The Obstacle Is The Way

book: The Obstacle Is The Way
author: Ryan Holiday

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180. known for his stoicism.


our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. because we can accommodate and adapt. the mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.

the impediment to action advances action. what stands in the way becomes the way.

we don’t control what happens to us. we do control how we respond to what happens to us. there is no setback, problem or obstacle — there is an opportunity.

  • perception
    • perception is the angle from which you see a situation and can determine how you react to it. if you’re stressed from a something, then consider how you got to be in such a stressed position. did you procrastinate working on a project at your job and that led to these feelings? was there a task that took too long to complete? seeing challenges and hurdles like these as an opportunity to grow is a key tool within stoicism for finding value in opportunities other people tend to ignore.
  • action
    • even if we adjust our perception to viewing all things with positive light, as if they have value, there will still be obstacles that we’ve got to overcome. Holiday suggests that we look at the very obstacle that is blocking us and take actions to try and overcome it. taking action is not supposed to be easy and it will certainly be difficult, but it’s the only way to move forward. things will never move forward at a constant pace, but it’s imperative that we put in the energy to keep things moving.
  • will
    • how do we choose to reshuffle our thoughts if we don’t like the current situation? how will you choose to act if a boss singles you out in a meeting? if your coworker makes a mistake on their portion of the project that you two have been working on for months; how will you choose to act? remember that what you plan for and what will happen are never identical twins and that things can and will go wrong along the way.


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