Overcoming Obstacles in Life - Become Your Own Limitless Pill
Life is hard - that is a fact.
Nobody goes through it being success, happy and contented all the time. Overcoming obstacles is a part and parcel of life. Even people whom we perceive to have it all have problems. It's just that you don't get to see it. The life that people share on social media is just a fraction of their reality (unless someone post all their inner thoughts every second of their day) - so someone who is constantly posting photos of every delicious thing they had, every happy photo with friends, every places they have travelled, also have their fair share of life's problems.
Some of us may hope or fantasize about an invention like the little limitless pill (which enhance your cognitive functions) in the movie "Limitless" to solve all our problems. But before that ever happens (if it's even possible), the only limitless pill that we currently have access to is - YOU.
So what are the typical obstacles in life that you will face and how can you become a limitless pill to your life?
1. Feelings of Sadness
Whether you like it or not, sadness is inevitable as it is a natural response in life. Although no one wants to be sad, being sad does serve a purpose in life (otherwise, we won’t be born with the ability to experience this emotion).
Based on psychological studies, being in a less than pleasant mood can make you look at things around you more critically and analytically. This is especially helpful when you are looking at important things that require an analytical mind such as reviewing a report/paper or looking through things that require mathematical reasoning/analysis like finance sheets or expenses.
Sadness can also inspire and spur you to be better – as you try to work harder to get back to your desired level of happiness. Without sadness, you would also not be able to enjoy happiness as much - imagine the feeling of getting too much of a good thing like eating too many cookies. The more you eat, the more you feel full and sick. But if you have not eaten a cookie for a long while, you will savour it so much more when you eventually get your hands on it!
Sadness can also inspire and spur you to be better.
If you have awareness and control of this negative emotion, you can harness it to give you a positive outcome. However, if you let your sadness get out of control, it may lead to depression and destructive thoughts like self criticism. Of course, you can allow yourself to feel sadness at times, but don’t stay there too long – pick yourself up by trying to identify why you are feeling sad and then focus on a solution to feel better.
Controlling sadness can be as simple as just hitting a stop button – to tell your mind not to drown yourself in negative feelings and thoughts, and to quickly switch your thinking to more positive and encouraging ones (you really can do it -try it).
And remember to always have faith that better days will come, even if you cannot see it right now.
If you feel unhappy, practicing gratitude can also be really helpful. Here is a Gratitude List to get you started.
Additional reading to help you find real happiness
- Finding Real Happiness - A Talk That Changed My Life
Learn 5 life changing ways to finding real happiness - inspired by Vikas Malkani, a leading teacher of personal growth and self development.
2. Flaws and limitations/doubt
At times (especially when you experience setbacks in life), you may go through a long list of things that you think is wrong with you – you are not smart enough, you do not have the physique to do certain things, you are not tough enough to handle a high flying job, you are too lazy to achieve anything…the list goes on.
We all have our limitations, we are not super humans. Just like there are so many varieties of flowers and plants on Earth, there are also a variety of people with different abilities - and this is what makes each of us truly unique.
As you go through life, you should focus on your strengths and not be too bored down by your limitations. For example, if you are short, you may not become a supermodel or a professional basketball player - however, there are still so many other things you can do.
According to the book Learn In by Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook), women also tend to doubt themselves more than men and have a tendency to reject roles which they do not have 100% confidence of doing at the workplace. However, men tend to have a risker mindset and take up roles even when they are not entirely sure they are capable to do it. So for all the women out there - we should also learn to have more trust in ours abilities.
The key thing to know is that at the end of the day, even if you have (or think you have) some limitations, you should trust that nothing in this world is really absolute and life is full of surprises - you never know what wonderful things and possibilities could come your way.
The key thing to know is that at the end of the day, even if you have (or think you have) some limitations, you should trust that nothing in this world is absolute and life is full of surprises - you never know what wonderful things and possibilities could come your way.
3. Self hate
We all hate criticism. And as much as most self help books tell us to try accepting criticisms and turn them into a form of constructive feedback, we naturally don't feel very good about ourselves when someone has something bad to say about us.
Therefore, the key thing to remember is that you cannot control what people say or how they generally feel about you, but you can control how you view yourself and how you respond to the opinions of others.
It is still important to listen to other's feedback and views - but be careful to not be overly dependent on others to validate who you are and learn to filter bad feedback from constructive ones.
For example, you have a colleague who likes to pick on your work. Everything to him/her is not up to standard and at times, he/she may even tell you that you are performing badly. Naturally you may start to doubt your capabilities and believe that you are not very good. However, you should first step back to assess the situation (instead of being quick to judge yourself) to see if you should give value to what he/she says about you.- e.g. is he/she a perfectionist who does this to everyone, or is he/she just generally not a very nice person.
