Embrace the Obstacle

But so far as some men make themselves obstacles to my proper acts, man becomes to me one of the things which are indifferent, no less than the sun or wind or a wild beast. Now it is true that these may impede my action, but they are no impediments to my affects and disposition, which have the power of acting conditionally and changing: for the mind converts and changes every hindrance to its activity into an aid; and so that which is a hindrance is made a furtherance to an act; and that which is an obstacle on the road helps us on this road. 

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

I think this is a great quote to start the Stoic Powerlifter series. The message embodies the spirit of developing strength. Where we place a heavy object in front of us with the goal of moving it, with the added long term goal to increase the weight of the object. We’re continually striving to make the obstacle more difficult and the stronger we become, the more weight we must bear. A big part of strength development is mental, not only are we training the muscles, each and every time we step under the barbell, we are choosing to endure pain and test our strength.

Every time we set a new record and lift a weight heavier than last time, even if it is only one pound, we are literally doing something we haven’t done before. There was a chance we could have failed and sometimes we will, but more often than not we will succeed and prove to ourselves that we are capable of great things.

To not lift heavy weights, is to walk away from the metaphorical object that stands in your way. To not develop strength is to choose the path of ease and comfort, to reference a cliche, a boat that stays in the harbor will never get damaged, but that was not it’s purpose. To not embrace the difficult things that life provides, is to ignore the spark of greatness that presents itself.

The analogy continues further, because strength development is never linear. Not only do we encounter plateaus and even regressions, we will undoubtedly get injured along the way and it is in these roadblocks that allow us to learn and build mental fortitude.

These obstacles that present themselves along our journey are placed their for a reason, remember life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us. We need to embrace the inevitable setbacks that appear in front of us. Because the lessons we learn from setbacks are the same lessons that will propel us to bigger and better things.

  • You got injured, good. You can learn about rehabbing the injury and develop mental fortitude and grit necessary to overcome an injury
  • You have a new schedule that doesn’t allow you to train a lot, great. You can develop shorter workout plans that still allow you to gain strength
  • You haven’t trained in a year, fantastic. You can experience some beginner gains as you restart training.
  • You’ve never trained, perfect. You can research and learn a new skill and create a lifelong habit to make positive changes.
  • You bombed out of a competition, perfect. You can discover what you did wrong and taking corrective actions.

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