The Value of Obstacles

For most of my life, I had goals and would get irritated by obstacles that got in my way. I heard a wonderful quote the other day, but don’t recall the original source. The quote went something like this:

Having obstacles in your life is a sign you aren’t settling for what life gives you, but are getting out of life what you want.

In other words, a life without any obstacles is arguably a life lived passively. You take whatever comes your way. While there is certainly enormous value in expressing gratitude for what you do get out of life (this is one of the keys to happiness by the way), it is still worth striving for what YOU want out of YOUR life.

So my question for you to think about today is:

Do you have enough obstacles in your life?

If not, are you striving for what you want out of life? If yes, be grateful as it's a sign you are striving for what you want out of life. You might not get what you want, but if you don’t try at all you are guaranteed to not get what you want.

Here’s another way to look at it.

Using the logical construct of cause vs. effect, there are two ways to view the world:

  • The world is the cause, and you are its effect.
  • You are the cause, and the world is the effect.

Here’s my second and final question for today:

Which paradigm are you viewing your life and the world through?


Additional Resources

If you found this article useful and want to receive more articles like it, sign up to receive approximately two articles each week by email. Just fill out the form below:

First Name *
Email *

This form collects your name and email so that we can add you to our newsletter list on How to Live and Amazing Life. Check out our privacy policy for details on how we protect and manage your submitted data!


31 comments… add one
  • Martin Chocholousek Sep 2, 2014, 11:42 am

    I would rather use the word challenges. I perceive obstacles as something that usually exists independently on my actions or as a negative result of them. Therefore in case of too many obstacles I think I am doing something wrong and I need to sit back and think about a different approach. Of course when an obstacles occurs it requires courage to overcome.

    I am looking for challenges in my life. Challenges push me forward. I am not looking for obstacles because I perceive them as counterprodcutive (like going head against a wall). But if they occur I will not evade them and try to overcome them.

  • Vitaly Sep 2, 2014, 11:30 am

    Hello All,

    I would combine Victor’s questions..It is both.. I find it difficult to separate cause-effect relationships. I subscribe to a worlds view that we affect the world and then adapt to changes..It becomes an infinite change, i.e. evolution…

  • Todd Sep 2, 2014, 11:13 am

    One of my former Zen teachers had an expression, “protoplasm tends to inertia.” There is always a proper balance of irritation necessary for the organism to stimulate growth.

    The hard part is maintaining that sweet spot between stress and relaxation.

    • Victor Cheng Sep 4, 2014, 8:49 am


      “The hard part is maintaining that sweet spot between stress and relaxation.”

      So true!


  • Amit Sep 2, 2014, 11:09 am

    Hi Victor,
    Actually, I never thought like the way you put it. But it actually it gives me different perspective for thinking for my current hassles for doing an MBA and career in Strategy Consulting.

    Thanks very much for the thought!

  • Lal Sep 2, 2014, 9:51 am

    I have a narrow view on life at the moment – a Masters I’m 5 months away from finishing. I just got smashed on an assignment and got the lowest grade I’ve got so far in this course.

    It’s all frustrating – and these are all obstacles. I’m not convinced this Masters is taking me anywhere – apart throwing good money. But, as Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. So, as much as I can’t see it now, I realise looking back that the Masters maybe eventually give me a skill or a perspective on life that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

  • Nick Bluhm Sep 2, 2014, 9:39 am

    Randy Pausch, a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, gave a lecture (which has since been published as a book) in his final months before he passed away prematurely due to cancer. A quote from one part of his lecture, in which he tried repeatedly to join the Disney Imagineering lab, has stayed with me through the years:

    “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

    • Victor Cheng Sep 4, 2014, 8:47 am


      What a great quote from the Last Lecture. Thanks for sharing.


  • Ryan Yu Sep 2, 2014, 9:22 am

    Obstacle is my stepstone to success. Period.

  • Pallavi Ahuja Sep 2, 2014, 9:14 am

    Hi Victor,

    I certainly agree with you that a life without obstacles is a life live passively. Whatever you want from life you do not get it without fighting for it. I have been struggling since my college days for even a small thing I want out of my life. I am an IIT(Indian Institute of Technology) graduate. Even qualifying IIT-JEE was full of obstacles. I had to convince my parents that I want to write IIT-JEE. Even today in my professional life I am facing a lot of obstacles to achieve the success. And somewhere I am grateful to God for these obstacles because they have made me so strong within.Also, I have learnt that if you really want something out of your life, you have to put in your best facing all obstacles. You just cant sit back and relax. That way you will definitely not going to get what you want.

    I believe that you are the cause and world is the effect. Whatever you do, somewhere or the other,it influences others and it shows its effect on this world.

  • abhi Sep 2, 2014, 9:12 am

    Thank you for writing. Each and everyday from micro to macro problems I face obstacles, some are very easy to get by but some take a lot of effort, specially when they come in the form of ‘people’. Now, I view success and failure as binomial distribution with a very low ‘p'(prob of success). Some strategies from your blog can help to increase ‘p’ . I try to improve my N.

    Kind Regards

  • Simon Sep 2, 2014, 9:00 am

    The obstacles are important to develop the charachter of anybody. they make us feel alive but also strive and fight to overcome them.

Leave a Comment