On Overcoming Obstacles


I think it’s odd how the overcoming of obstacles is SO admired. We create our own obstacles with our mind, don’t we? So why is overcoming something we have created ourselves so admired?

My understanding is that the mind is analogous to an iceberg… 90% of it is submerged. So while we may want, say, prosperity… thoughts in our unconscious mind may well be creating the opposite. Or say we want an easy life… thoughts in our unconscious mind may start putting all sorts of obstacles in our path.

If we really want something and we go for it and don’t give up despite the obstacles, well great… let’s salute ourselves. But at some point I think it needs to be acknowledged that we did create those obstacles ourselves—there wasn’t anything “out there” doing it to us. In fact, acknowledging this actually puts us in a position of power, I think. “I created those obstacles, so now I’ll un-create them!”

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by problems of some sort, I always think: “how can I make things easy?” Solutions show themselves, and I can honestly say I have a life that flows fairly easily, with few difficulties. Over the years, friends have said now and then – “Oh Birchy, your life is so easy and uncomplicated” …boy does this annoy me! It is uncomplicated (or whatever) because I MADE it that way! It’s not because I don’t have kids! Plenty of people who don’t have kids run around like chooks with their head off being busy busy busy.

If I talk about the difficulties in my life, I always know I am talking about difficulties I have drawn to myself in some way.

I see other people in the same light. If I hear about how someone has overcome great difficulties, by going though a lot of struggling, it’s unlikely I will find it very inspiring. I am much more inspired by hearing about friends’ lives that flow easily—they are creating it that way, I think.

* * *

I’ve probably offended everyone now, but comments are most welcome.

42 thoughts on “On Overcoming Obstacles

  1. Urbane Lion

    I agree that very often we create our own obstacles. Why is my 75 year old neighbour able to go up a 50 foot ladder without a problem when I, being almost half his age, soil my pants past the 5th rung! Perhaps because I fell off the roof of a garage when I was a child? Either way, those obstacles are often irrational but they sure are difficult to overcome!

  2. Ari Koinuma

    Hey Robin,

    Perhaps the way to consider is to separate “difficulty” from “obstacles.” It’s just semantics, but let’s play with it for a bit.

    I don’t myself don’t ever aspire to live an “easy” life. By that, I mean that I always seek out challenges and am looking to grow by making myself stretch. If something becomes easy to me, I kinda get bored. So I welcome some types of “difficulty,” the kind that get me excited to tackle.

    “Obstacles” are road blocks, and they get in the way of us doing something, including tackling our favorite challenges. These need to be removed, as they get in the way of living our life. And I assume this is what you mean by “easy” — obstacle-free life, not difficulty-free.

    Both are self-created, of course.

    That said, however, I do have compassion for some people with their obstacles. Because a lot of limiting beliefs and outlooks are handed down. Most of us get conditioned by self-defeating traditions and parental inputs (not to say that all traditional beliefs are bad, of course). An abused person will have terrible obstacles in forming successful relationships. Their injured minds are creating these obstacles, but yet, is it really their fault?

    We all create our own obstacles, true, but most of us don’t create it knowingly. And some scripts are so deep set that it takes a lot of soul searching, guidance and emotional resources to seek them out and undo them. So I do find people who have done such a feat inspiring.


    Ari Koinumas last blog post..The Most Engaging Activity in Your Life (Digest)

  3. Lance

    I think you bring up a great point Robin. We DO bring many obstacles on ourself. A big one (no pun intended) is weight gain. After someone has gained weight, and then they manage to lose it – this is seen as a great accomplishment. How about the person who has been able to maintain a healthy weight their whole life? That is the bigger accomplishment – and yet that’s not what we see. We see that that person looks the same, no change. No accomplishment. And, I’ve never really thought about it this way before. And it is so interesting – because it is true – unless there has been an obstacle to overcome, it just doesn’t seem as impressive. All that said, I do also think there are obstacles that we don’t necessarily create, and overcoming those can be a great accomplishment.

  4. Harmony

    Hello ROBIN
    Way to go! FINALLY I have begun to get this point but only in the last couple of years really…
    I am one who admired those who really went through adversity to overcome it in glory, or at least struggle with dignity. I am learning though, that although I have compassion and empathy for my friends in difficulty – and by that I mean mankind, I am ever so grateful to be finding people in my world who are relaxed, doing good, blessed, free, fun etc…
    One last thought: I love the photo you chose. May the Light continue to show me how to uncover those hidden icebergs in my thinking. It is easier said sometimes than done.

