The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. -Molière
In achieving personal growth and success – there are many obstacles. Life is a series of valleys (obstacles) and mountaintops (successes). It is the response to these obstacles that separates those who succeed from those who do not. It seems many of us get stuck in our valleys while some of us can make it back to the mountaintop — more agile, better than before and ready to take on the next challenge. This is called “post-traumatic growth”, and in order to experience it, we must shed several pre-conceived notions and “thinking traps” that keep us stuck in a cycle of merely existing rather than flourishing.
The path to success is often not a linear path – but one that is marked by many obstacles, valleys and detours. It is our response to these obstacles that truly determine the trajectory of our lives.
Obstacles come in many forms – there’s loss of careers or the business that doesn’t work out, the illness or accident that changes everything. There’s loss of love: the broken relationships or marriages that can’t be fixed. And sometimes there’s loss of life itself.
There are two key things to remember in achieving personal growth and success:
- You are 100% responsible for your life.
- You can achieve immense joy and abundance.
Psychologist Martin Seligman, otherwise known as the Founder of Positive Psychology, found that there are three P’s – Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence – that are critical to how we overcome adversity. Building our resilience muscles starts with the way we process the negative events in our lives. Mental toughness is a pre-requisite for personal growth and success.
The First P is Permanence
This refers to the belief that negative events and/or their causes are permanent, even when evidence, logic, and past experience indicate that they are probably temporary.
After my husband died, it seemed like the pain would never end. One friend tried to illustrate the transition from full blown grief to full recovery to me by using the bus illustration.
The Bus of Life
She said, “Right now you’re not ready to get back on the bus with us yet. You will just wave to us as the bus passes by”. The bus was a symbol for work, careers, the rat race and all the worldly pursuits we engage in to push our lives ahead.
She then said, “One day you will be able smile at us on the bus as it passes by”, illustrating that I was slowly transitioning to be able to smile and understand their pursuits on the bus of life again. “When you’re ready – you will be able to get back on the bus with us again”.
At that point, I couldn’t see myself getting back on that bus – not even smiling at it. But I can tell you today that I’m back on that bus – and I’m in the driver’s seat. Everything in life is temporary… nothing lasts forever.
The Second P is Pervasiveness
This refers to the tendency to generalize so that negative features of one situation are thought to extend to others as well. It is really a signal of systemic negativity through “learned helplessness”. We harbour the negative feelings associated with the obstacle instead of advancing solutions to over come it. A simple personal inventory can reveal how pervasive these negative feelings are – so you can reprogram your brain to do the opposite:
1. Negative Thoughts
How much of your days are spent harbouring negative thoughts that block opportunities and blessings?
2. Lack of Gratitude
How much of your day is spent pitying our personal situation with little thought or recognition of the small blessings on a daily basis?
3. Lack of Forgiveness
How much have you really forgiven ourselves and others for past hurts and missed opportunities?
4. Misplaced Priorities
How much of your attention and effort is placed on actually achieving your goals?
Goal-setting and engaging in rewarding pursuits that you love (through going back to work or school, starting a business, or pursuing a hobby) will help to limit the pervasive nature of adversity to have negative consequences in your life.
The Third P is Personalization
This is where one tends to attribute negative events to one’s own flaws or to outside circumstances or other people. While it is important to take responsibility for one’s mistakes, persons suffering from learned helplessness tend to blame themselves or others for everything. Examples of personalization are reacting to negative events by saying “I was never good enough”, “I will never make it”, “they will never like me”, “I am cursed”.
Personalization entails applying an intensely personal lens to every rejection in life. The problem with this approach is that we are often the single common denominator in all the obstacles – and hence it seems like there can never be a different outcome.
The Way Forward…
The key to achieving personal growth and success is having a fierce optimism.
The kind of optimism that can withstand all shocks and overcome all barriers. Studies also found that optimistic people do better in relationships and problem-solving. Moreover, being optimistic could increase the rate of success in your life because that confidence about life success will motivate you to continue putting the effort in work (Carver & Scheier, 2014). Thus, the harder you try the more successful you become.
Channel your Intuition
Your intuition is like your personal GPS system. It is defined as the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Learning to listen to it and channel it – is one of the best ways of making sure you are on track.
Some of the greatest leaders have relied on their intuition to achieve success, and the most successful figures in history have used obstacles to propel them to greatness. Abraham Lincoln was known for “the swiftness and the correctness of his intuitions”, and had to overcome immense adversity.
Be Abundantly Grateful
Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng, authors of Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality argue that the more you appreciate what you currently have, the more likely it is that you’ll be better off — financially — in the future.
Gratitude is referred to as “the Mother of All Virtues” – it is the virtue from which, all others are birthed – and it is absolutely essential for personal growth and success.