Marcus Aurelius said, “Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
This simple but profound maxim became Ryan Holiday’s impetus for writing The Obstacle is the Way, a brilliant book I highly recommend you read at least once per year.
Today, if you’re honest with yourself, there are at least a few big, hairy obstacles that delay and impede your growth in the business, your spiritual life, physical fitness, in relationships and your ability to lead your employees. Have you ever considered that the things standing in your way are actually the way to move forward?
Aurelius was keenly aware of the power of our thoughts to either encourage or impede action. He knew a profound truth that many orthodontists avoid or ignore: we often stand in our own way.
Sure, it’s easier to blame the economy, new competitors in your town, insurance rates, poor patient compliance, landlords, business partners, employees, changes in technology, consumer trends, etc. for anything and everything that’s not working in your practice to secure consistent growth. Yet, no one put a gun to your head and made you move to your town. No one put you in handcuffs and forced you to hire the employees you hired. Last I checked, no one threatened to take you out back and beat you senseless if you didn’t buy their practice management software.
At The Customer Service Summit, I spent a significant portion of my teaching sessions working with doctors and their teams to help them divide everything in their lives into one of two categories: things you can and cannot control.
Over 1,800 years ago Marcus Aurelius knew what would still stand in the way of every man and woman, and he knew “what stands in our way must become the way” if we’re to grow and succeed. It’s not the things that are out of our control (the economy, the weather, the stock market, new competitors that move to town, technology disruptions, employee attitudes, insurance rates, patient compliance, etc.) that will do us in. It’s our own failure to take control of the things we can control (our attitudes, decisions, determination, confidence in problem solving, determination, loving kindness towards others, abundant generosity, curiosity, work ethic, gratitude and prosperous thinking) that will help us achieve and succeed.
Holiday said, “Through our perception of events, we are complicit in the creation — as well as the destruction — of every one of our obstacles. There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
Do this exercise tonight before you go to bed: think about a particularly frustrating challenge or obstacle in your practice. Ask yourself, “Do I believe in the obstacle more than in the goal?” Never stop asking this question. Never lose sight of what is in your control. Your mind will transform each obstacle into the way forward.