By Dr. Steve
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How To Navigate The Universal
Obstacles In Your Path -
Obstacles offer sufficient proof that
everything can be taken from a man
but one thing: The last of his freedoms--to
choose ones attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose ones own way.
A woman I saw years ago
in a hospital emergency room opened my eyes to the connection between the universal
obstacles in our lifes journey and personal empowerment.
When I first laid eyes on her she looked terrible. She was a homeless woman who had been
in an accident with a car. From what I understood, it was a clash of wills. The car was
moving in one direction, she was walking in another--she lost.
started to talk while she sat on a metal table with wheels on it. She wore a hospital
are you, the shrink? she asked.
guess so, but Im really here because Im in school.
let me educate you, she said without pausing. How old do you think I am?
dont know, I said and guessed young. Sixty?
look older than thirty-nine.
I been beat up, I been beat down. And I drank so much, I didnt feel any of it. I
look like this because I took every drug I could take and found ways to make the pain most
people never dreamed of go away. But I dont do that no more. Do you know why?
dress I found.
dress stopped all of that?
I was sick of being torn up on the streets, and I thought it was the answer to all of my
problems when I saw it. Hell from that minute, I walked down the street all summer wearing
that real pretty sun dress with big flowers on it. The flowers on that dress made me feel
pretty. Then one day I found a straw hat with flowers on that too. So I wore that hat.
one day the dress got a bad stain on it. Real bad. People said Change clothes!
Hell, people tried to gimmee clothes.
I remembered how pretty the flowers had looked before, so I kept wearing the dress. I
thought to myself, some people wear stains on the outside, some people wear them on
the inside. I aint gonna give up the only thing to make me feel good about myself in
ten years because of one lousy stain.
it work? I asked.
I didnt take it off for a long time. Then one day I took the dress off for about an
hour. I wont tell you why. But, what do you know? I didnt feel any
different without it. So I stopped wearing that dirty old dress right then and
don't think I understand... I said.
listen carefully Mr. Student. Its because I finally realized that any time you look
for something outside of yourself to make you happy, it lets you down.
got all of that from a sun dress? I asked.
left there that day and never saw her again.
But on that day, I became a wiser student
from that one encounter. You see, she made me understand the folly of my ways.
reflected upon our conversation later in the day, I decided I needed to learn for myself
what my new friend had learned from her experience with her sun dress.
went home that night and pulled out a notebook. I wrote down twelve questions in the
notebook. I spent the next two days searching myself for the answer to those questions.
this day, whenever I feel as if I am wrestling with something in my life, I pull out a
notebook, write down those very same questions and start
writing--just the way I did for
the first time on that memorable day.
What is the sun dress at this point in my life?
What is the power I am giving to the sun dress
in my life?
What am I hoping the sun dress will fix in my
Why am I turning to the sun dress to fix
whatever is challenging me, rather than turning to myself?
What resources do I have inside me that are more effective and more permanent solutions
than a sun dress?
Why am I afraid to use my resources rather than cling to a dirty sun dress?
Why am I choosing to stay stuck with this sun dress
rather than get on with my journey?
What lesson is the conflict between holding on and letting go trying to teach me?
What does it mean to me to let go of the sun dress?
What am I afraid of losing if I let go of the sun dress?
What do I stand to gain by letting go of the sun
What is my discomfort with feeling sad about losing my sun dress?
cannot begin to tell you what a difference that exercise has made in my life! And I
cant tell you how many notebooks I have filled up over the years trying to answer
those same twelve questions anytime I have had to get unstuck in my life.
PATHFINDERS TOOLBOX -
going to spend some time reviewing with you the universal obstacles and some possible ways
to better understand how those obstacles appear in your life. There is no right or wrong
way to review this section. But take your time as you do go through this section because
there are many buried treasures in here for you to discover about yourself. I highly
recommend you take a minimum of eight weeks to work through this part of the chapter.
only valuable learning that can come from this chapter is through experimenting with these
tips in your life. Knowing the information in this chapter is helpful, even
necessary, but it is not sufficient to just know
the material in this chapter. Tackle these tips one at a time. You can continue reading
the book without completing this chapter. In fact, continuing to read the book will
enhance the experiments you do in this chapter.
