You have got to be kidding me.
I said that more than once on more than one trail on a recent hiking trip. While I fully expect to encounter an obstacle or two while hiking along, this time we found obstacles littering our path. Not the usual kind of hiking obstacle like a creek to cross or a steep slope to scramble up or a narrow ledge to navigate. No these were the kinds of obstacles that stop you in your tracks.
One day there was a barricade blocking the way with no notice explaining why we should stop. No “bear in the area” or “flooding ahead” – just an orange barricade on a perfectly lovely looking trail. Without an explanation we decided to keep going to eventually find dozens of fallen trees on the path.
Okay that was a good reason for a barricade. No problem we’ll circle around and pick up the trail further on. Great idea until the worst swarm of mosquitos descended upon us and forced us back.
Another day the road to the trail head was closed for a bike race. No problem, we’ll simply approach it from a different direction – only to find that route blocked as well. No problem we’ll drive a little further and do another trail. Nope. We got there to find that one closed due to an extreme fire hazard.
I have to say I’ve never seen so many obstacles saying “don’t go this way” – which of course got me thinking about the nature of obstacles.
It seems to me that obstacles serve 2 purposes.
They are either a test or a sign.
Sometimes obstacles show up to test you.
They pose challenges to find out how committed you actually are to your goal or the path you are on. That test typically comes in the form of something you need to learn – a new skill or perspective or habit that is necessary in order for you to continue forward movement on your path.
Sometimes obstacles show up as a sign that you are not on the right path.
They serve as a warning to pause and rethink the direction you are headed. Repeated obstacles blocking your path just might be a sign from the universe. I’m a firm believer that the right path, while not obstacle free, is certainly not constantly cluttered with roadblocks.
There is some wisdom that says there is always a way over or under or around every obstacle. Good advice if the obstacle you are encountering is a test. But if it’s actually a sign, then the best way to handle it is to turn around and find another path.
But here’s the bazillion dollar question:
How do you know whether the obstacle in front of you is a sign or a test?
It would be easy to listen to your inner wimp and treat all obstacles as signs that you should turn around hightail it in the other direction. But then you would miss the opportunity to learn whatever it is that you need to learn in order to be successful. And you would never actually get to where it is that you truly want to go.
It might also feel heroic to channel your inner warrior and continually tackle every obstacle you encounter. Ultimately though, if you are indeed on the wrong path, that tactic will leave you finding that you have wasted your time, energy and resources.
Instead you might try this:
Tap into the part of you that already knows what kind of obstacle this is.
Yes, you actually do have a part of you that knows.
Trouble is you often can’t hear that voice unless you get quiet, remove yourself from the noise around you and the chatter inside your head. I recommend getting outside and going for a walk – or maybe a hike – and creating some space to really listen.
If you haven’t paid attention to that part of yourself for a long time – that part of yourself that knows your deepest desires – it might seem unfamiliar.
Trust me – it’s there.
You’ll recognize that voice because it doesn’t lecture, or use words like “should” or “what if”. It feels trustworthy right down into your bones.Your true inner voice doesn’t lecture, or use words like “should” or “what if”. Click To Tweet
Then let it guide you.
Instead of letting the wimpy part of yourself that gives up at the first sign of a challenge or the martyr part of yourself that allows you to continually beat your head against wall – let that true part of yourself tell you if it’s a test or a sign.
Turns out the obstacles on my hiking trip really had nothing to do with a particular trail.
Seems they just showed up as a metaphor for my path going forward. You see I have been talking myself into and out of some things for the past year. Guess the universe decided to give me a kick in the butt with a hiking boot.