Everyone faces personal and professional obstacles throughout their life, whether the obstacles are financial, physical, emotional, or based in gender, class, or race. Sometimes you are your own biggest obstacle, when you allow your fears and self-doubt to stand in the way of your success. Obstacles are like mountains; they are not going to move themselves. You have to scale the mountain or go around it, reduce it to a molehill with dynamite, or dig a tunnel straight through it. You must take action to overcome it, not sit at the foot of the mountain passively hoping it will suddenly vanish so you can get on your way.

Obstacles are more than just giant problems; problems occur whereas obstacles are there. Obstacles may have always been there, or they may crop up. A problem is more finite than an obstacle. Rarely does a problem last forever. You seek to solve problems to achieve the best possible outcome, but, even if you take no action, a problem will reach some resolution eventually, though it may not be the outcome you would like. But an obstacle will not change itself or go away unless you do something about it.

Steps to conquer the mountain

No one has a magical formula to deal with obstacles (no dynamite except in metaphors), but you can adopt and implement some good practices when you are faced with obstacles that can help to reduce a daunting mountain into stepping stones to success.

1. Believe in yourself

The great Norman Vincent Peale said it best: Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. The first step to conquering obstacles is to realize that the answer lies within you. Maturity and experience will give you the confidence that you can overcome any impediment. In the same way, when you and your team encounter an obstacle, you must lead the team to believe in its ability to overcome it.

2. Seek help.

Ask for guidance and support from a mentor, team, classmate, or teacher. You do not have to overcome any obstacle solo. If a key executive leaves your organization at a crucial time, even if the loss is devastating, you should realize you have many resources to help overcome that obstacle, within and outside the organization. If you are a member or leader of a team, seek the help of appropriate experts on that team, or bring together everyone you can think of-people in your organization, among your colleagues, throughout your sphere of influence-and form a sort of task force to overcome the obstacle together.

3. Be like Mike.

Remove the emotion from the situation as soon as possible and remain rational. Basketball great Michael Jordan said, If you run into a wall, do not turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. Use your rational mind to figure out what you are up against. If a competitor beats you to market with a new product, a short period of rage and confusion may be appropriate. When disaster initially hits, it may seem larger than life, but if you can step back and look at it realistically, often the solution becomes apparent to you. In this case, you need to remove your emotion and set your team in motion to quickly and creatively differentiate why your product is better than the competitions.

4. Setback? Or catastrophe?

When you encounter an obstacle, seek perspective and stability. How big is the obstacle, really? When you calmly and thoroughly examine the problem, you may find you are imagining the obstacle is larger than it actually is. It may only seem immovable. For example, if an important, long-term customer is dissatisfied with your organization and making noises that they might defect to the competition, you may have a lot of work to do to keep them, but its not a catastrophe unless you do nothing and you lose that valuable customer.