Life is full of challenges. Some people seem to meet every challenge with confidence, while others struggle to overcome them. Pittas especially get a sense of satisfaction from facing challenges head on—it brings a sense of accomplishment and can be very fulfilling. On some level, you actually seek challenges. Your highest self wants you to learn and grow, and life’s most effective tool toward growth is experience.
The problem is that all too often you might find yourself faced with the same challenges over and over again, and that’s when you start to lose motivation to face the issue and you lose sight of the potential lesson. At that point, challenges can become problems that can spiral you into despair and frustration.
As a co-creator of your own reality, you have the ability to overcome these challenges. It is with this sense of responsibility and awareness that you can begin your journey into a higher state of consciousness where challenges are no longer challenges, but opportunities to get a glimpse of your highest self.
Here are some ways to better accept and meet your personal challenges, whatever they may be.
Face the Challenge
In many cases this is the most important step, the most obvious step, yet it is also the most often missed. People spend time looking for a way around the issue, or wallowing in despair at the enormity of the challenge, instead of facing it. Even mundane things, like a pileup of laundry or work, get ignored. Putting a challenge off doesn’t make it go away. This is true of big challenges, as well as the small ones. The most important thing you can do is face what’s in front of you head on.
Do not underestimate the power of being present. If you make a practice of facing your challenges—even in failure—with full presence and awareness, you will find most challenges are not challenges at all. Instead life’s challenges become messages from the universe. Meditation can help you cultivate silent awareness and is a good tool to help bring that focus to yourself during difficult times.
You can ask yourself questions that help you better understand the problem and how it affects you.
- Why is this a challenge?
- Do I believe that I am capable of being successful at this challenge?
- What are the possible outcomes if I succeed?
- What is the outcome if I fail?
These questions are not meant to solve the problem, rather they are meant to help bring you into fuller awareness of the challenge itself and your emotional reaction to it.
Look to Your SELF for the Solution
Others can help you arrive at your own understanding, but no one ever solves your problems for you. Even in circumstances where someone else is acting as an authority or partner, only you can decide for yourself how you will process the situation. The longer you spend searching for guidance outside of yourself, the longer you spend ignoring the problem. Even those who appear to help are only acting as instruments in the greater process of love and grace that is the true nature of your relationship to the universe.
Stop looking for the easy way out or the wise words that will show you the way. Assess the situation, your resources, and your abilities, and then act. Your action may include enlisting help from others, but it will be your challenge to solve. The sooner you take up the challenge, the quicker it stops being a problem.
There is a reason why certain challenges seem hard to you while others breeze right through the same situations. There’s a reason why you put off a task for weeks that can be done several times a day by someone else. It’s not because they have anything over you or are better than you. And it has nothing to do with a particular skill set or know-how. It’s all about consciousness. Those who face challenging tasks have found a way to avoid seeing those activities as challenges.
Challenges are opportunities to grow. That growth takes place out of potentiality, your potentiality, which is infinite and highly active in every moment of life. Come to know yourself as that. You are pure potential experiencing life through what seems like limitation. Challenges are spikes in that imaginary limitation barrier that guide you to awareness.
You decide: Are you limited or are you an ever-expansive growth of consciousness and love? Choose the latter, and taking another look at that so-called challenge you’ve been facing. With your potential, you can turn a mountain of a challenge into a speck of dust—take that dreaded project and turn it into that thing you did before lunch today.
Detach From the Outcome
Stressing about the potential outcome is often what turns a molehill into a mountain. Once you shift your focus to the thing you’re actually doing, instead of the result, the most intimidating parts of the trial start to disappear.
When you attach emotions to the problem, it has power over you. If you simply perform the task at hand without worrying about the outcome, you have power over the situation.
Some challenges seem enormous and harsh, but if you remain centered and full of awareness, no challenge is too big to meet with power and grace.
