The Physics of Flow - Flow Solves Problems (part 3 of 5)

The Mechanism of Obstacle Creation

The experience of obstacles in the pursuit of our goals, and the associated frustration, is something everyone can relate to. Obstacles show up in every aspect of our life (taking kids to school, getting new clients, carrying a table from the living room to the dining room, finding a new apartment, buying plane tickets), and it is natural that our chief desire is to avoid them. The automatic response is to cringe when an obstacle becomes apparent, since by definition an obstacle gets in the way of something we felt we needed to accomplish. Obstacles inevitably have consequences, sometimes minor and sometimes significant, that can affect us in many ways. The obstacle Jonas faced in not getting into his preferred graduate school could have had far-reaching consequences on both his personal and professional life. He would have been farther from his family, graduated with greater debt, and may have had a different career trajectory. Our emotional aversion to obstacles is therefore reasonable and it is instinctive to seek to avoid them. 

I suspect that the physics underlying meaningful history selection is, in fact, designed to bring obstacles into our path. Why would such a system exist? What possible benefit could there be to an existence which is designed to obstruct our flow? I will discuss two possible reasons for this, one in the story below, and one in the next section. 

In my experience, it seems that obstacles are sometimes a means to greater satisfaction. Think about the most rewarding things you have accomplished in your life. For me, maybe it was partnering with my wife to bring our daughter into the world when we were confronted with issues of infertility.