Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 161 – 180AD. He was the last of what are known as the Five Good Emperors, presided over an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He was also a Stoic philosopher. Some of his personal writings were later accumulated into a book commonly called Meditations, which has become a favorite of successful people like former President Bill Clinton and former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
It’s full of insight, wisdom and passages that have become maxim. One of his most famous pearls of wisdom is this gem:
“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 of our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Take some time and be with that passage. Meditate on it. Take it apart; put it back together again. It’s profound. Another way of saying it is, “Sometimes the only way out is through.”
We encounter many obstacles in life. From many directions and many things. Personally. Professionally. Financially. Spiritually. Physically. Yet each one is an opportunity to step back, take a look at what stands in our way, and choose our response. Always remember that although circumstances may be out of our control, our response is never out of our control.
Easy to say. Hard to do.
So, the next time you encounter an obstacle, try following the advice of another Stoic, Epictetus: “Let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” Take a good look at your obstacle. Don’t let it impede your intention or your disposition. Adapt. Convert. Then pay attention to what happens. Often times, the obstacle is the way.