. In fact, it’s the very first thing I tell writers to do when they decide they want to be published. The same way we might dress appropriately for a journey, we must dress our mind, or, as you said, prepare for the obstacles. In the end, it’s our mind that gets us past everything that stands in our way.
steph’s last blog post..Perspective
Stacey Shipman says
I love this and I love your final story “so, I sat down”. When we struggle we quit. This reminds me of a time recently when I went rock climbing and was staring straight at a broken hand hold. I actually drafted a blog post about it and never finished it. This post has motivated me to finish it. If we just pause for a moment instead of letting our thoughts get the best of us, we can still achieve through the obstacles.
Stacey Shipman’s last blog post..Getting Back to Your Senses
Writer Dad says
Really great, Wendi. I know the stretch, and could feel her defeat. I loved your sister’s story as well. Our minds are incredible things, allowing us to do just about anything, but keeping us from far too much.
Writer Dad’s last blog post..Soaring
Alex Fayle | Someday SyndromeI says
I actually like your sister’s story. She tried what she could then accepted the outcome and opened herself up to calm. She didn’t panic. She sat down.
In our happily-ever-after/good-always-prevails world there is a what next, even if that what next is the bear eats her (setting the world on its head). Leaving the story as is, we’re left with acceptance and peace without wrapping things up.
That too is another option: know when to stop struggling and just accept.
Of course knowing when it’s giving up and when it’s accepting is incredibly difficult.
Alex Fayle | Someday SyndromeI’s last blog post..Creating Room to Grow: Akemi Gaines Interview
Alex Fayle | Someday SyndromeI says
Oops, forgot to subscribe to comments…
Ah! Be careful about what you ask for! I got that Life Lesson Bag at the School of Hard Knocks. It’s a lot of hard work, very expensive and has a long enrollment…but I’ll be very happy to share the lessons in it with you here…it’s cheaper and less painful! 🙂
It’s our mind that get’s us past everything that stands in our way”
I am looking forward to seeing that post! My husband is a rock climber. I rarely let my feet leave the ground…that’s my one big fear, a fear of falling. Falling and breaking my back once was enough for me. HE keeps telling me its safe…..hmmm.
I don’t even think we have begun to enleash the incredible power of our minds. It remains the untapped frontier I believe.
Ha! Okay, I’ll take the cheaper, less painful version!!
Lance’s last blog post..Believe In Yourself
Vered - MomGrind says
It’s very true that if we keep waiting for the road to be clear of obstacles, we may never get to our destiny.
I love Lance’s example, too!
Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Ugliest Shoes EVER
Tom / Delightful Work says
Very wise of you to include an intention for language here. As you know we very much follow our expectations and they are very much influenced by our thoughts and spoken word. Overcoming and even facing the obstacle intentional language is a grand idea.
Tom / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Does a Business Startup Have To Be Hard?
Great post. I know it is true for me…when I lose focus of what I want to accomplish it is easy to give up. Thanks for the reminder to be ready for obstacles and to be ready to move them aside.
Blake’s last blog post..Quick Thought on Exercise