On Obstacles

In September of 1962, JFK committed the United States to take on a major endeavor. He said:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Now, I doubt that this statement is literally true – that the only reason the president wanted to do it because it was hard. It was the middle of the cold war. The Bay of Pigs incident was just a year before, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was knocking on the door. There was no shortage for hard problems for that administration.

But there are many people who do take on endeavors just because they are hard. They scale mountains, jump out of the stratosphere, and hold their breath underwater for 17 minutes, among other incredible feats. They get themselves into theses situations, placing giant obstacles in their paths for the purpose of seeking to overcome them.

A short while ago I participated in an obstacle course race. It was 13 miles of pain. In parts of the course there were mini-obstacles – pits of mud and large puddles of water designed for the participants to run through. In many cases, it was possible for participants to run around them, and I almost did until this thought caught hold in my mind. I didn’t sign up for this event to run around the obstacles. Indeed, the obstacles are why I am here. It’s about having opportunities to overcome great difficulty and come out stronger on the other side. It’s that opportunity for growth, and the satisfaction of overcoming a great challenge that makes these experiences worth having.

We’re often challenged in life by things beyond our control. Health problems, family problems, even natural disasters. While we can choose to curse fate and mourn our condition, we can also choose to view these obstacles as opportunities for personal growth. You may not have intentionally opted in to face the mountains in front of you, but they are there regardless.

Might as well climb them.