Circumstance, Meaning

Get out of Your Own Way

“Human life in its totality advances and cannot help moving forward towards the eternal ideal of perfection, only if each individual person advances towards his own, personal and unrestricted perfection.”

Leo Tolstoy, 1908, The Law of Love and The Law of Violence

Get out of your own way.

A sentence with a sharp edge of accusation. It implies that you are at fault, and more often than not, that’s true. What we’ll speak of now, however, is not meant in an accusatory sense, or as a criticism. Sometimes, we actively hinder ourselves from progressing by indulging in our vices, whether through weaknesses or malice. Other times though, we are stopped up and we really don’t know why. We have failed to follow something, to fulfil something, maybe to stop something. We may not even notice for some time that we’re at such a standstill. Usually though, some discontent starts weaselling its way into our lives, growing and becoming more prominent, until we’re forced to recognise that something just isn’t quite right.

“Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.”

Rene Descartes, 1637, Discourse on the Method, Pt II

Get out of your own way.

Discontentment is a warning that even if we are consciously unaware of it, there is something off. Ignored, and that discontentment grows into anxiety. It continues to grow until it becomes all consuming, expanding until we feel like we’ll burst at the seams. Ironically what started off as a warning signal becomes something that makes it difficult to figure anything out. So best we acknowledge it early. But how can we change what we haven’t figured out yet? Well, the good thing is that there are usually some clues. Our mind usually leaves behind some faint trails, leading us to where our attention ought to be focused. Pay attention; there are hints willing us forward at every turn.

“Here’s how to look at problems: Problems are guidelines, not stop signs!”

Robert H. Schuller, 1967, Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking

Get out of your own way.

Once the obstruction is released there is life that will flow. And this is the truth. Life still exists beyond what hinders us. Either change what we know is wrong or fervently search for the answer. Once we’ve rectified what was stopping us, we’ll know. All of a sudden, there is so much more space. The small things do not cause us so much anguish as we have room to handle them. There is immediate relief in amending a problem. And then life can proceed. Whether we are aware or not, we have the answers and the power to resolve our troubles. Resolve it, one way or another, and get out of the way of life.

“Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favour. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on.”

Seneca, 49 AD, On the Shortness of Life

Caravaggio, 1597-99, Narcissus
Caravaggio, 1597-99, Narcissus
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