I was on the phone watching my children play in the front yard through the office window. It was a stressful conference call about a seemingly insurmountable problem. As I sat in my chair observing the motion of summer through glass panes, I noticed that my kids weren’t satisfied just running around the lawn.
Yes, they played tag for several minutes, but then paused to mope in boredom.
It wasn’t long before they began to drag buckets, bikes, jump-ropes, a water-sprinkler and ladders out of the garage and arrange them carefully around the yard.
As I labored through the phone call and the stress of a seemingly insoluble work “problem,” I noticed that my kids were transforming our front lawn into a challenging (and mildly dangerous) obstacle course! I leaned my forehead against the window with concern when my youngest son climbed a 6 foot ladder and leapt through the water of a sprinkler. The kids were testing their own strength, balance, and even good judgement just feet beyond my office window. The scene outside in the real world of summer made me smile through the yelling on the other side of my phone call.
Without the challenge of climbing, jumping, diving, rolling, even slipping and falling… well, a summer day outside can seem a bit mundane.
Children do get bored without a challenge.
Students at school will tell you, if you give them a lie detector test, that the trials of new tasks are what make the time under those fluorescent lights go by quickly. And I have noticed that folks who retire from the challenges of daily work often seem to go into decline.
Yes, we view obstacles as if they are the thing keeping us from happiness, from making more money, from winning salesman of the year, from becoming a bestselling author.
But the truth is we actually need obstacles.
I hung up my conference call and turned my attention fully to the children just outside my window, as one of life’s great lessons was being played out like a silent film on the green summer lawn. They had taken a safe front yard and transformed it into a perilous scene from American Ninja Warrior or Wipeout.
We were actually made to charge head first into the obstacle course of life!
Those challenges are the very things that help us learn, make us grow stronger, force us to change for the better. I swiveled my chair back toward my computer and began to work on a solution for the “obstacle” my phone call had built into my morning… with the assurance that there would surely be another tomorrow that would force me to stretch, to change, to grow.
Life, after all, would be pretty dull without a ladder to climb, a sprinkler to jump through, or a problem to solve…
In other words: the obstacle, my friends, is actually the way.