How To Think About Obstacles

We can think of hardship many ways: As failure. As unfairness. As the end of the conversation. Clearly, this was not meant to be, we can say. They don’t want me to succeed, so what’s the point of trying?

Or, we can choose—we can train ourselves—to see it a better way: As grist for the mill. As a chance to learn about endurance, patience, resilience, struggle. As an opportunity to prove our mettle. As a way of learning about people or situations or actions or things.

Marcus Aurelius believed in the latter approach. As he wrote:

“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces—to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it—and makes it burn still higher.”

It’s not about accepting hardship then, or resigning ourselves to it. Rather, it’s a matter of agreeing to work with it. To decide to make the most of it. To see hardship as an opportunity, not an obstacle. In this way, we can turn what happens to us into fuel.

We can be made better and brighter by everything that happens.

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