We all become paralyzed with fear as we embark
on our journey. What we fear the most is loss--loss of love, loss of security, and loss of
refer to this as the Law of Impermanence. We all would like to believe life is
about collecting things we can hold onto and possess. Jobs. Marriages. Freedom. Identity.
Prestige. Popularity. Friendships. Houses. Youth. Wisdom. Good Health. Cars. Careers. You
name it. We believe that if we have it in our lives, we must be able to own it, possess
it, and control it.
And the simple explanation is, we are frightened to death of
experiencing the pain of losing it.
the reality is that we all really are only renting our way through life. What we have
today we must necessarily learn to let go of at some point in our life. Learning to enjoy
what we have while we have it, and letting it go when its time is up, is the most
incredible way to live your life. It also is the most painful way to live your life.
kid ourselves into believing we dont have to go through the pain of loss. But loss
goes on with or without our permission. We can freeze our lives to minimize how much we
stand to lose, but that requires us to live a life of deprivation.
many of us are afraid to love, are afraid to go after our dreams, are afraid to invest in
ourselves for the fear of one day having to say good-bye to it.
is this fear that lives at the core of who we are that creates the underlying tension in
all of our quests. The fear of loss is the yin to the yang of what you want. This fear is
the quicksand we all get stuck in on our lifes journey.
These fears are the internal
earthquakes we all experience as we navigate our lives around the universal obstacles.
UNIVERSAL OBSTACLE #1
Our fear of dreaming and hoping clouds our
vision of what our life can be. Without a vision our journey is as directionless as a ship
without a rudder.
you may be thinking at this moment, Steve, you are a master of the obvious! I
understand that sentiment, but lets look a little closer at the subtlety of this
is obvious you cant get anywhere unless you know where you are going. But think
about this for a moment. Are you headed toward something or away from something? Is the
path you are on at this point in your life taking you to where you want to be, or taking
you away from where you dont want to be?
is a huge difference. The better part of my day is spent helping people master the
difference. So many of the people I meet know the direction they want their life to
take--and thats away. Away from the fear, away from the pain, away from the shame
and disappointments in their life.
they seldom have a vision of where they would like to be in their life. They only know
where they dont want to be. And the paradox is the more they run from their pain and
fears, the further they get from the answers they are seeking.
The empowered person gives birth to their journey by
creating a vision for what their life can be.
what is it for you? Are you running from where you are in your life or are you running to
what you want your life to be?
time and figure that out. Sit down and create a vision for yourself. Think for a moment
about your life right now. Imagine the things you would be most happy reaching. Your goal
may be finding a man or woman to be your life partner. It may be doing something that
makes you happy. Maybe its becoming someone you really want to be. Imagine now that
you have three magic wishes to use to reach those goals. What would you wish for?
try something. I want you to stop reading for a just a minute and think about your own
personal goals. Think seriously about your personal goals. Whats your first goal?
Write it down in the space below and refer to it when you need focus or strength.
UNIVERSAL OBSTACLE #2
Our fear leads us to look outside of ourselves for
solutions that only live within ourselves.
lack of confidence, fear of failure, confusion, shame. Pick one or pick em all. This
is the source of the emotional tornado that rocks us when we attempt to bring all we have
longed for into our lives.
confronted with the choice of standing on your own two feet or handing responsibility for
your emotional well-being to somebody or something else, what do you choose?
you look to yourself or to others for the solutions to your life challenges?
you look to yourself or to others for strength, courage, and soothing?
you look to yourself for the creativity to formulate your life, or do you give that power
the answers to your questions come from you or from others?
obstacle is fear. The obstacle is self-doubt. The obstacle is believing you can
effectively live your life grounded in the solutions of others. The obstacle is believing
you can turn to drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, and/or relationships to distract you
effectively enough from the fear that is within.