1. Turn Toward Reality
So often we turn away from life rather than toward it. We are masters of avoidance! But if we want to be present—to enjoy life and to be more effective in it—we must orient ourselves toward facing reality. When we are guided by the reality principle, we develop a deeper capacity to deal with life more effectively. What once was difficult is now easier. What once frightened us now feels familiar. Life becomes more manageable. And there’s something even deeper that we gain. Because we can see that we have grown stronger, we have greater confidence that we can grow even stronger still. This is the basis of feeling capable, which I think is the wellspring of a satisfying life.
2. Embrace Your Life as It Is Rather than as you Wish It to Be
The Buddha taught that the secret to life is to want what you have and to not want what you don’t have. Being present means being present to the life that you have right here, right now. There is freedom in taking life as it comes to us—the good with the bad, the wonderful with the tragic, the love with the loss, and the life with the death. When we embrace it all, then we have a real chance to enjoy life, to value our experiences, and to mine the treasures that are there for the taking. When we surrender to the reality of who we are, we give ourselves a chance to do what we can do.
3. Take Your Time
As the story of the tortoise and the hare tells us, slow and steady wins the race. By being in a hurry, we actually thwart our own success. We get ahead of ourselves. We make more mistakes. We cut corners and pay for them later. We may learn the easy way but not necessarily the best way. The old adage puts it like this: the slower you go, the sooner you get there. Slow, disciplined, incremental growth is the kind of approach that leads to lasting change.
4. Practice Gratitude
It is easy to count our troubles rather than our blessings, but such an attitude undermines our ability to draw from the good that we have been given and to see our lives fundamentally as a gift. A change in perspective can make all the difference. Recognizing the good and receiving it with gratitude is a recipe for emotional health and well-being. This attitude enlarges the possibility that we can make use of the good we have been given and even use it to cope with the difficulties that we inevitably have inherited.
5. Stay Close to Your Feelings, Even the Painful Ones
Often we find our feelings scary, heavy, and confusing, so we try to keep them at a distance. But we need our feelings in order to find satisfaction, meaning, and pleasure in life. Getting rid of feelings not only backfires but it also drains us of the psychological energy that makes life worth living. Feelings are the gas in the engine of our personalities. They are the source of motivation. They are the energy, the vitality, the juice of life. Without them, our lives wouldn’t have any personality or dimension or color. There wouldn’t be any joy or creativity or fun. There wouldn’t be you. There wouldn’t be me. Without our feelings, nothing would really matter.
6. Accept Success and Failure as Part of Life’s Journey
We are all learning. No one gets it right every time. A more compassionate attitude toward ourselves only helps us to stay in the game. The dynamic process of life—trying, succeeding, failing, and trying again—is the only way to develop lasting confidence in ourselves. We learn through experience that we can both succeed and recover from failure. We also learn to be humble and so develop a view of ourselves as limited creatures that will always need the help and support of others. No matter how mature or successful we become, the child within always will need mentors and friends who’ll see us through.
7. Tend to Your Loving Relationships
It is easy to neglect what matters the most: our relationships with those we love. These relationships don’t just happen magically; they grow and are sustained through attentive care and hard work. Mature love—whether in marriage, family relationships, or friendships—is a dynamic, living experience. It is something you choose every day. It is something that is earned every day. It requires commitment to keep it working. It involves a daily process of overcoming the distance and honoring the separateness between us. It accepts the reality that we will hurt one another and be hurt by one another. It is the nature of being human. These pains cannot be avoided. We can only devote ourselves to do what we can do to weather them and to mend them. So then, love essentially is repair work. We tend to the hurts. We try to heal them. We express our concern. We take responsibility for our mistakes; we learn to say we’re sorry. We try to make amends. We learn to forgive; we accept the forgiveness of another. As the monks do every day, we fall down and get up, fall down and get up again.
Copyright 2014 by Jennifer Kunst, PhD
This post is drawn from a magazine article featured in A Woman's Health (Winter 2014). For the full article, click here.
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This is just a taste of Jennifer's model for personal growth. To read more check out: Wisdom from the Couch: Knowing and Growing Yourself from the Inside Out.