  5. Jeff Baker

    Even though I have struggled in the past, you speak truth when you say we do it to ourselves. The inspiring thing is getting that fact connected with our minds! Thanks again Robin. Peace — jb

  6. Cath Lawson

    Hi Robin – This sounds quite complicated. Are you saying you never have any obstacles at all? I’ve had a lot. And I guess I created them with the decisions I made but I think I learned a lot by overcoming them. But you’ve made the right decisions and avoided obstacles.

    What I’m really stuck with is the submerged mind – cool pic, by the way. If 90% of your mind is submerged – how come come when you tell your conscious mind you want an easy life – how come your subconscious mind is giving you the opposite? Or does it only work if you say you want an easy life?

  7. natural

    well i have to go think about this..i do agree with you when you say
    “It is uncomplicated (or whatever) because I MADE it that way!” that’s the truth!
    we do make our own choices in life, we can either put things in our way or remove them, by choice.
    i don’t know if i think “obstacle” but detour. i’ll get there.

    naturals last blog post..Doggone, Grandma

  8. Robin

    I want to pop in here quickly – I’ve just got up and I am bleary-eyed. I wrote this post a little too quickly because I have been struggling with a work obstacle (my books).

    I was referring to the things we are inspired by. I think most of us would have compassion for people who are overcoming huge obstacles, and we need to have compassion for ourselves if we are. Personally, I have struggled with many things – and still do. It’s just that I see many people not think of making things easy for themselves. Be back later. x

  9. Evelyn Lim

    You’ve brought up a very good point that obstacles is a creation of our minds. I am inspired by the person who is committed to his (or her) self growth, who takes the step towards being accountable for his life and works hard to remove his obstacles self-created or otherwise. Being inspired helps to spur me on and be motivated in my own journey. At the same time, I’m equally inspired by the one who’s managed to understand it all, who lives in the flow. Both types of people inspire me differently and on various levels, I guess.

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Planet Of Dreams

  10. Robin

    @Urbane Lion – ha ha – I’m afraid of heights too (on ladders anyway). Frank amazes me the way he buzzes up ladders and into, or onto, roofs. I close my eyes.
    @Ari – I want to say thanks for saying things I left out of this post – so… thanks! I agree very much with all parts of your comment – I like your last paragraph especially.
    @Lance – thanks Lance – and yes, I was trying to say that people who are not burdened with heaps of issues are inspiring to me. What is it in their make-up that allows this?
    @Harmony – I’m so glad you get my drift – and I had to laugh at your last point. I’m glad you have people in your life who are relaxed, doing good, blessed, free and fun! There will be more icebergs to come (she says mysteriously).
    @Jeff – Hi there Jeff and welcome! I had a quick look at your blog and I’ll visit properly later. It certainly feels inspiring to me to feel I understand how things work.
    @Cath – actually Cath – what I love about these ideas is the simplicity of them. But I haven’t explained the thinking properly here. I’m planning to do my next post on this (the submerged mind doesn’t necessarily give the opposite – but we aren’t aware of the thoughts there and they still have effects).
    @Vered – hi – yes, I guess I’m suggesting we can deliberately ask ourselves “how can I make this easy?” (some people love difficulties)
    @Natural – hi – I’ve seen some people actually choose all sorts of complications in their life, and then get off on how wonderful they are for enduring it all!
    @Evelyn – hi there – beautifully said and I quite agree with you!

  11. Cath Lawson

    Hi Robin – I’m looking forward to the next post. Your blog really makes me think a lot – I feel as though it stretches my mind.

    I’ve been thinking it and I know what you mean about some obstacles. Sometimes, in the past, I feel as though I’ve deliberately gone out of my way to make my life more difficult? Does that make sense?

    I know there will always be some challenges and I guess that’s good, because they motivate us. But I would love for the rest of life to be simple, aside from those challenges and I think that is what you were trying to get across. I’m looking forward to learning more about it Robin.

    Cath Lawsons last blog post..Blog Express, Zen & Millionaire Mommies

  12. Urban Panther

    Well, you sure didn’t offend me! And I too get really annoyed when people say ‘oh, but you have always had it so easy, you can’t possibly understand’. Uh-huh. Actually, this post is very timely because I am feeling a tad overwhelmed, and I need to get to the root of my self-imposed (because I know they are) obstacles. Generally, what I do is take some Me Time to either just sit and contemplate, or to journalize (with or without oracle cards), to find the blocks and smash through them.

