Deal with adversity

Every ambition has some obstacles, but focusing on the obstacle instead of the goal does nothing to clear the path. TIM SHARP

Timothy Sharp Happiness Institute

By Tim Sharp

Some time ago my wife went away for a long weekend with some childhood girlfriends, and I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed doing a few extra “daddy duties”.

One morning while she was away, after dropping my daughter at school and waiting until it was time to take my son to his school, we were playing in a park at which they have some kids’ toys lying around for general use.

My son started playing with a plastic truck and as he prepared to move it along some imaginary path he had planned in his mind it soon became apparent that the myriad of other randomly arranged toys lying around were in his way.

As a rational adult my first reaction was to think about picking up the toys that were in the way, or to remove the obstacles, so he could move the truck along what I thought was the ideal trajectory; but my son didn’t even think of this. Instead, he simply picked up the truck, carried it over the other obstacle toys, and continued along his merry way.

Now this got me thinking about what we adults often do (or don’t do) when things get in the way of our goals or our happiness or success.

Do you focus too much on obstacles and what you think you need to do to remove them? Do you allow road blocks to distract your attention from the ultimate goal (that is, happiness)? Because focusing on an obstacle, even if we think we’re trying to overcome it, is still focusing on an obstacle!

What would happen if we, like my son, simply stayed focused on what we wanted to achieve despite the hurdles, obstacles, challenges that frequently get in our way? Think about it… I suspect we might be far more successful and far more focused on our positive outcomes and ultimately, I suspect we’d experience far more happiness.

Now this isn’t just relevant to my son playing in the park; in fact, it’s become an integral part of my approach when I’m consulting to businesses and/or coaching executives.

To give you a taste of how I apply this concept, ask yourself some or all of these questions next time you’re facing challenging or difficult times:

  • What’s the best thing about this situation?
  • What positives can I take from this?
  • What can I learn from this situation?
  • How can I be better as a result of this?
  • In ten years’ time will this really matter?
  • How bad is this compared to the worst events in the world?

And consider the following:

  • Three billion people live on less than $2 a day.
  • 30,000 children die daily of preventable diseases.
  • Six million children die annually from malnourishment.
  • 113 million children are not in school.

How bad does it seem now?

Ask yourself, also, how you can use your strengths to get through it. Are you making the most of the resources (people and other) available to you? As Edward de Bono once said: “We may need to solve problems not by removing the cause but by designing the way forward even if the cause remains in place.”


Dr. Sharp’s latest book (out now) is “100 Ways to Happiness: a Guide for Busy People” (Penguin). You can find out more about corporate programs, presentations, and coaching services at and You can also ask him questions using the Comments panel below.

For more Dr Happy blogs, click here.



Anne Reading writes: I completely agree with you Dr Happy. Added to what you say – when there are so many things to do that you cannot work out which is most important, just do something. Just choose one task and complete it. Once the first one is complete, the next one will present itself, and you will be able to begin and finish that one. And so on down the line. We so often get ourselves tangled in our “to do” list. The jobs become too many and then too onerous to contemplate. And we become immobilised and confused. Just do something!!



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