Life is full obstacles. Big and small. Permanent and temporary. Serious and trivial. If you live any sort of a long and decent lifetime, you are going to experience plenty of all of these. A simple search online will reveal some of the toughest challenges that people you may know have faced.
These obstacles aren’t something to fear or bemoan though, they’re something to celebrate. The struggles we face and the obstacles we overcome often end up defining who we are. Sometimes though, that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with at the time. And brick walls aren’t exactly ideal, no matter when you experience them.
Obstacles, struggles and hitting brick walls are all inevitable in your lifetime. Whether you are facing one now, helping someone facing one now or preparing for one in the future, this article will help you decide what to do when you hit a brick wall in life.
Identify the brick wall
One of the first things that you need to when you hit a brick wall in your life is to identify exactly what the wall is. This is often easier said than done though because the metaphorical walls that we hit are often professional shape-shifters.
They make you think that you have a chocolate obsession, when the real wall is a habit of procrastination.
They make you think that your short arms are stopping you from being good at pull-ups, when the real wall is your willpower in the moment.
It’s important to identify your wall for what it really is. There is often only one or two major things that are holding you back, and all of the other symptoms stem from those. Is it your routine? Is it your work? Is it yourself? Is the wall even real? Or is it just a bad week/month? The brick wall isn’t always what it seems and it may not even stick around for that long, so it’s important to know what you are dealing with before you get too stressed out.
Evaluate the brick wall
Once you have a decent idea about what the roadblock you are facing is, it’s time to decide how you are going to deal with it.
Is the wall surmountable? Or is it eighty-feet high?
If it’s surmountable, say you realise that the wall is your self-confidence or your inability to kick with your left foot, then all you need to do is start building a ladder over the top. Practice speaking in front of the mirror and then in front of people. Spend extra time practising with your left foot until it is at a level that you are happy with.
If the wall is eighty-feet high, say there isn’t another worthwhile promotion opportunity at your work without it meaning much more responsibility and only a small pay rise, is there an alternate route you can take? Either around the wall or a new path entirely?
Resilience is an interesting word because it is made up of many more parts than people initially think.
Sometimes, resilience means having faith in what you are doing. It is when you have confidence in your methods, your process, your habits and you just weather the storm that will inevitably come – like a strong ship made for handling the harshness of the seas. It is where time and repetition are the key factors in getting where you want to go. Resilience and patience often go hand-in-hand and this is the classical sense of the word.
The other, lesser-known side to resilience is the ability to step back and re-evaluate your situation. It is taking another look at your methods, your process and your habits and deciding whether they are building you up to ride and survive ferocious waters or if they are building you something feeble to travel in.
Stepping away from the metaphors, resilience is knowing when to push through and also knowing when to reflect, adjust and pivot. In order to overcome any set of obstacles in your life, it is important to know when to use both. If you don’t know yet, you just have to keep practising until you do.
Recognise that brick walls aren’t unique to you
It may not come as a surprise to you when written down as bluntly and as obvious as this, but that is usually what we need. Personally, when I get wrapped up in a problem, hit a big obstacle or suffer in any way in my own life, I often slip into the mindset of thinking that the problem is unique to me. This envokes a sense of self-pity – which doesn’t help anyone – rather than a plan of action.
It’s really important to realise that everyone hits brick walls in every area of life: health, career, finance, relationships, you name it. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what they are doing all of the time and for most of us including myself, we have no idea what we are doing most of the time, either. You need to let your impostor syndrome step to one side for a little while.
That’s just the way life goes. You can either sit at the foot of the wall in pity or start trying method after method for finding a way to get past it. I don’t know anyone who has gotten past a wall with the first method.
Speak to people you trust
This is perhaps the most important point in this list. As well as speaking to people you trust such as close friends or family, you can try taking advice from mentors that you’ve never met but who you know give good advice. In essence, get a different perspective on the big obstacle standing in your way that isn’t involved with the obstacle.
By nature, our walls are personal and unique to us. We can become attached to them, loathe them and see them as either enemies that we can never conquer or convenient stopping points so we don’t need to push ourselves further. Whatever role the wall is playing in your life, it is useful to get an outsider’s perspective – someone who isn’t wrapped up with the obstacle like you might be.
This is why it is easy to give great advice to your friends but why it is so hard to take your own advice. It’s easy to assess the situation in a non-emotional manner when we aren’t involved and choose the right plan of action – even when it isn’t the easiest plan of action. When it’s you, you get all of the same mental barriers that your friend has. That’s why in order to get over your brick wall in life, it is useful to get advice from people who aren’t facing it themselves (and ideally, have faced something similar in the past and won).
The wall that you are facing in your life might be extremely specific or very vague. Either way, these principles are designed to be applied to whatever obstacle that you face.