How to Respond When Encountering Obstacles

Imagine climbing a gigantic mountain. This mountain is so tall that there are many stations on the ascent at which to stop, get your bearings, resupply, and press forward. The weather conditions on the trek up can get stormy. Battling the conditions on top of hiking uphill provides an additional challenge for the adventurer. Ascending the peak is the ultimate goal.

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I imagine myself on that mountain. From where I stand I can see the mountaintop, but I am only half-way up. This week I am attempting to reach another station on the journey. Why? This week, in the culmination of hundreds of hours of study, I will be taking a professional exam to attempt a step forward in my career.

Hundreds of hours of study? Yes! My profession is that of an actuary, When I tell people this, it almost always leads to me having to explain what an actuary does. The simplest answer is that we try to measure risk. Actuaries attempt to quantify the future payments that an insurance entity will need to make in order to cover that risk.

To achieve the highest level of accomplishment, actuaries have to pass a rigorous series of ten exams. Only about 40% of candidates who take an exam pass. Needless to say, the exams can be very difficult! Currently, I am halfway to that goal. Arriving at this point has been quite challenging. I have learned a number of lessons that are applicable when attempting to overcome any obstacle in life.

  1. Planning & Preparation – On average, actuaries spend approximately 100 hours of study per exam hour (most exams are 3+ hours). It takes forethought and planning to fit in that many hours of study. The preparation leading up to an exam is critical to being armed with the knowledge required to pass. The same is true for other challenges. Developing a plan of attack and preparing realistically for conquering a task will lead to a positive outcome.
  2. Perseverance – It has taken me more than one attempt to pass several exams. If my goal is to make it to the highest level of achievement, I must pick myself up and try again. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Perseverance can be defined as “continued steady effort to achieve an aim”. Inevitably, setbacks will occur in life. Don’t give up! The next attempt may result in success!
  3. Positivity – Failing an exam is never fun. In fact, it can be downright disheartening. It is difficult to not allow the failure to affect my own self-worth. This can be detrimental to all aspects of life. A positive attitude is crucial for maintaining a proper perspective on life. Often times, a positive attitude must be chosen in the face of adversity. A positive attitude can even lead to health benefits.
  4. Party – Passing an actuarial exam is an exciting experience for exam takers. It should be celebrated! Life often challenges us with obstacles that are difficult to overcome. It is easy to get mired down in everyday life and forget where we are headed. It is important to stop occasionally and review exactly what it is that has been accomplished. Celebrate the wins!

As I walk the journey of life, I am confronted with obstacles that are usually not enjoyable. I regularly have to remind myself of the four tips above. If you find the challenges of life discouraging, I encourage you to review them regularly as well.

Question: What suggestions do you have for dealing with life’s obstacles? How do you stay focused on the end goal? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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