solution is discovering how to tap the enormous amount of dormant potential that lies
The empowered person looks within themself to
discover the path that leads to their own personal journey.
how about it? Do you believe something lives inside you that can propel you beyond your
own self-imposed limits?
you believe you can reclaim the parts of your life you have given away to others, those
parts you have given away to your fears, those parts you have given away to frustration
back for a moment at one of your original goals you identified above. Take the goal or
goals in which you identified the fears you have in pursuing those goals.
the ways you have given your power away rather than looking to yourself to accomplish what
you set out to do.
take your time with this one. This is important and I suspect you have been hiding from
the answer for a long time. In fact, dont be surprised if you have to come back to
this more than once. But believe me, the discovery will be worth the effort.
the unused resources you possess, that live within you. All you need to do is awaken them
and implement them in your plan of action.
Fear of change inhibits our ability to start our
once youve chosen a direction for your life, you Just Do It. Right? Well, not by my way of thinking.
If you could easily Just Do It, no one would
have to be encouraged. They would Just Be Doing It.
answers and sound-bite slogans sometimes have a strange effect in undermining
peoples efforts. Making change sound simple can bring on paralysis in someone who is
not accustomed to changing. Change is never as simple as Just Doing It, it is a conscious decision to take
once we are at the starting blocks, what keeps us from jumping out to a quick start? Again,
it may seem obvious, but I cannot tell you how many people look at me and say, I am
not the least bit afraid.
its quite simple. Fear freezes us in our place. And until you acknowledge your
fears, you will continually trip over them. You can act as if youre not afraid. But
I have never seen anyone successfully ignore their fears and just throw blind caution to
my question to you is, what frightens you whenever you try to do something with your life?
More importantly, how do those fears keep your feet nailed to the ground whenever you try
to get out of the starting blocks?
of the ways we get out of the starting blocks is by learning to risk as we reach for what
we want and let go of the comfort of things we no longer need. One of my friends had been
on the verge of divorce. And then one night he called me in tears from a pay phone in
downtown Chicago. Whats wrong? I said.
marriage has been over for a long time but tonight I decided to leave the house forever. I
know I dont want to be married, but leaving my house and leaving the idea of having
a wife is so hard, he said.
always slows us down, but it doesnt have to keep you down.
PATHFINDERS REMEDY #3
The empowered person embarks on their journey in
spite of their fears, instead of waiting for their fears to go away.
do today what you can put off until tomorrow? How many of you live by that credo. Are you
just a procrastinator or does your fear create obstacles in the guise of procrastination?
have just written down things you believe are important for you to have in your life. Pick
one of those for this next exercise. It doesnt matter which one -- whatever you feel
most comfortable with. Once youve picked it, write it down on the first line below.
you have written down one thing, pause for a moment, close your eyes, and think about what
I am about to ask you. What are your fears about creating these things in your life?
close your eyes and just pay attention to what images and thoughts float to the surface.
After a few moments open your eyes and write down your fears.
that wasnt so bad. So lets go to the second part. Take what you just wrote
down and think about the following question. How do those fears appear in your life?
Forgetfulness? Procrastination? Excessive eating or drinking? Serial short-term
relationships? Take some time and see if you can make a connection between the fear and
the man-made obstacle.
last part of this exercise may be the hardest part, but it is also the most productive
part. Who can support you as you try to bring the things that you listed above into your
life? Support is the most important part of empowerment.
dont run off and tell your dreams to just anybody. Make sure it is someone you
trust. Make sure it is somebody who believes in you. Make sure it is somebody who is
invested in your growth -- not threatened by your growth.
dreams are your own personal jewels. Share them with somebody who has the capacity to
appreciate them and respect them the way you do.
you have finished with one of your dreams, be sure you go through these steps again with
the other goals you have created for yourself as you feel comfortable doing them.
