Whether we like it or not obstacles are a part of life. If it’s not traffic in the a.m. on your way to work or your studio, it’s the order that fell through when you finally get there. And if it’s not the gallery you can’t get your work into, it’s bills at home that are stacking up.
External obstacles like these are, I must admit, the least of our worries. (Truly.) Of course, in addition to the million things we can’t control out there in the world on a daily basis, there are the internal obstacles that we can’t seem to be able to handle either. Yes, we’re our own worst enemies. We beat ourselves up daily. “I should be making more.” “I should be producing more.” “I can’t do x, y, or z, because (insert oft-repeated excuse here)” or “I don’t have time for that” or the worst, “I just have bad luck and nothing works out for me.” If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
Let me assure you we all share this one thing in common: We all have obstacles—external and internal. However, how we choose to deal with them is what sets us each apart. The reality is we can’t control most of what happens to us on a daily basis. We can’t control what other people do, what other people think, let alone the weather, traffic patterns, or world art market for that fact. Nope. We’re pretty human in that regard. Not one of us has a superpower to reverse time, change another’s behavior, or predict the future. That’s the bad news. The good news is, we can control our mindset when approaching these external obstacles and we can definitely improve outcomes and ultimately survive and thrive—every day, all day, no matter what happens, throughout the life of our career. How? Here are my 5 Steps to Achieving Your Art Career Goals Faster on the Way to Success
1. Take 100% Responsibility
Ouch. This one is going to hurt. But, I have to say blaming someone else or external obstacles for why you’re not performing isn’t going to get you very far. Blaming a lack of time, money, resources, the people you work or live with, or even your “bad luck” isn’t going to help you either. The first step in overcoming any obstacle is naming it, so you can get on with slaying it. Sit down. Get real with yourself. Are your skills up to snuff? Are you being realistic? What is the real issue? Have you identified the real obstacle accurately? Is it external or internal? Both?
2. Recognize that Time is Your Friend
A good friend of mine always says to me, “You might as well just do x, y, or z because time is going to pass anyway.” Things that make you go hmmm. What I think she means is: Time is moving no matter what. So you can spend your time doing nothing or working on your goal. The same amount of time is going to pass. Wouldn’t you like to say that in a year’s time, you’ve done something rather than nothing? Most obstacles take time and effort to overcome. Just be patient, and do the work.
3. Be Grateful for It All (Even the Obstacles): They Are Our Greatest Teachers
Another friend always says, “This too shall pass.” Meaning every single thing in life, good and bad, is going to end. Nothing lasts forever. It’s not always going to be this tough. And it’s not going to be easy for very long either. Knowing this is empowering. It helps you realize that no matter what you’re going through right now, as tough as it is, there will be a day, as hard to imagine as it is, that it won’t be so difficult. And you’ll be able to look back and see how you handled it, how you overcame it, and all the lessons you learned in the meantime. You’ll also have the added wisdom of knowing those good days are ahead. And knowing good days won’t last, makes you stop and appreciate and revel in those good days even more. Gratitude never ceases to change a bad attitude.
4. Prioritize. Prioritize.
Once you’ve identified your obstacle, and you know it’s not going to last, you have to put a plan into action to make sure that the obstacle doesn’t become a pattern, a way of life, a constant distraction, or worse, the end of everything. And you have to make it a priority. It’s easy to get lost in the minutia of your day and say, “I’ll deal with that later.” It’s definitely easy to see the “obstacle” in the proverbial road and turn around, avoid it, and never deal with it. Guess what? The obstacle never moves. Nothing changes. Neither do you. So turn your obstacle into a goal, a solution, a means to an amazing end. Meet that obstacle in the road every day. You’re not going anywhere until it does. That doesn’t mean to you to hit your head against it like a crazy person—that leads me to the next step.
5. Use your creativity
The beauty of the human brain is that it has an infinite capacity to think through problems. You and I may think about a problem and its potential solution(s) in a completely different way. Be creative. Ask for help. Brainstorm. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get away from the office or studio and consult with friends. There are a million strategies for problem-solving. As I always say: No one gets where they’re going without the help and wisdom of others. When you’ve exhausted your ideas and creativity, reach out. And know it always seems impossible until it’s done. I can’t tell you how many times in my career I’ve thought “This is impossible. I have no idea how I am going to get it all done.” And before I know it, time has passed, I am incredibly grateful, I’ve learned so much, and what I thought was an obstacle was an actually a gift.
Here’s to obstacles, and to your success.
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