Creating order out of obstacles

Susan Brennan — №16 with Les McKeown

Observing obstacles

Whether you like to go over, under, or through your obstacles, the one thing that remains constant is that you must overcome them one step at a time. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with all of life’s “to do’s”, and sometimes our default response is to simply sit down and wait for things to happen to us. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that, but in my experience, that isn’t fruitful. In my experience, taking baby steps is the surest way to get things done, and it always makes me feel more accomplished than if I just sat back and waited.

Overcoming obstacles

In the words of Will Smith, “You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, ‘I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built!’ You don’t start there. You say, 'I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ And you do that every single day and soon you have a wall.” When Will Smith was younger, his dad owned a small shop and tore down the entire front wall of it. His dad told Will and his brother to rebuild it. They said they couldn’t. He simply told them to get it done and walked inside. With that, Will and his brother started building that wall back up, brick by brick. Just over a year later, the wall was complete, and it still stands to this day. His dad’s response to them once they’d finished? “Don’t you ever tell me you can’t do something.” Whoa! Powerful! What if we all adopted that attitude? Imagine everything that we could accomplish!

Identify your obstacles

In my opinion, one of the most important things you can accomplish, to help keep everything else in line, is order. Order in your mind, order in your home, order in your office, and order in all areas of life. Granted, we may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we can certainly control how we react to life’s circumstances. The first step is to identify your obstacles. Write them down, get them out of your head, and start recognizing them.

Hint: if it’s not propelling you forward, then it’s an obstacle that you need to overcome. Think about that for a second. My business coach always says, “Is it an opportunity or a distraction?” Distraction is another form of an obstacle. A roadblock. A hindrance. Once you begin to recognize obstacles, they become much easier to overcome!

Bring order to your space — one step at a time

One of my favorite things to do is organize spaces, though I know that’s not the case with everyone! That being said, one of the reasons I love it so much is because I’ve figured out how to turn each obstacle into a success. My secret? Baby steps! Don’t get caught up in trying to get your entire home organized in one day. Chances are that won’t happen. You likely won’t be looking forward to it, which will cause you to put it off or “save it for another time.” Instead, try breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Organize that one cupboard or that one drawer. Start by going through your scarves or old nail polish. Each baby step is a huge victory; it gets you one step closer to order, instead of an overwhelming amount of obstacles.

From obstacles to order

Create order from obstacles, one step at a time:

  1. Recognize your obstacles.
  2. Identify exactly what would need to happen for you to overcome that obstacle.
  3. Break each of those steps into sub-steps, or baby steps, if you will.
  4. Create a list of which steps need to be taken first, then write the following steps down in order.
  5. Commit to completing at least one step per day.
  6. Start today. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  7. Each week, check back over your list and see if it’s still in line with your end goal.
    • If it is, great! Keep trucking away!
    • If it’s not, that’s ok. Adjust and move forward.

Now go create some order in your world, and enjoy the freedom and clarity that comes with this new attitude!

Photo: Flickr / B Tal CC BY-NC 2.0

Susan brennan

Susan Brennan

Susan Brennan is a speaker, personal assistant specialist, and productivity enthusiast! You can learn more about her and how she helps people “Be Productive … Vicariously” by visiting her website,

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