Obstacles are NOT Stop Signs

“Obstacles are not stop signs.” A friend of mine who has had decades of medical problems wrote this short sentence to me last year, and it took my breath away. He has never given up, never been less than optimistic, never considered himself a victim.

What is it that allows some people to survive and thrive despite seemingly unbearable circumstances while others seem to struggle even with generous amounts of support and encouragement? I would say that it is setting a GOAL, having unwavering BELIEF that you will achieve it + taking daily ACTION toward achieving it.


One of my favorite go-to mental reset talks is a 1957 spoken word recording by Earl Nightingale called, “The Strangest Secret”. If you’ve never heard it, here is a link (it runs a little more than half an hour): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFhkdzj-x80

Nightingale’s basic premise is that the reason only about 5% of people are ever truly successful – by their own definition of success – is that they never set goals, they never take consistent steps toward goals, and/or that the goals they have are not significant enough to propel them to make necessary changes. He says that the definition of success is “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” or “doing deliberately predetermined work because that is what [the person] decided to do.”

Most people don’t think about what it will take to be successful or even about why they are doing what they are doing on a daily basis. Since humans are naturally wired to conform to the status quo, change requires significant, focused, persistent effort toward a singular goal. We become what we think about. So, we can only be successful at accomplishing a goal if we think about all the time as if it has already been accomplished, never wavering or doubting.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
– George Bernard Shaw

The human mind is like soil. It will return to you what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant. The harvest must be of like kind to the seeds. A person who wants to grow a harvest of success must plant thoughts with that goal in mind and weed out all contradictory or disbelieving thoughts. Nightingale warns that worry will cripple success. Rather, it’s important to refuse to believe that there are any circumstances sufficiently strong to defeat you in the accomplishment of your purposes!

I challenge you to listen to “The Strangest Secret” daily for 30 days and follow Nightingale’s instructions. You will be amazed at how your outlook will improve and at the increased ease with which you face and handle challenges to your progress. For even more powerful results, I recommend that you keep a journal of your thoughts every day as you listen, and find someone to be an accountability partner for the 30 days and share your discoveries.


You may have read this far and be saying to yourself, “What if I don’t believe that I can succeed?” or “ What if I don’t have enough time, education, resources,…?” or even “What if I have a great idea and I believe I can achieve it, but I don’t understand how it will come together?” These questions all indicate that your goal – or WHY – is not yet compelling enough to cause you to shake loose from the status quo.

If you think that you can’t succeed, then you won’t. Period. Wouldn’t it be amazing in terms of the rest of your life, though, if you spent some time figuring out why you think that? Who told you that? Are you afraid of failing? Afraid of succeeding? Are you willing to try to succeed anyway? I’ll tell you a secret. If you simply ACT, you can change your belief level. Your mind will observe that you are acting even though you are uncertain of success, and the little voice inside your head will be less and less likely to shower you with doubt with each succeeding ACTION step that you take. Yes, action can actually build belief! And belief will result in more action, which will strengthen your belief and increase the probability of success.

If you think you are lacking something, you are making an obstacle a stop sign when it doesn’t have to be. You have two choices to avoid being stuck at the stop sign: figure out an alternative way to get what you think you need (open your mind to ALL the possibilities rather than staying stuck in have/have not mode), or figure out how to continue your progress without that resource or by substituting a different resource (open your mind to all the possibilities rather than staying stuck with only the options you have always considered). For example, if you think you don’t have enough money, figure out a new way to get money (different job, selling things you don’t use) or figure out a new way to get what you would have bought with the money (barter, recycle, substitute with something different that you do have or can obtain). I once sold enough used books on Amazon to buy a round trip ticket to Europe – it was the only way I could see my mother and brother at the time. I did all the research on pricing, bought the mailing supplies, posted all the listings, and just kept adjusting the prices until I sold enough to buy the ticket. I had never even bought anything on Amazon before (this was awhile ago), but I knew it was my best chance to raise the money within my timeframe.

If you think you need have a finished plan before you begin, let me just say that life is NEVER like that. All you really need is your GOAL, your belief, and your willingness to take daily actions toward reaching that goal. It is important to have a plan, but I invite you to KNOW that it will work out if you continue to make the best decisions you can at each step and if you are always willing to remain open to all the possibilities to get you past the obstacles.


“It’s not how you feel. It’s what you want.”

That’s a quote from Mel Robbins, one of the wisest women I know when it comes to how to get things done. My favorite strategy of hers is the 5 Second Rule:

The rule states that you have 5 seconds from the time you have the urge to do something until the time you take action. If you don’t take some action to follow up on the urge within 5 seconds, your brain will take over and put the brakes on, telling you all kinds of reasons why you should not do the thing that you were prompted to do. If it’s time to get up, throw the covers back and get up. If you know you need to call someone, call the person or at least calendar a specific time and include the number and then make the call as scheduled.

Bottom line:  If the obstacle is your own emotions, take action immediately!

Are you stuck at a stop sign? Wellness Made Simple offers coaching opportunities to improve your possibility thinking and success mindset and to allow you to remain  in charge of your emotions. Ask about our group course (“Peace of Mind: Control Your Emotions”, a 6-week intensive) or individual coaching. Let’s schedule a call to talk about the possibilities!

 Wellness Made Simple helps you to simplify the way YOU do well…for life!

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