December/January 2019

Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones

How often have we enviously watched when someone, perhaps someone we know, achieved a goal that to us appeared impossible?

We may speculate, how on earth did they manage it? Sure, adopting the right mindset is important. That, coupled with a little luck, hard work and refusing to treat setbacks and hurdles as impediments lets them focus on reaching where they’re aiming for. They treat stumbling blocks as stepping-stones.

When we have a goal, whether it be academic, personal or business related, it helps clarify things when we break the different stages into bite-sized chunks. If we’re aiming to run a marathon, earn a qualification, lose some weight, learn to drive, it’s sensible to set out stepping-stones from where we are to where we want to go.

When we’re moving a sizeable distance or through rough, uncharted waters it’s less daunting to provide a raised stone or two on which to step and safely cross. Support is often necessary. Would a coach, mentor or trainer be a valuable addition to your team? They’ve often been there, done it and are aware of what’s required, or they understand the process sufficiently well to educate, motivate and inspire you to stay on target. It’s good to have someone with whom we can discuss each stage, who holds us accountable for our actions and who continues to provide motivation and inspiration. Interim goals can be good as they’re an acknowledgement that we’re moving in the right direction. Recognising each stage of the journey can significantly impact on our motivation levels, especially or dark days when we’ve achieved very little or have perhaps slipped back.

Some days we may feel that we’ve taken two steps forward and one step back, but movement of any kind means that we’re not standing still. A big stumbling block can be when we’re asked to do something slightly outside our immediate skill set.

We may know most, but not all of what’s being asked of us. Rather than decline the work or try to muddle through, why not use it as an opportune stepping-stone to forming an alliance with someone who can bridge that gap, oftentimes bringing a win/win result where both parties add value to each other’s businesses. A more positive approach to failure can allow us to treat stumbling blocks as stepping-stones. If success comes too easily it can prompt us to ask, ‘are we making the best of ourselves, are we aiming for our highest goals?’ When a high-jumper clears the bar they simply keep on raising it until they’re not able to clear it any more. They continue to challenge themselves. Adopting a positive approach to setbacks and treating them as opportunities for growth allows you to move out of your comfort zone and be inspired to even greater heights.

Find alternative routes that push you to improve and progress. Your stepping-stones may be about equipping yourself in advance with the knowledge and experience you need to power forward. You could perhaps start by volunteering at a charity, offering to work for free, starting an internship, shadowing someone who’ll provide you with a chance to practise; explore whatever stumbling blocks there may be, make mistakes and acquire important skills relevant to your goal. And sometimes trying a completely different niche, outside of your comfort zone, may introduce you to people, skills and learning opportunities that are relevant and transferable.

Your stepping-stones may require you to sit exams to provide evidence, both to yourself and to others, that you’re serious, are on your way and are determined to succeed. This could be essential, especially if you’re looking for a professional or qualification-demanding career or role. Goals may require a variety of skill sets along the way. Training to run a marathon may require you to lose weight, organise your time better in order to regularly train, let go of some of your responsibilities, delegate better or enlist help with family or work-related commitments.

Whatever your goals, could it be worthwhile to outsource some of the routine distractions that eat up so much of your time and energy? What about hiring someone to help with the domestic chores like cleaning, ironing or gardening, or to take over your routine business support like admin, accounts or social media management? It would cost you financially, but it may be worth it. Stumbling blocks can offer opportunities to learn important lessons and new skills along the way. And if we reach a certain stage and then have to pause a while, that’s fine too. Acknowledge that stepping-stones sometimes move us a way along and then provide space for a break, a breather, time to focus on other things in our lives whilst enjoying a new, rather different outlook.