Each of us face obstacles every single day. These obstacles can stretch from days to weeks to years. Some even last a lifetime, although those obstacles aren’t ones that you can just “overcome”.

Other obstacles though, you can overcome. You can rise up and triumph over them.

And in reality, there are really only two ways.

2 Levers to Overcoming

There I was sitting in Economics 100. It’s 8:37 AM and I am falling asleep. No wait, I’m awake.

And then I’m asleep. Amidst all the back and forth of my wakefulness, I hear the professor begin to explain an aspect of economics.

He explained that he grew up on a farm. On that farm, he learned how to drive a large combine.

He explained that, back then, on the machine, he used there were only two levers with which to drive the machine. Two levers that did two different things.

He explained that in economics, to move the base rate the Fed can do two things, two things that I can’t remember.

And this article isn’t about economics anyway. It’s about overcoming obstacles and change.
To overcome obstacles there are only two things you can do, or two levers you can pull.

You can change the obstacle.

Or you can change yourself.

Change the Obstacle

In some cases, you can make the obstacle less difficult. Imagine a brick wall. That is your obstacle. You need to get to the other side.

You can break the wall down or even shorten it in order to get to the other side.

This is a very limited way of thinking.

At least one example of this is if you are stuck in an abusive relationship. Most instances aren’t as simple as this, but sometimes the answer is as simple as walking away.

In that way, you shorten the wall, or even get rid of it entirely.

As you can see, there is often little you can do to lower the wall. Sometimes it is the hard place that you find yourself up against, being pushed by the unstoppable forces that propel you forward in your life.

In those instances, you instead change yourself.

Change You

Imagine there is a brick wall. This brick wall separates you and a better life, not just for you but for those around you as well.

Now you can change the obstacle, lower the brick wall, or you can change yourself.

By changing yourself you give yourself more capability to get to the other side of the brick wall.

Maybe you learn to climb over it, maybe you learn to dig under it, or maybe you get a better perspective to go around it.

Let’s take some examples.

You want to pay off all of your debt. That is the obstacle…. Or so it seems.

In reality, paying off your debt is the “better life” that you envision for yourself. It’s not really the obstacle.

In truth, the obstacle happens to be your income to expense ratio. You have more expenses than income every month, so naturally your debt begins to grow.

The solution?

Improve your capability to have lower expenses, higher income and keep a correct balance between the two.

When you break it down this way, your focus moves away from your debt, and towards building your skillset to earn more income, changing your mindset to lower your wants and plan for your needs.

You’ve changed yourself, overcome the obstacle, and have achieved the “better life” you were wanting.

Focus on Changing You

As you can tell by this article, there is really little value in changing the obstacle. The instances for the use of that lever are rare. In almost every case, you’ll get more value by adopting the strategy of trying to change yourself.

So focus on changing yourself.


I’m glad you asked.

Action Steps:

In order to start changing yourself, it helps to have a target. So do the following to start changing yourself.

  1. Identify the “better life” you want to have. Focus on only one aspect.
  2. Identify what the true obstacle is that impedes you from achieving it.
  3. Identify what skills or capabilities would allow you to achieve it.
  4. Set aside time periodically (daily, weekly) to build those skills and work on overcoming that obstacle.

These action steps are somewhat general, so make them specific for your situation. Apply them to what you want to do and start taking focused action. If you aren’t seeing a difference, then modify your actions until you do.

Thanks for reading this article.

Make sure to check out the podcast and get subscribed.

Every week I interview people who have done hard things and lived to tell the tale.

We hear their lessons and try to extract exactly how to improve our lives.

Don’t just take this article and forget it. Go take action. Do hard things so you can overcome average.

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