Overcoming Obstacles

Those of you who follow my work are familiar with my S.H.I.F.T. Model™. It’s a change management, goal achievement model I created after working with individuals and businesses for so many years. The “H” in the model stands for “Highlight your obstacles and categorize them.” I believe in unearthing the things that hold us back and get in our way. Only if we recognize them, acknowledge them and work with them can we rid ourselves of them at some point in time.

It’s been my experience that many times people are loath to talk about the obstacles: “Don’t focus on what’s wrong, focus on what’s right.” “Don’t dredge up bad feelings about things.” “We don’t need a complaining attitude, we need a can-do attitude around here!” There is often a lot of resistance to identifying what’s wrong.

It’s not just about creating a laundry list of what’s wrong, though. It’s also about categorizing obstacles and understanding (1) which ones are in our control, (2) which ones are within our influence and (3) which ones are out of our control. It’s amazing how much time most of us waste focusing on the things out of our control. There are many things that are upsetting to me – I pay a fortune for health insurance that I can never seem to use.  My teenage daughter yells at me for seemingly no reason sometimes. People abandon and abuse animals faster than we can find them and re-home them. I can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds, no matter what I try!

Many of these things have elements that I can influence, and I do. But they all also have elements that are completely out of my control. It’s not beneficial for me to sit around and rue the problems I have that aren’t fixable. And yet, while we don’t want to be negative and take a practical approach  to identifying obstacles, most of us are perfectly happy to sit around and complain about what we can’t fix! It’s a sticky wicket, we find!

The process of identifying the obstacles, and then categorizing them, lets me see where I am getting stuck. Obstacles are real. They stand in our way. They prevent us from doing things we’d like to do. When we create a plan to do something differently, we need to know what we face. We need our plan to include working around, over or through those obstacles. If I want my daughter to be nicer, I know that one obstacle is that I cannot open her door without knocking (and I shouldn’t do this anyway!). The times I push myself in, I get a negative reaction. My obstacle is actually sometimes the door! It’s in my way, but she won’t open it to let me in.

Knowing this very real obstacle is there, I started to text her instead of knocking on the door when I know she doesn’t want to talk to me. It’s been amazing; she responds, and we are able to actually have an exchange without the door ever opening.

It’s a real solution, but also an interesting metaphor for me. The door doesn’t have to open, and I might still be able to find a way to work around it anyway.

Don’t be afraid of your obstacles. Know them. Account for them. Categorize them. And then plan around them. But don’t ignore them. The door will still be there and you’ll still be on the wrong side of it unless you find another route.