In his book The Obstacle is the Way, author Ryan Holiday discusses the ways in which we can use stoicism to overcome the challenges and negative situations that we face throughout our lives. When we are challenged we have control over how we react to the situation, partly through the manner in which we decide to interpret our situation. Our perceptions give us the ability to predict the ultimate outcome of events long before they manifest. What we are able to see is not the actual way that things will end up, but rather avenues of possibilities full of choices, decisions, success, and struggle.
Holiday writes about preparing ourselves for the journey ahead by understanding that the challenges we face will not be fair, but that we can always keep our nerve and decide if we will overcome or succumb. Building a calm demeanor that can withstand our challenges requires an acceptance of the situation, the acceptance of our lack of control over situations, and acceptance of the effort required to persevere. Through this process we can begin to look at our reality and find our way by maintaining control over our mindset, and knowing that our conscious and rational thought is the only tool we can possibly have sovereign control over. Holiday writes, “This means preparing for the realities of our situation, steadying our nerves so we can throw our best at it. Steeling ourselves. Shaking off the bad stuff as it happens and soldiering on — staring straight ahead as though nothing has happened.”
In this section Holiday explains that our mind is the determining factor as to whether something good or something bad has happened to us. It is our mind that ultimately decides whether we have been defeated or if we are still campaigning to reach our end goal. If we react to a negative situation in a way that gives up our mental control then we have failed, but if we respond by accepting another challenge and carrying forward, then truly nothing has affected us.
In some ways Holiday’s quote reminds me of Richard Wiseman and the book he wrote, 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot. Wiseman explains a common trait found amongst those who successfully follow a roadmap and work toward their goals. Those who look at the future and write down or think about the challenges they will face along the way seem to perform better than those who only think of the end goal and the rewards they will find. Preparing yourself and expecting obstacles gives one foresight into which way to take around and through the challenges that pop up. Expecting obstacles and imaging ways to overcome them before your start your journey will help you shake off the challenges you actually face and will prepare your mind for those moments when nerves become overwhelming.