The Road Not Taken – Overcoming Obstacles

This series on ‘The road not taken’ is about using different strategies and tools to help prepare yourself and make your way down your career path, whatever that may be. Researching academic programs, figuring out what field you want to work in, understanding your workplace values and having a plan for how to get there are all vital steps to getting where you want to go in life. Yet, there usually are bumps along the way that you can't prepare for – this is where I come in.

One way to help you to prepare for transitions, obstacles and any unforeseen events is to take the time to reflect on the situation that you are faced with and to utilize a tool to help you brainstorm a solution. Below is one example of a tool you can use that will specifically help you to pull out the positive or the silver lining of the issue.

Dealing with an unexpected problem or change is often associated with negative thoughts and emotions. Yet it is these same experiences that are the greatest lessons of our lives. An adverse event, like a job loss or demotion, or even a negative performance review from your boss, helps you to develop as a person and learn valuable life skills.

Although they may sometimes feel impossible, obstacles are a normal part of life and they can be used to help us grow and develop as individuals.

Below is a chart that you can create for yourself to reflect on personal challenges and to identify the positive outcomes of those situations.


Challenge/Life Changing Event Strategies to Overcome Strengths/Skills Gained
Example: Laid off from work Applied for Employment Insurance.

Researched other job opportunities.

Attended networking events.

Updated resume and applied for jobs.

Attended informational interviews.


Took time to reflect on important work values.

Improved communication skills when introducing myself to new people.

Learned networking etiquette.


Some reflection questions to help better your understanding of your personal situation can include:

  1. How did these events change the way I perceive my current situation?
  2. What challenge am I proudest of overcoming? Why?
  3. When looking back on all the obstacles, what strategies were most effective in helping me overcome them? Why?

By reflecting on your strengths and any new skills you gained from this process, you are taking the time to better understand your ability to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Look back at your list of strengths and skills that you have identified, and be proud of them, no matter the length of the list. A strength is a strength and the best part is that you now know that you have that specific ability to rely on when life throws its next challenge at you.

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