Those Stoics again! Marcus Aurelius this time, who said, “Fire feeds on obstacles”. Ryan Holiday takes this idea and says the Stoics also held that ‘The Obstacle is the Way’. He says “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” Aurelius wrote, “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.”
What does this mean for us? Simple really. Sometimes in life the path looks difficult, things seem insurmountable. But, that direction may be our path. We need to be like fire and consume what is in our path. Consume it to feed us, to nourish us.
Is this hard? Goodness yes it is. But no one said the path was going to be easy. Experiencing difficulties can help us learn and make us grow, coming out of the other end stronger, less fragile.
Once we set our intentions, identify our goal, we set out on the path to achieve our goal. There will be bumps along the way, and maybe even huge obstacles, but if we want to achieve something we should set our approach goal and set about it with intent.
I have a caveat to this. A contradiction in a sense. I like to turn the maxim ‘Failure is not an option’, on its head and offer you that failure is always an option. And failure is not to be feared, as long as we learn and grow from it. Sometimes we have set the wrong goal, sometimes we have overstretched ourselves (for now), and sometimes we simply change our minds. All of these things are fine. But something being hard shouldn’t put us off. Sometimes we need to pause, take stock, and figure out what to do next to get through that obstacle. Sometimes that takes minutes and sometimes it takes years. But it can be done.
Feed on your obstacles but don’t be afraid to say ‘you know what, I’ve changed my mind’. There is power in both. That power comes from control.
Control what you can, accept what you can’t. That way lies some degree of happiness or contentment. That way lies wisdom.(That’s the Stoics as well!)