Friday, October 23, 2015

Know Your Obstacle

And when to find another path


I guess I’m waxing a little philosophical today about the obstacles we all face at one time or another. Either that or I’m just too lazy to write about yet another NLRB ruling, or potential new employment law. (Those are getting a bit repetitive, aren’t they?)

We all run into them, whether in our personal or professional lives. Something is standing in the way of a goal, and we need to get to the other side in order to succeed.

Let’s say that obstacle is the proverbial brick wall. When faced with this wall, most of us will take some time to assess how we can breach it and reach our desired goal. There are those that will simply blast through without another thought about whether that’s the best way. Most of us, I think, will take a bit more thoughtful approach and consider other options.

Can we get over the wall? Do we have the resources (a ladder tall enough, material to build steps, the willpower or strength), either metaphorically or actually? Is it possible to go around it, or does the wall encircle our goal? Can we tunnel our way under the wall? Do we have the material or resources to do that?

Eventually, in many cases we decide that the best way is to work to create an opening in that wall. Maybe a door, a window, or just enough of an opening to see through and maybe enlist the help of someone on the other side. If we can just make our case convincing enough, maybe that person will open the wall for us, advocate for us. So, we start chipping away hoping to make some progress.

Part of thinking about the how, is considering the why of our need to conquer this obstacle. 

Is the process worth the goal? Will the effort be equal to the value of the goal? Sometimes the hard work, challenges and potential hardships necessary to get to the goal will not be in line with your overall values. You need to decide if the goal is worth whatever sacrifices you may have to make.

How immediate is the need at this time? Does reaching the goal right at this time affect the value of the goal? How much of a priority in your life is the goal? There are times when choosing to wait a while (and maybe time will make the wall less impenetrable) is the smarter approach. Or, the immediacy is paramount to your survival (either personally or professionally) and blasting through, or at least going full speed ahead, is advisable.

Is it really your goal? Is reaching it really valuable to you, or are you concerned about what others will think if you *gasp* fail? Choosing to walk away doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Did you choose the goal, or was it chosen for you? What does it really mean to you and your life?

So, here we are, chipping away at that brick wall. Time goes on. Maybe we succeed in breaking through, or at least break through enough that we can see our goal is within reach and it seems likely we’ll get there in a reasonable length of time. Wonderful!

It’s those other times when we need to make a decision. When chipping away isn’t really resulting in enough progress. Or the process makes us realize that the goal may not really be attainable. Have we moved from chipping away to beating our head against the wall in frustration or desperation? Not good.

So, when the environment is your professional work life and there are people who are impeding your progress, or the culture of your organization is such that there are people who are less interested in what your goal would mean to them than other goals, you have a decision to make. Are you bruised and battered from beating against that wall? Or are you just tired of the effort with little progress?

It may be time to choose another path to your goal. There most likely is another path where that brick wall doesn’t exist and you can be more successful. That may be at another organization. The trick is knowing your obstacle, knowing what it will take to surmount it, and knowing when to follow another path.

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