Can You Change Obstacles into Opportunities?
One thing you can be sure of in this life is that your plans will often go awry. No matter how carefully you designed the course of action, unforeseen obstacles will crop up in places that might totally surprise you.
What’s not so clear to many people is that when plans don’t work out as expected, finding a new way can reap surprising rewards. The new path may actually be the beginning of an improved and interesting path.
Let me give you some examples from my own life.
Many years ago, my then boyfriend Ron and I decided to go camping over a week end with his brother Brad and sister-in-law Ramona. I looked forward to getting to know them better and just having a great time in general.
The three of them had been inspired to spend the week end camping after I had told them about my favorite campgrounds in the Cuyamaca Mountains in Southern California. This was many years ago when this area wasn’t particularly popular. I was usually the only one on the hiking trails, and I loved letting my whippets run freely as I trudged along behind.
What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that my three favorite campgrounds might be full because we had chosen a holiday week end for our adventure. We stopped at the first place – full. No problem. On to the second place. Oh, no! It was full as well. Surely the third (and last) campground would have some space. But no, not a spot for us at this one as well.
We continued heading south to look for more campgrounds. We were only a couple hours from home and could afford to drive further in our quest.
We arrived at a t-junction. Oh, oh. We needed to make a decision. To the right was San Diego. I’d been on that road many times and knew that we wouldn’t find a place to camp in that direction.
I didn’t know what was to the left, but left was our only option. If we struck out, we could always turn around and head back home.
But I could see the smoke coming out of Ron’s ears. In fact, he could barely talk. Both Brad and Ramona, on the other hand, seemed calm enough. So I suggested that we turn left and keep looking. Brad and Ramona were both eager to continue. Ron just shrugged his shoulders. At least, he didn’t disagree. And I was driving. So I turned the car left, and we headed east.
We hadn’t gone very far before a sign for a campground appeared. Would there be a place for us? We could only hope for the best.
We pulled in and asked. Yes, we were in luck. And soon we would find out just how lucky we were. We were the only campers there. I guess everyone else had given up when the previous three campgrounds were full.
Brad, Ramona, and I made a fire and began cooking.
Since we were the only ones at the campground, I let my two whippets run free. They were used to being off leash and always stayed within sight. They played and played until they were exhausted and collapsed near the three of us.
But you’re probably wondering what happened to the fourth person. What happened to Ron with the smoke coming out of his ears? I tried to bring him into the festivities, but he spent the whole time sitting in the car sulking while the rest of us had a great time.
You may have already guessed what happened the next day. Yes, Ron and I broke up. It was clear that we weren’t a good match. He was someone who couldn’t veer from a plan, no matter what.
This obstacle of the full campgrounds was the proverbial straw. There had been other signs that we had both chosen to ignore. But this situation brought us both to our senses about what we each needed in another person – and it definitely wasn’t each other.
I consider that to be a good outcome. We could have gone along and dragged out the ending bit by bit until we ended up hating each other.
So, you’re probably thinking that wasn’t really an opportunity. True, but a fantastic opportunity appeared a few weeks later when I got a call from Brad. He and Ramona had been so impressed by my dogs that they decided they’d like to get a whippet and wanted my help.
Within a short time, I’d found a whippet puppy for them. They named him Smokey and made him a treasured member of their family for the next 15 years.
Obstacles present opportunities that we can use to improve our day-to-day living – if we are willing to do just that.
Are we going to be happy every time we see an obstacle blocking the way? Obviously, no. But hopefully we can develop a mindset that helps us to see around the obstacle to something on the other side that might be better. One thing you can be sure of in this life is that your plans will often go awry. No matter how carefully you designed the course of action, unforeseen obstacles will crop up in places that might totally surprise you.
Previously published on Medium.