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  • Scott Hatley

Leveraging Obstacles - Your Compensating Assets

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

With the start of a new year, many take the opportunity to assess where they currently are in life while also reflecting upon the past year. Are you ready to close a difficult life chapter? Are you stuck? Are you depressed? Do you need a new direction or motivation? These are but a few questions the winter months might bring to your attention.

For some, it’s a time to celebrate the goals and achievements of the old year and set new, more ambitious goals to pursue in the new year. Others set resolutions for the upcoming year which soon get derailed at the first sign of resistance or some sort of an impediment. A third group is inspired to move forward on their current trajectory and are unmotivated by goals or resolutions. No matter the group you identify with or the way you tackle the start of a new year, there is one certainty for each and every one of us. We all face obstacles or barriers on our journey which can significantly impact our ability to live the life we want.

Of course, a new year isn’t the only time of year we are required to or even motivated to face down our observed obstacles or barriers impeding our progress. It’s a daily battle, really.

The question is less about the timing for when you will face obstacles. Rather, the question beneath the question is how will you respond when you encounter obstacles.

We at The Understanding believe strongly in the concept of Leveraging Obstacles, in fact it’s part of our parent company, INCIGHT, and its organizational mission statement. We believe this simple statement is an essential piece for showing the way for those we serve in how to tackle their disability or barrier. When you leverage obstacles, you face the challenge head on, showing who you are and what you are capable of. At its core is human potential, and being able to fully tap into and unlock your greatest abilities.

Still, how does one do this “leveraging obstacles” thing? For some clarity, let’s take a look at the definition of the words “leverage” and “obstacle” according to Merriam-Webster. An obstacle is defined as “something that impedes progress or achievement.” It’s anything that hinders success and keeps you from achieving your goal. On the other hand, “leverage” has three meanings: 1) influence or power used to achieve a desired result; 2) the increase in force gained by using a lever; and 3) use (something) to maximum advantage.

So what does this mean for us? What are we to do when we face obstacles?

While setbacks, challenges and barriers are an inevitable part of life, at times some of us are confronted by far greater obstacles than others. We believe it’s not what individuals face in life, but rather how they respond. Leveraging obstacles means having the ability to dynamically adapt to the circumstances with courage, humility and open-mindedness. It also means leveraging your way through the situation by exploiting strengths, building upon weaknesses, developing a set of compensating assets, and creating a plan to overcome the faced obstacles. Leveraging your obstacles is about working smarter, not harder and even at times using the obstacle to your maximum advantage!

INCIGHT has a concept we like to call “compensating assets.” In short, it means overcoming a limitation or deficit by developing a work around through exploiting existing strengths and developing new ones. For example, in my professional and personal life, I’ve worked over the years at enhancing the computing power of my brain, as my physical ability has diminished due to Muscular Dystrophy. If you were to speak to colleagues and those close to me, they’ll tell you that I have an uncanny ability for never forgetting the name or face of people I meet along with remembering important details. Now, this could be due to my natural strengths and abilities. That said, I do not believe this ability would be as pronounced if it weren’t for the fact I’m unable to physically take notes unless I’m sitting in front of my computer using an onscreen keyboard. This has definitely been something I’ve had to work at over the years to make up for the fact my muscles have wasted away to the point where I can barely sign my name. This is the heart of leveraging obstacles.

This physical obstacle could have easily hindered my ability to be successful. Instead, I haven’t let my attitude and reactions control me. I’ve been able to leverage the assets I have to overcome this obstacle. There are countless stories and examples of people with disabilities and barriers who have used their compensating assets to leverage obstacles.

Let’s shift the conversation briefly to a more practical discussion, as we all don’t face the same type of obstacles. Still, practically speaking, the same mindset applies. One's focus should be on charting a path by carefully considering and assessing the situation; turning negatives into positives. We, in fact, don’t always know our own capacity and abilities until we face difficult obstacles and challenges. There are so many things in life we can’t control, and many people allow those things to keep them from pursuing their goals and dreams. By taking on these challenges, you learn about strengths you may not have realized you have. When you realize these strengths, you are empowered the next time you face these same sorts of obstacles, and have even greater confidence and capacity to handle more significant life challenges.

As we move toward the spring months, and the renewal they bring, it’s a great time to assess where you are in comparison to your dreams and desires. To unlock your greatest potential and live a more fulfilled life, I encourage you to take stock of the obstacles holding you back, along with the resources available to you to chart a course, and find the lever to maximize your advantage and success. Change your attitude if you need to, but don’t give up. You’ve got to keep trying. If you do, then this could just be the year your life changes for the better.

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