    Urban Panthers last blog post..The Panther goes oopsie daisy

  13. Davina

    Hi Robin. There is a wise woman that shines through in your writing. I enjoy reading your posts. I do believe that we, in some way create our obstacles. But I believe that we don’t necessarily have any control over how or in what form the obstacles are presented to us. But we do have control over how we respond to those obstacles. And man, do I still have a lot to learn in that regard… Phew! Ain’t THAT the truth! 🙂

    Davinas last blog post..Does Misery Really Love Company?

  14. Rita

    You certainly have NOT offended me! I totally respect your opinion. I agree wholeheartedly that we create our own obstacles…and when did I learn this? When I became disabled! I had enough obstacles to overcome on my own that I had NO inclination to create more – or be around those who did.
    I just try to count my blessings. And NOW, believe it or not, my life “flows” much more easily than it ever did! The reason: I forced myself to create joy, humor, a load of (often not appreciated) sarcasm (too bad), and a sense of irony that usually puts a smile on my face.
    As to the whiners – keep them away. Very, very far away. Though I may complain about a SITUATION in a blog, I truly hope that I don’t complain about the state of my life. It’s too precious to me – and those with whom I choose to deal. (Well, one day I did write that I was unhappy that day, but I was! Those who didn’t want to read it could tell immediately by the title – and the last thing I needed NOR wanted was a “pity party!”)
    Thanks for your blog, and for allowing me to share my thoughts!

  15. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    Robin I have to agree with you here. We can actually look for the easy way out and take it. Yet some folks love the struggle. They want to work hard. It’s some kind of twisted thinking that makes them thik they’ve earned it that way. I’d much rather be clever and skate my way through life. It doesn’t always work anyway but it sure feels good when it does. I consider myself blessed to grow up in the sixties and to have experienced a time easy living.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..How to Honor Your Commitments

  16. Evan

    Hi Robin,

    I’m with the (some) obstacles are real crowd.

    It is also true that we can usually do more than we thought possible (especially in collaboration with others).

    This is an invitation to experimentation and adventure: let’s see how wonderful we can make our world and our experience of it.

    Evans last blog post..Genetic Medicine (pharmacogenomics)

  17. Robin

    @Cath – thanks for this Cath – I was feeling rather despondent and then last night at open mic night I even got into a ridiculous yelling match (well, raised voices) with some stupid drunk woman who was being really pushy and bitchy (she said among other things that I was a “cranky old bitch” because I wouldn’t let her sing when she wanted). I’m usually good at dealing with people like that, but after a night of it I snapped. Anyway, I got home and your comment had come in – it really cheered me up!
    @Urban Panther – I’m a tad overwhelmed by things at the moment, too. I do the same kinds of things to find my centre, when I’m feeling like this. I’m going up to Mum’s this afternoon for a few days – I’ll try to get some time up there.
    @Chris – hiya Chris – I think anyone who does stuff out in the world (or does anything to move to an expanded level) has obstacles appear, that need to be dealt with. I know when I was doing lots of things that were a leap for me, I’d find it rather annoying when people who lived totally “safe” lives thought I was weird because I had so many “problems” (My life and “leaps” progress in a more satisfying way, now – hopefully this will continue.)
    @Davina – thanks (and I think we all have wisdom!) – When you have learnt it could you please let me know? 🙂
    @Rita – hi and great to hear from you! I’m glad your life is flowing well – that’s great to hear. You’ll have to write more about how you do this, for us!
    @Tom – hi there – I really like your “I’d much rather be clever and skate my way through life.” – it’s great to believe we can choose this, I think (and I’m sure you’d agree it’s not to be confused with not embracing challenges – it’s more to do with how to deal with those challenges that arise when we try do do something interesting).
    @Evan – hi there – that’s an interesting perspective about us all working together to deal with problems! And I think that no matter what caused the obstacles – they are still real and we need to deal with them.

  18. Barbara Swafford

    Hi Robin,

    Firs off, I love the photo. Aren’t icebergs amazing?

    I tend to agree with you on this one. Our lives deals us a hand and it’s how we play it that makes the difference. Although we look at others and think their problems are obstacles, they may see them as a learning experience. When we face “obstacles”, it’s how we deal with them that determines the outcome.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Parties, Spam and Hanging Chads

  19. Al at 7P

    Hi Robin – thanks for such a thought-provoking article. I really like how someone who takes a simple approach to life is able to address a weighty issue such as this.