If you are confident of your work, you don't need to be affected by the individual's views about you at all. However, if you feel that there is something you may need to work on, look for someone else who you think can give you better guidance to get some constructive feedback.
Do you like changes?
Sometimes we are the harshest critics of ourselves so we should also be mindful of our need to be in control and perfect as well. A chain of self criticism can manifest, especially when we start comparing ourselves with other people - and this can lead to lower self esteem, feelings of jealousy and a sense of bitterness (and in extreme cases, self hate) when we feel others are better than us.
In this social media era, it is hard not to compare yourself with others when you are constantly being updated on other people's lives. Therefore, the solution is to either change your thinking patterns or just delete or completely ignore and stop updating your social media accounts like Facebook. Most people actually do feel better after doing so.
At the end of the day, you must have a strong faith in your capabilities and that you are capable of something, anything! You must love yourself (both the good and the bad), and truly believe that you are somebody of value and worthy of love.
So don't give up on yourself and don't cultivate self hate.
Sometimes we ourselves are the harshest critics of ourselves so we need to be mindful of our need to be in control and perfect as well.
4. Resisting change
Change is happening around us all the time; we are getting older each minute, people come and go, environment is constantly evolving. There really is no avoiding change - and frankly, life would be too dull without it
If you look back, some of the most memorable and happiest moments in your life are due to change - the excitement of moving to a new place, a new school or job, having a new girlfriend or boyfriend or even trying out a new restaurant.
Some people embrace change, while others try to avoid it at all cost due to fear of the unknown. But remember - even when you cannot always control the external changes around you, you can control the changes within you and find ways to cope. This is a simple concept, yet a hard one to execute - so it is important to keep practicing.
Faith means believing that something good will come, even when you cannot see anything good in sight.
For example, moving to a new city can be stressful and your mood may start to change from one of initial excitement to feelings of loneliness or sadness. However, if that happens, you can choose to adopt a more positive outlook instead of feeling sorry for yourself. When you have a more positive mindset, you will naturally be more motivated to take constructive actions to overcoming obstacles and improve your situation (such as actively looking for social events to make new friends).
Sometimes the fear of change is so strong that it keeps people in a bad situation - an abusive relationship, addiction, jobs that they do not enjoy etc. In such situations, change can only occur when you are able to convince yourself that you deserve better and take a leap of faith.
Faith is believing that something good will come, even when you cannot see anything good in sight. However, in order to have faith, you must first allow yourself to let good things happen to you - this in turn will create a chain reaction to set your life on a better course. There are tons of real life examples of this - just search for success stories of people who got out of an addiction or an abusive relationship.
According to psychologists, most of the fears we have are learned. All of us are only born with two natural fears - the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. So this is indeed great news because that means you can find ways to 'unlearn' most of the fears that you have!
Some fears are good and in many ways, are useful in our lives. For example, fear of failing your exams makes you study harder, fear of getting into a car accident makes you drive more carefully on the road, fear of falling sick motivates you to take better care of yourself.
However, it is when fear starts to control you - giving you anxiety and limiting you from doing what you love, or even simple things like going out, that makes fear become unreasonable.
The key to deal with your fears is to recognize that fear is not real. It is the emotional response that you experience when faced with something you do not like. Therefore, it can be controlled.
Many times, people give up just short of when they are about to succeed.
6. Feelings of hopelessness/ giving up
"I give up!!" These words should be familiar to you when you suffer from a setback or tragedy.
The feeling of utter hopelessness can be so strong and at times you just don't want to subject yourself to feelings of disappointment again and again and giving up seems so much easier. However, if you look at the stories of many successful people, many of them actual came a long way before achieving what they are known for today.
1. Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb) was not very highly thought of by his teachers and they thought that he was "too stupid to learn anything." When he started working, Thomas was fired from his first two jobs as he was deemed "non-productive." Edison also made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to create the light bulb before he finally came up with right formula. When asked by a reporter how he felt when he failed a 1000 times, Edison replied that he did not fail 1,000 times, but rather the light bulb was an invention which took a 1,000 steps.
2. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He famously commented that "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot ... and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed."
3. Charles Schultz (the creator of Snoopy) had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Even Walt Disney did not want to hire him.
4. J.K. Rowling's book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected by 12 publishers.
The one thing that all these people had in common is HOPE - which drives them to keep moving forward through hard times and never give up on themselves. Many times, people give up just short of when they are about to succeed. Imagine if J.K.Rowling gave up on the 11th try to get someone to publish her book. Would she be able to experience the success of creating a fantasy world loved by millions today?
Next time when you get blown away by a huge challenge, when you failed so many times that you wonder what good could possibly come of it and overcoming obstacles over and over again is getting too much for you to handle, remember to trust that anything in this world is possible. Believe that circumstances can change, solutions can appear, help can arrive from unexpected places and success can be just around the corner.