Metaphors Gone Wild: Granite and Obstacles

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“Looking back,” talk show host Jack Paar once remarked, “my life so far seems like one long obstacle course, with me as its chief obstacle.” The insight has value for those inclined to blame others or to blame life itself for their failure to achieve goals. If you are willing to acknowledge you might share Paar’s comedic view of success and failure, you have taken the first step toward achieving your goals for your life.

It’s been said that a problem well-defined is a problem half-solved. In the same way, a goal that has been examined from several perspectives is a goal more likely to be made a reality. Be sure your goal is a realistic one. Put time limits on it. And do periodic progress checks, noting what has been done to move you closer to your stated wish for your life.

President Kennedy would often invite people who had nothing to do with politics to sit in on Cabinet meetings. Why? Because they typically viewed the situation in ways that differed from the political view. Before you make a final decision on the goal you are pursuing, subject it to the scrutiny of those you respect. Include people who have some expertise in the area associated with your goal, as well as people who know you well and can help you avoid pitfalls.

Look at your intended goal from a negative perspective. Ask, “If I wanted this goal-journey to fail, what would I do?” In other words, consider all the things that could go wrong. Once you have your list, then determine what you can do to ensure the items on the list do not become your manifest destiny.

Optimism, self-confidence, self-reliance–these and other attitudinal elements will go a long way toward removing the obstacles you may have initially thought were holding you back from your dreams. When your spirits start to sag, when the process proves to be taking longer than you had anticipated, talk to an optimist. Or, read about the many trials a famous person had to undergo before he or she could claim success. See a movie in which hope reigns. Do whatever you can, including making notes on your progress so far, to regard obstacles as only temporary impediments.

Thomas Carlyle wisely observed that “the block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.” Your personal and professional success may indeed depend on which metaphor you are clinging to. If you regard obstacles as surmountable blocks, you are far more likely to realize the hopes you have established. You can use that metaphoric block of granite as an actual stepping-stone. But, if you succumb to negative views and give up, you will fail to do what you are capable of doing.

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