When Life Gets in the Way, What do You Do?

determination obstacles

At the "emergency meeting" (which turns out to be anything but), you do your best to keep your cool, but Mr. Garfield is being particularly obtuse, everyone seems to be repeating themselves, and human stupidity seems to be at an all time high this afternoon. Add to that the fact that the meeting runs over by 45 minutes, and you find yourself thinking less-than-compassionate thoughts at your fellow execs. You struggle mightily to find the perspective that would allow you to be compassionate, but despite your efforts, you can't help but see these people as total idiots.

Life gets in the way.

Nevertheless, you go up to Rob and Diane after the meeting to thank them for their insightful comments. They respond with a laugh and whisper conspiratorially that they were just having some fun at the expense of the VPs by making up all sorts of ridiculous ideas. Their comment leave you at a loss. So much for compassion.

Afterwards, you buckle down to finish your work. You manage to make some progress on your to-do's, leaving you with only forty minutes to work on your project. Already burnt out, you soldier on.

Despite your exhaustion, you're really looking forward to dinner. You've planned a healthy, delicious meal, and all the ingredients are waiting for you already. All you need to do is get home in time to cook.

An accident on the freeway means you don't get home until 8:30. Peering into your fridge, you see the perfectly seasoned grassfed steak, the luscious mixed greens, the plump yellow squash, and you sigh. If you cook it all now, you won't get to bed before 10:30, which will only make things even more difficult tomorrow when you have to do it all over again.

Life gets in the way.

You crack open a can of sardines, throw them on top of the mixed greens, hurriedly dice some veggies, and douse it all in olive oil and vinegar. You're in bed by 9:30.

As you drift off to sleep, you contemplate the prospect of doing all that again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and you start to wonder what you've gotten yourself into with all these commitments.

Do you resolve to stay strong and do your best, not matter what life throws at you, or do you resolve to be realistic and accept that it's just too much for one person to handle?

 You Choose What is Too Much

Everyone has a different threshold for what they consider possible. For many, "life gets in the way" when a good TV show comes on. For others, their house would have to burn down before they considered veering from their goals (and even then, they can work just as well from a hotel room).

In the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith portrays Chris Gardner, a single father who had pretty much everything stacked against him. It's not just his day-to-day that gets in the way: his life circumstances are set up to make success a near-impossibility. And yet, he doesn't let that stop him. If anything, he lets it motivate him. The thought of having his son grow up in such a life drives him to ignore fatigue, hunger, thirst, fear, his apparent lack of credentials, his station in life, and instead do whatever he can to create success. At one point, he works out of a homeless shelter.

Not every day will be as bad as your worst, though some will. But as you build momentum and create that habit, it becomes harder to slow you down. You get more adept at navigating the inevitable hiccups and setbacks. Eventually, you realize that there aren't as many obstacles to your success anymore. The reality is, you've either eliminated them by rearranging your life, or you've gotten so good at anticipating them that you don't even notice them anymore. But you have to make the effort to grow, instead of just leaning on pure determination.

When life gets in the way, it is pretty big, so simply ramming headfirst into it, day after day, is useless. Instead, approach it with the same degree of stubborn determination, all the speed that you'd use to ram headfirst into it, but throw some fancy tricks: dive over it, fake it out, vault over the top, crawl underneath when it's not looking. And yeah, sometimes a head on assault will catch it off guard, but don't make that you're only strategy.

This is a great example of where passion, while essential, isn't enough. Passion got your through that first day, and it might even get you through a week, but eventually, you're going to have to learn new skills, new strategies, tactics, habits, and shortcuts to make your imagined life a reality.


So, maintain the resolve. Life will wear out before you do, if you're smart, if you're efficient, and if you're determined.

What do you think? Have you ever started a new habit, only to be waylaid, not by lack of motivation, but by what seem like constant distractions?

Photo credit: colin.brown on Flickr