top of page

Obstacles or Opportunity? We Get to Choose!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #101 – Watch or listen HERE.

Check out the link below to register for the FREE workshop I am offering on July 12th!

“There is good in everything if we look for it” said writer Laura Ingalls Wilder.

A lot of you probably don’t remember the show Little House on the Prairie which was based on Laura’s books. Truth be told, it was never my favorite show. But, if I think of a TV show that always came around to the “good” this would be it, which leads me to believe that her books took on the same tone.

I have thought of this quote several times over the past few weeks. Each time, this thought was prompted by hearing a story about some sort of obstacle or hardship.

The first story was about the disappointment felt by an athlete who is disappointed in her summer team. It is not an ideal situation and it is not what she expected or wanted.

The second was as I was listening to The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes which featured former University of Tennessee football player, Inky Johnson. Johnson put a hit on a ball carrier from Air Force, a hit just like any other, and suffered a life-threatening injury and lost the use of his arm.

The third came accidentally. I was texting my son’s coach to let him know he would not be at Saturday's game and inadvertently texted my cousin’s wife (both named Jamie). She and my cousin have recently taken custody of my late cousin Lisa’s son. Lisa’s husband also passed recently, leaving her young boys without parents. The younger son, who has a lot of challenges aside from losing his parents, is living with my amazing 80-year-old uncle. As time will have it, my cousins will be welcoming him to their home as well at some point.

As I was talking with Jamie about how life was going with the new arrangements, she spoke of all that was good. Even so, she admitted to coming to terms with her life being different than she expected. There will be no empty nest any time soon as she planned. And there are different financial things to consider, and new and challenging experiences are ahead. So many unknown issues exist for the boys and their entire family.

All three of these things got me thinking about obstacles, adversity and hardship and how we manage the circumstance we face.

Although my examples all have a similar theme, they differ in so many ways. Some of you are probably thinking, that dealing with a disappointing team, losing the use of an arm and kids losing both parents, and now being cared for by uncles, aunts and grandpas are not similar at all!

That is not true.

They are similar because each of them forced the individuals involved to make decisions on how they reacted to what was in front of them.

When we are faced with obstacles, what do we do?

So often in today’s world, we work so hard to avoid the challenge an obstacle could provide, especially for our athletes. I hear so often as I talk with players and parents, “we need a different situation.”

What this usually means is that the circumstances aren’t ideal and they don’t suit them, for whatever reason. (I’ll let you fill in the “reason.”)

But what do obstacles provide us?

Inky Johnson, after having his NFL dreams crushed by injury, decided to focus on what he gained through his experience as opposed to what he lost.

How often do we first say “I’m not getting this” or “I’ll be better when….” Or “this situation took _____ from me,” instead of looking for what we gained through a tough time?

My cousins have made and will continue to make sacrifices to raise my late cousin’s sons. But this does not come without costs. Instead, they are choosing to take on this opportunity (a completely different “O” word) as a blessing and an honor.

The disgruntled athlete has a choice, too. No matter how unpleasant the circumstances, she can choose to improve her skills. She can learn from the situation and figure out how she can positively influence the team. Most importantly, she can build a skill set she will need in the future, understanding that she can succeed despite the circumstances or environment. This may be the most important skill a competitor possesses!

In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday says that when something happens or comes our way and we say it is bad, two things are going on in this statement. The first is true; it is objective. Something happened. The second is a perspective, a subjective perspective (as all perspectives are).

It is only bad because we say it is bad.

To someone else, it may be innocuous.

Think about it. A ball is hit just outside the line in tennis. The person who hit the shot thinks it is terrible. The guy on the other side of the net thinks it is awesome.

The umpire calls it out with no feeling at all. It is what it is. One shot. Three perspectives.

So what is it? According to the rules of the game, the shot is out. It is what it is. It is only good, bad or indifferent based on the meaning we give it.

If we want to find joy and success in sport of life, we must learn to manage obstacles…and face them head-on with an intentional approach.

Holiday says it is a three-step approach. He calls it a “discipline of three critical steps.”

1. How we look at our obstacles or problems matters. Our attitude and approach…

ultimately, the meaning we give it…or our reaction to it will change its effect on our situation.

What about this is situation is objective and what is subjective? How can I manage my

reaction to both to help me move forward? What am I choosing to see or not to see in this

situation that can help me?

2. After we decide our attitude toward it, we then determine how hard we want to work and

how creative we can be at breaking down the problems into manageable and productive

thoughts and actions that turn them into opportunities (Just like my cousins child

and one day at a time).

What opportunities exist for me to grow, learn, contribute, etc.?

3. We then must continue to work to maintain the will to handle tough stuff,

disappointments and difficulties, understanding that the obstacles are there to propel us


How can I continue to be persistent in my quest for greatness or peak performance?

Finally, if we can, as Holiday says, “focus on the moment instead of the monsters that may or

may not be up ahead”, we can eliminate undo worry and suffering about things that may

never happen (I need to read this over and over!).

So the bad team, the paralyzed arm and the bonus kids may not come with as many difficult circumstances as you may have imagined (not that they all aren’t hard!).

Remember, we are ultimately responsible for the outcome, no matter what the circumstances, because we can choose our response!

The only way the obstacle is our enemy is if we fail to realize that obstacles are to our advantage.

They test us. They push us. They help us do the thing we never thought we could do…and sometimes we find that these are the things that bring us the greatest satisfaction and joy.

So the next time (probably later today), you are faced with an unwanted, unexpected or undesirable circumstance, think twice before you avoid it. It may just be your next opportunity!

As Hellen Keller said, “the struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings.”

Manage the moments…all of them… and have a great week!


P.S. Please remember to register and share the link below with your colleagues.

July 12 @ 12:00 pm EST – It Starts with You, Coach! FREE workshop for coaches and leaders – Click HERE

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


bottom of page