How do you become a game changer? Where do the unique ideas come from that transform a whole industry? What if I were to tell you that the raw material for game changing lies in plain view?

What’s required to unlock its power is the right mindset and a simple skill that all game-changing entrepreneurs possess and that anyone can learn quickly and practice every day. The magic ingredient is something most people don’t value very much. In fact, it’s what a lot of people consider a nuisance, and if they could wave a magic wand, it’s what they’d most like to go away. What I’m talking about are obstacles.

Clarifying your vision.

There’s a dynamic I noticed a long time ago, and it really began my coaching career. The greatest breakthroughs I’ve made as an individual have come when I’ve been faced with an obstacle that’s forced me to create some higher capability and increase my confidence. And one day I began to realize that something people see as a negative — obstacles or opposition — can actually be the key to their future success if they set up something on the other side: a commitment to getting a bigger and better result than they have right now.

Having a clear vision of a really desirable future destination is useful because it allows your brain to get specific about identifying what stands in the way. This kind of vision includes a detailed picture of what the new, better reality looks like, the difference it will make, and why it’s more desirable than the present. It also usually includes a time frame in which you’re committed to making it real. It’s exciting and motivating, and it may also bring up fear because it requires growth and courage to go into unknown territory to achieve it.

As soon as you create this kind of vision, your mind can’t help but begin to identify all the obstacles. There will generally be a host of specific things that clearly need to change in order for this future to become real. The entire inventory of these can be used to create game-changing transformation.

Facing opposition.

A lot of people have trouble dealing with this opposition because they never separate out the individual obstacles.  An indefinite sea of opposition is much more overwhelming and difficult to deal with than a series of well-defined individual obstacles. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to get in fights. The better ones were where you were just dealing with one person at a time, not when you were dealing with two or three or more. Obstacles that are not clearly defined can be like that: When you’re paying attention to one, you don’t know how many others are lurking, and it’s hard to feel like you’re in control and not going to get clobbered by something you didn’t see coming.

The tension between the vision of a bigger future and the opposition that stands in its way creates a kind of electricity. The vision of where you want to go gets you excited about the future and impatient to make it a reality, and the obstacles make you frustrated about the present and eager for change. The energy generated by juxtaposing these two reference points drives creativity and action. You begin to see where there are things you can do to move forward. You can make decisions and communicate them to others to tap into their capabilities to help close this gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Because they don’t share your frustration, others may also have a much clearer vision of how to get around or transform what’s getting in your way. We’re generally much better at solving other people’s problems, but we need to first see the problem clearly. Being really honest, specific, and thorough about the vision and the obstacles is the first step.

Interesting at this point is that, just by getting really clear on your vision and opposition, you immediately get a sense of transformation. Where before you were stuck and frustrated, you now see real possibility. You’ve made the decision to get clearer and create a sense of direction, which feels good. Suddenly, the next step — taking the actions that allow you to actually get past the obstacles — also seems clearer and easier. The shift in momentum is progress in itself.

Obstacles are raw material.

After doing this a few times, you begin to realize that identifying and then transforming obstacles is a component of achieving the higher capability and confidence you’re trying get to, and so it becomes a desirable activity and, eventually, a habit and a natural way of thinking. So what I see is that really successful people have a positive attitude toward their obstacles. They are absolutely eager to engage with their obstacles because they realize that this is the raw material for creating the reality of their bigger future.

Anytime you experience frustration, it’s worth looking for the obstacle at the root of that feeling. Just in doing so, you’ll snap yourself out of an energy-draining mindset and put yourself back in control. Sometimes those obstacles are much bigger gifts than expected in that they offer opportunities for big breakthroughs. Learning to see frustration this way totally transforms the amount of time you spend in the energy-draining state and allows you to shift into a much more productive mindset at will.

Growing your capability.

Game-changing entrepreneurs will use this capability on a daily basis. Their entire creative activity consists of shaping and articulating ways of creating value for others that don’t yet exist and transforming each successive set of obstacles they encounter as they figure out how to bring their vision to life in the marketplace.

Every time they find a solution for an obstacle, more innovative features become part of their offering or business model, and its uniqueness grows. Along the way, capabilities get added, sometimes personally, and often in the form of creative partnerships and new forms of collaboration. Credibility and confidence also grow, and all these things together provide greater resources to overcome successively bigger and more challenging sets of obstacles.

At Strategic Coach®, this process, which we refer to with the acronym VOTA (Vision, Opposition, Transformation, Action), is embedded in many of our most fundamental thinking tools. One of these, The Strategy Circle®, was the very first tool I created and the one that began my coaching career as I realized I could create a lot of value for entrepreneurs by helping them think about their experience this way.  It was also the tool that sold Babs, my wife and business partner who runs Strategic Coach, on joining forces with me to create the company and our life together—my most game-changing collaboration by far.

About the Author

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of the Strategic Coach® program, which works with entrepreneurs to reach new heights of success and happiness. He has authored over 30 publications over his 42 years as a highly-regarded speaker, consultant, strategic planner, and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups.