The obstacle is the way – the alchemy of stoicism

Whilst someone or something can impede your actions, they can’t impede your intention or attitude, unless you let them.

It’s a Monday morning, there’s a good chance that something will happen today that will challenge your plans for today and maybe for the whole week.

Fortunately your mind is elastic and adaptable.

Which means the obstacle could be an opportunity in disguise.

“The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting” Marcus Aurelius
“The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting” Marcus Aurelius

When you have this approach to problems, you become an alchemist in your own story. 

So the next time this happens to you, and your plans are affected by the unexpected, unexplained or just plain unbelievable, consider the opportunity that this affords you to grow.

  • If an employee makes a mistake, it’s a chance for them to learn about their role, and your opportunity to reflect on your leading.
  • If your computer crashes and you lose your work, it’s an opportunity to consider your backup strategy.
  • If something is difficult, it’s a chance to get better. People lose their way not because of events, but because of their thinking about events.
  • If something is unexpected, its an opportunity to consider how you can be more prepared for it next time.

When you think this way, you change your biochemistry. Your amygdala calms down and you get much greater access to the higher brain functions that can turn this situation to your advantage. It’s difficult of course when you are stressed, but remember. You didn’t get stressed because of the event, you got stressed because of your thinking about the event.

Every mistake and bit of bad luck is a chance to get stronger, smarter, faster, better. It’s when we really learn what we’re made of.

In the words of learned stoic, Marcus Aurelius “The obstacle becomes the way”.

Have a great week!

Further Reading

Holiday, R. The Obstacle is The Way The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. 2015. Profile Books

Aurelius, M. Meditations. 2006. Penguin Classics

#leadership #stress #resilience #stoicism #resiliency #growthmindset #entrepreneurship


Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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