    As with most things in life, I believe reality is a mixture of the two ends of the spectrum. There are physically real problems out there that people face, and I also think a lot of problems people face are inner demons that are not real in the physical world, but nonetheless real in their minds. In addition, there are physical problems that are much more of a problem because people mentally turn them into problems (OK, have I over-analyzed this yet?).

    I don’t know what the percent mix is, but I do feel a lot (and I mean A LOT) of problems people face is if they recognize the simple approach as you suggest.

  20. Kelly@SHE-POWER

    Robin, I’m not sure I’m going to make sense as I write this but let’s hope for the best. I do believe we create dramas and obstacles in our life, but life also throws curve balls at us as opportunities to learn. And whether we should be or not, we are also affected by what happens in the lives of people closest to us. If someone takes the death of a loved one and chooses to rise above it and create a whole new zest for life, I think that is inspiring. But I also think it is inspiring when a person who has chosen to wallow in pain and grieve in life one day wakes up and decides to adopt a new attitude. That is very inspiring. As are people who make huge mistakes and then learn from them and rise to new, great levels of wisdom and empowerment. People like Gregory David Roberts, the ex druggie and felon who wrote turned his life around and wrote the best selling Shantaram.

    So yes I admire people who can calmly handle life, but we’re not all cut from the same cloth and we’ve all had different background and starts in life. It’s easier for some people to sail into adulthod than others. Some people claw their way from terrible circumstances to any kind of sanity. If they are self destructive or act like a drama puss for some of their adult years before finding some path to peace, well good on ’em, I say. It doesn’t matter to me if they have always done it. Just that they’re doing it now.

    You always get us thinking Robin. Thank you.


    Kelly@SHE-POWERs last blog post..When Kindness Becomes Stupidity

  21. Ricardo Bueno

    I’m not offended… I mean, I can’t argue with you… Part of the challenge that we face in moving forward toward accomplishing any of our goals is identifying the conflicts that are keeping us from moving forward. When you down and start to identify those, they’re mostly “internal” conflicts…conflicts that we’ve imposed on ourselves.

  22. SpaceAgeSage

    “… how can I make things easy?”
    I like the idea of asking that question first to create a mindset open to possibilities. Adversity has made me stronger in all the toughening ways, but overcoming my own limiting thoughts has made me more whole and more able to flow the easy way.

    SpaceAgeSages last blog post..Where is your real power?

  23. Robin

    @Barbara – isn’t it a great image – I don’t know how it’s done. That’s an interesting point – other people don’t necessarily see their problems in the same way we see them on their behalf.
    @Al – thanks Al – ha ha bring on over-analysis! I think you make an interesting point about the inner demons – they can be very real problems to people, but they are invisible to others – like an attractive person believing they are ugly (I probably don’t really need to give examples of inner demons!)
    @Kelly – great comment! (am I allowed to say that?! – just kidding). I totally salute anyone who pulls themselves to a better place, or is brave enough to try out new things. Thanks for writing such a good illustration of that!
    @Ricardo – yes, you’re quite right – it does make a differnce approaching things like that, doesn’t it!
    @SpaceAgeSage – hi there and welcome! I think that’s a great way of putting it – it’s interesting to see how you are making it work.

  24. Stacey / CreateaBalance

    I love this post. I think I need more time to soak it all into my head. Do we create obstacles based on fear? And if so, are we fearful of failing or fearful of succeeding?

    I’m inspired by people who have overcome great difficulties because this means they persevered past fear. This is not an easy task. And I’m inspired by people who have lives that flow easily, because they have let go of being fearful.

    Stacey / CreateaBalances last blog post..Arriving at the Moment of Your Dream (Wordless Wednesday)

  25. Cath Lawson

    Hi Robin – I just dropped by because I’m impatiently waiting for your next post.

    That woman sounds like she was a real nut. As much as we try not to let folk like that get us down it’s difficult sometimes isn’t it? I know I struggle – even though I’m trying to work on it.

    Anyway, I’m pleased my comment cheered you up. I like Kelly’s idea of curve balls that challenge us too.

    I was thinking about people who deliberately cause problems for us. At first I thought that we couldn’t possibly have brought those kind of situations on ourselves. But I’m wondering if we do? When I was still married to my ex – who made life difficult for me, I wonder if that caused me to attract others into my life who made things difficult too? Since I ended that part of my life, I feel as though I’m surrounded by many more positive people.

    Anyway – I’m looking forward to your next post.


