Is it a limitation or a temporary obstacle?

Today I’m returning more explicitly to our conversation about limitations. One of the questions that came up during a recent message dealt with discerning when to view something as a limitation as opposed to an obstacle. How do we know when what we’re faced with is something we can transcend as opposed to something that must be accepted?

Well, my answer to that isn’t going to be particularly satisfying: context is king. I follow a guitar builder on Instagram whose hand got mangled in an industrial accident. It will never work the same way again. Is this a limitation or an obstacle?

Let’s start with this question: Can he overcome it? It depends on what we mean by overcome. His hand will never function identically to how it functioned prior to the accident. When I use “overcome” or “transcend” I tend to think of these terms as meaning that whatever got disrupted could be returned to its original state. In this case, he cannot overcome it according to that definition.

This does not mean he has to give up building guitars, though. In fact, he has not stopped. His process has changed. His speed is reduced. This means fewer guitars each year. It means he will make less money. But he doesn’t have to give up on his dream job of building guitars. As was true in our example earlier in the month, we could view this as a kind of overcoming, I suppose, but it’s the kind that requires acceptance and adaptation.

So, was his accident a limitation or an obstacle? Perhaps a little bit of both. Sometimes we must treat our limitations as obstacles in order to figure out how we can best adapt to them. This may even be a form of acceptance. This guitar builder figured out how to adapt such that even though his life greatly changed, the change was not the most hopeless version that it might have been. This is our key point. Acceptance is not about giving up, it’s about making sure that the outcome isn’t as hopeless as it otherwise might be. We do not need to choose between accepting and fighting. Accepting is a form of fighting, it’s just a kind that does not involve living in denial.

More on this tomorrow.