The fear of the unknown chains us to the prison
of what is familiar.
familiar is the most tempting seductress of all time. We seek out its comfort whenever we
are hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. We are attracted to the simplicity of simply doing
what we have done repeatedly before. We are romanced by the idea that relief lies in
routine and habit.
I ask someone how they understand how their relapse occurred, how they have strayed from
whatever path they have chosen for themselves, they respond the same every time: I
dont know, it just seemed the easiest thing to do at the time.
I say the same thing everytime, I believe you believe it was easier, but what I
believe is it was what was most familiar for you. As much as you are hurting right now, it
doesnt appear to have been any easier for you this way.
The empowered person chooses to let go of the
familiar for the promise of the unknown.
beginning of a habit is like spinning a small thread. Everytime we repeat the habit, we
strengthen the strand, until it becomes a great cable that supports our burdens. But we
cant create new habits until we start to let go of old familiar habits.
are the familiar things in your life you choose to keep turning to when you are trying to
bring growth into your life?
does the familiar soothe you in the short term but hold you back in the long-term?
is part of your support system? Who can you turn to when you become overwhelmed by the
process of growth? Who can you lean on when you choose not to turn to the familiar
ways of coping with feeling overwhelmed?
Our fear of experiencing the losses of what we want to
leave behind blocks us from becoming what we want to become.
talked earlier in the chapter about the grip our fear of loss holds on our lives. It
creates caution where spontaneity is necessary. It creates jealousy where fellowship is
necessary. It creates pettiness where cooperation is necessary.
is the one obstacle I see so many people trip over time and time again. Although every
aspect of empowering your life is fraught with pain and self-doubt, there is no area of
personal growth so charged with pain as this obstacle right here. It is so paradoxical
because logically we believe we are headed for a more rewarding way of life. And you are.
But in order for you to get there, you must shed some old familiar parts of your life.
any of us to grow, we will have to leave parts of who we are behind. That may include
friends, family members, careers, relationships -- even the very way we think about
ourselves. We will have to leave behind ways we have defined ourselves, as well as the
ways we wanted others to think of ourselves.
is all very threatening for us to go through by ourselves. As we leave behind the
familiar, we are confronted with the darkness of the unknown. We are confronted with the
terror of being disconnected from our past.
is why support is an important ingredient for any plan of action geared toward
growth. The losses you will experience are necessary teachers for your future journey, but
they is not things you have to endure all alone.
most of all, loss just causes grief, pain, and suffering. And those experiences are as
every bit a part of the human experience as love, joy, and happiness are.
may not like it. However, it is difficult to move on unless you move through the grief you
have pushed away your whole life. And you need to accept the grief that goes with the
growth you are trying to bring into your life today, as well.
yourself to experience your losses as they happen allows you to feel like a whole human
being. And thats the most wonderful feeling in the world.
The empowered person moves his journey forward by
greiving what he has lost in order to keep what he stands to gain.
most effective way to work through the feelings of loss is to find someone who you can
safely talk to about your experiences. As well, keep a record of your thoughts and
feelings either with a tape recorder and/or a written journal.
the feelings you are experiencing about the losses in your life. Explore how you can
obtain comfort and support from your support system. Examine how your life has changed for
the better by the passing of the events in your life.
mentioned a friend of mine who went through a divorce. Weeks after those calls of crisis
when he left the house and took those big first steps, my friend and I sat down to talk
are you doing? I asked.
he said. I started going out and playing ball with the guys on the weekends. And I
think I am going to see a clinical psychologist for a while. Also, I can see the day
coming when I will meet new people.
looked up at me and smiled as he said, Steve, I need to move on and build a life for
friend did not arrive at the place he was at by wishing it so, or by asking others to make
his life better for him. He endured many hardships along the way. He has many more he will
encounter as he pushes forward.
I know with the basic plan I have just laid out for you, you can confront the challenges
in your life well-equipped. I hope you find this plan as useful for you as it has been for
me and thousands of other people just like you and me.
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