  26. Robin

    @Stacey – Hi there Stacey and thanks! I think you are rightt here – we create obstacles for ourselves because of fears in our unconscious mind. Rooting them out is not always that easy!
    @Writer Dad – thanks! – I see you have been over at Golden Zen. Macs make using a computer easy, enjoyable and inspiring, so you are more likely to get creative. It’s funny how some people think it would be difficult to learn to use them – from their experience with Windows.
    @Cath – thanks as always, Cath. I think it was because she came across as semi-reasonable that she got under my skin – if she had been a total nutter it would have been easier to dismiss her. She was drunk, basically. We are hoping she doesn’t come next Tuesday.

  27. Rita

    Just a quick follow-up. How do I do it? 2 ways. First, I always look to find who put the banana peels in front of me…and it is usually me, myself.
    Second, a heavy dose of sarcasm (not always appreciated by others) and a GREAT sense of irony are key to putting a smile on my face. Look at the iceberg…is that not ironic?

    Ritas last blog post..Contest Time: Blogging for Prophet – a Quiz

  28. Marelisa

    Hi Robin: I’ve seen the analogy of our minds and the glacier many times, and I think it really applies. I also think that what happens to us is a projection of what we’re thinking, even if it’s at a deep level of mind we’re not aware of. The problem is finding a way to release memories and beliefs buried in our subconscious mind that keep holding us back. I’m glad you and your subconscious mind have made an agreement to create an easy life, my subconscious mind and I need to have a long talk 🙂

    Marelisas last blog post..How to Create a Swipe File to Jump Start Your Creativity

  29. Grace


    You may be on to something, here. I am firmly of the opinion that we co-create the world we are comfortable with, warts and all. If that world is one full of difficulties, so be it. On the other hand, if a person looks for the best, they may find it? Write on! G.

    Graces last blog post..What are the basic ABCs of creativity?

  30. Robin

    @Rita – hello again – good to hear how you do it (and I can relate to a “dry” sense of humour not always being understood or appreciated)
    @Marelisa – hi and when you have head that talk to your unconscious mind can you let me know how you did it? ;=)
    @Grace – hi there – it’s very interesting to me when other people have the same or similar views on how we create “our world” – thanks for the encouragement!
    @Ariel – thanks Ariel – great to hear from you again.

  31. Doug Rosbury

    Life is my clay and of course, I am the potter. My hands and fingers are extensions of my mind and they manipulate the clay turning before me. But there is one truth i must mention: I am life and this makes me the clay and the potter. —Doug Rosbury

  32. Greg

    I would like to go one step further and suggest there’s really no such thing as an ‘objective’ obstacle at all. Since the definition of ‘objective’ implies that it’s “outside the mind,” then theoretically every man, woman, and child would agree that a particular obstacle creates the exact same problem for all. But since we can all agree that what constitutes an obstacle for one person may not even register for another, then all obstacles reside in the realm of subjective.

    One man looses a hand in buzz saw accident and condemns himself to a meaningless life. Another proclaims, “I best learned to use the other hand now.” So it must be rather obvious that it’s one’s personal, collective experiences that determines whether some event is even defined as an obstacle.

    Isn’t this the crux of the Chinese Farmer story? Who knows what’s good or bad? I don’t believe teh human mind likes the idea of nothing really being objective, it rails against some inner desire to believe that our thoughts are derived from some indisputable, stone tablet. There’s less security in the subjective.

    Nice post Robin.

  33. anthony

    SOME obstacles may be self-created. Steven Hawkins cannot go to the top of the Eiffel Tower alone (no wheelchairs permitted). He did not create that obstacle.

    “Law of Attraction” reworded.

  34. Robin

    @Vanessa – thanks for your comment
    @Liara – it opens a whole host of possibilities, doesn’t it?
    @Greg – hi Greg, thanks and welcome to this blog! So many people believe they are being objective and “scientific” when really they are choosing what to believe from emotion, I think. I like your point about obstacles being very subjective – although if a person is in a lot of physical pain or really has no money, then thinking philosphically like this might not be much help to them – and I also think we are ever reaching for higher ground, so recognising obstacles as they appear and removing them can be a healthy thing to do. Thanks again!
    @anthony – In my view, we can choose to live in a universe where random things happen to us, and we can cope as well as we can with them, or we can take responsiblity for the things going on in our lives (forgiving ourselves for creating them if necessary), and use any of the myriad of mind-body healing techniques around to heal ourselves of our issues, as many, many people have done. It’s our choice – my post is indeed the Law of Attraction reworded (though I have been into these ideas long before I ever heard that term).

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