I remember when I was a kid that I often watched a now-gone Saturday-afternoon TV show called “Wide World of Sports.” Anyone much over the age of ten has at least seen the opening, which includes an unfortunate (and now semi-famous, thanks to his many years opening the show with his mishap) ski jumper who crashes before even getting launched from the end of the jump.

The variety of sports that were featured on the show was one of the attractions to me. I had no other way, at the time, of learning about the caber toss, as an example. Remember, this was decades prior to the internet.

One event that I always found fun to watch was the steeplechase, which involved a lengthy run (the internet today tells me the typical length is 3000 meters, or a bit under two miles), with barriers installed on the track to challenge the runners. For me, the most fun to watch was the water jump. The barrier was only three feet high, but there was a significant puddle placed on the other side so as to encourage a longer jump than was needed on the other barriers placed around the track. Some could completely clear the water. Most of the runners would leap to the top of the barrier, then push off it with one foot to clear as much of the water as they could. Most accepted the splash at the other side of their jump as part of the race. Needless to say, the winner was the one who negotiated the barriers and ran the race with the greatest speed, not necessarily the least-wet one.

In considering this idea of a barrier, I am reminded that so much of what we deal with in our lives is about perception. In the steeplechase, most of the barriers can be hurdled cleanly, barely slowing the runners. For the water jump, though, it would be a mistake to hurdle the barrier because the water is deepest close to the other side of the barrier. It would slow the runner down much more to splash a stride or two through the water pit.

In other words, the water-fronting barrier is no barrier at all! What it is, is a means of providing the runner with a launching pad from which they can leap to clear all or most of the water. In fact, it aids the runners to be able to leap over the water by landing one foot on top of the barrier, and pushing off from there to maintain their stride and avoid the water pit.

The lesson for day-to-day living is that we often see as barriers that which, upon further investigation, actually turn out to be stepping stones to getting where we seek to be.

Time for the practical side: I can hear your internal “I can’t do that!!” alarm going off, because mine is doing the same thing. No, I don’t mean to imply that all barriers are always stepping stones disguised as discouraging obstacles in our way. In some cases, barriers are meant as a warning that we may be headed down the wrong path. After all, we all are likely, at one time or another, to seek something that really isn’t what we need in the long run…it’s what we want to satisfy our instant-gratification, little-child selves, or to convince our egos that we are worthy. Sometimes those desires work out, and sometimes they don’t.

What I’m talking about is different. It is the inner drive you are sparked to feel, that you have come to recognize as your honest-to-heart, core life’s goal or dream. It’s where you will be led if you allow yourself the guidance that your spirit is always offering. It’s the quiet little voice inside you that you can hear when you are still enough to do so: the guidance offered then is what I am writing about today.

This is the dream that makes you tingle when you think about its achievement–it’s the one you seek even when you are discouraged from other pursuits. In every single case, when you are on the path to which you are pointed by your inner guidance, any barrier you find along the way is only a barrier as long as you believe it so. As soon as your little self (as distinguished from your higher Self which is guiding you) relinquishes the fear, the barrier will turn into a stepping stone to your success.

There is an easy way to discern the difference between an ego dream (“I want that job because it will make me rich”) and an earnest, life’s-path dream (“I want that job because I know I would do it even if I had to pay to be allowed to do it!”).

When you are following a path laid out by your ego, barriers are not easily faced down. In fact, they almost become reasons to quit, and very quickly.

When you are following a path that is your true life’s pursuit, a barrier only causes a temporary slowing, as you determine how to overcome it, knowing that you will because you must. That’s the thing about our true paths: they really aren’t optional! Once we set out upon them, we know it so deep down that there is no deeper to go, that this is where we belong. Nothing will stop us. So, barriers…become stepping stones!