7 creative ways to deal with obstacles (and stay calm too!)

My husband and I were abroad recently – on a much-awaited trip in our beloved camper. But sadly little went to plan from the time we departed to the time we came home. At the top of the list were illness and a horrendous heatwave. Here was a test (if ever we needed one) in how to deal with obstacles – luckily the principles can be applied to your business and other areas of your life! 

So once home, I took my laptop outside, picked my first bunch of summer flowers from the garden (do flowers inspire you too?) and started writing to get things off my chest.

I know through my coaching work how easily unexpected obstacles like an illness or losing your biggest customer can derail business owners. Recently I helped several clients deal with sudden developments that were causing real turmoil in their business.

Running a business is often like the ups and downs of a journey  – one minute everything is going well and the next it isn’t. And you wonder what the heck is going on.

Each obstacle is a reminder

28 years as a business owner have taught me that obstacles are more of a regular occurrence than the exception to the rule.

The bigger ones can certainly be challenging! Regardless of whether they are business related or personal struggles, something inevitably changes. As will you.

Each obstacle can be an important reminder how much is outside your control!

When facing an obstacle, women seem to fall into two camps. We either jump into action (often any action), fuelled by the adrenaline of the situation. Lets’ face it, an unexpected event or development can make us feel so uncomfortable we want to get out of it as quickly as possible.

Or it pushes us so far out of our comfort zone that we feel completely overwhelmed. Which then stops us in our tracks.


There is a gentle way to deal with obstacles (and your mindset)

A few years ago, I found myself in the highly overwhelmed camp. I turned to a fellow coach to help me with my particular obstacle which had made me lose direction.

She asked me questions like “What’s your learning here… and where are the opportunities?”. Typical coaching questions designed to help you think positive and take positive action.

Coaching is a fabulous tool designed to help us move forward but, at times, we struggle to do so. It can be hard to grasp what’s happened when there’s too much anxiety.

I suddenly remembered that it’s not a bad thing for me to sit with the discomfort for a while. My lesson here was not so much the obstacle itself. I needed to trust myself to be able to cope. And trust to let some things work out in their own time. (After all, we all process events and the emotions that surround them differently.)

The Zen approach to dealing with obstacles

Around that time I stumbled upon the Zen proverb “The obstacle is the path” in a newsletter written by Leo Babauta (of zenhabits.com) who I’d been following for some time.

And the penny dropped. I’d been drawn to Buddhism and Mindfulness for years and had quietly started to apply the ‘being in the moment’ approach with myself. But I just needed that extra push (or validation?) to use this alternative way of thinking all the time. Both with myself, and my clients.

When the obstacle becomes the path (rather than something you have to circumvent as quickly as possible) you learn to accept that it is part of your own ‘Here and Now’. And that it’s best to stay on this path rather than find your way around it.

By accepting the challenge and trusting your intuition you will often discover an inner strength you didn’t know you had.

And sometimes you even realise the universe has a different path in store for you to the one you were on. This may take you completely by surprise, but it can actually turn out to be a good thing!

7 mindful and creative ways to work with your obstacles

  1. To avoid going round in circles with your thoughts, don’t just process the event in your head.  It’s always good to write it down (journaling helps a lot of people) to get it off your chest. Focus on your fears and worries too, not just the facts. If you’re used to meditating, take yourself to a quiet spot and focus purely on breathing or what you need right now. Be kind to yourself. Try to remember other times when you were able to deal with obstacles successfully and how this made you feel afterwards.
  2. Talk to someone you trust about your situation. Don’t wait too long before you do this. Talking to a like-minded person who understands and is objective too, can make a huge difference to your outcome.
  3. Remember the big picture. Why is it worth working through this situation? Perhaps you have a goal you feel passionately about?
  4. Think about all the possible options and ways to deal with your obstacle. Capture the ideas in whichever way works best for you. Sometimes I play them out in my mind too – a technique often used by top athletes.
  5. If you can’t think clearly, try to do a creative activity to give you some distance. Draw, paint, write, or take photos in nature. I took a course in mindful photography once and learned that being fully ‘in the moment’ helps me to see better what’s going on for me. Anything that uses the right (non-analytic) side of your brain can help you feel in touch with yourself and what you need right now. It can also help with problem solving or distracting yourself and freeing the mind.
  6. Have a look at what small meaningful actions you can take that are in your control. This will prevent ‘paralysis’ and procrastination, you learn to trust yourself  and feel more confident about the more challenging aspects of your obstacle. And remember tip No.2 about talking to a person you trust (if you haven’t already).
  7. You may be under a lot of pressure but please try to resist the internal pressure that comes from our own expectations or our drive for perfectionism. Go easy on yourself, relax, take a deep breath. You can do it. Because after all, you are a clever, enterprising and resilient woman!



So you see, there are quite a few different ways to deal with obstacles of any kind – and there’s no need to panic.

What obstacles have you had to deal with and what has helped you to get round them?

PS. I would be happy to be a sounding board for you. Why not drop me a line and we’ll arrange a Skype or Zoom chat over a cup tea/coffee to see how I can help you.


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