Triumph Over Challenges – Part 2 (of 2)

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Fifteen different schools before reaching college. This was one of many of my life’s challenges. How did I approach it? Usually with an open mind and an innate belief that I could adapt to whatever came my way. Did it work? Yes, and no! At many schools I was popular, yet, at a couple of others I was harassed or bullied. You see, whenever you change environments or move to new places, there is a multitude of challenges at play. We may cope very well with some and not cope well with others. What did I learn? I learned that there will be people with whom you naturally resonate and others whom you don’t “get” and they just don’t “get” you. It’s best not to waste time on those people or try hard to get them to like you. Don’t compromise who you are because you might be a square peg in a round hole (just needing to find a square hole!). There are other wonderful people just waiting to be your friends! Seek them out.

I also learned that it’s important to do what you enjoy and to stand up for yourself and your ideals. At the end of the day, you face yourself, live with yourself and need to love yourself for who you are. However, sometimes, if things are so tough and you find yourself really unhappy: change schools (or jobs, or environment). This isn’t running away, it’s self-preservation. (And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t choose to change schools 15 times, but that’s another story…)

Another lesson I learned was that whatever energy and mindset you bring to a new environment sets the tone for your experience. As a child, I didn’t think of it in those terms, but what I noticed was that if I consciously went to a school full of confidence (even faking it) and had the mindset that people are going to think I’m awesome – it really did have that result. If I went in unsure and not really happy to be there, I didn’t have a good result. Our energy is tangible, and like wild animals, strangers sniff out our fear!

What if you can’t help being shy or fearful? Try building up your self-confidence and self-esteem beforehand. Then, narrow your focus so that your thoughts are on things that you’re good at, what’s good about the new situation you’re about to go into and join a group or club that practices your hobby or interest. If you don’t have a hobby, find one! It will provide you with opportunities for fun and a non-work-related connection with others.

Your Mind – The Creator and Director

How do you see yourself and your circumstances in the big scheme of life. Do you get a feeling of smallness, hopelessness or inferiority and think that life, other people or the world in general is sometimes working against you? Without realizing it, you might have an external locus of control issue. ( Click here for a quiz and explanation.) The truth is, you are far more powerful than you know.

What your mind focuses on, you strengthen.

This is illustrated very effectively in sports.

As an athlete I noticed that if I thought about what I didn’t want to do, sure enough, that’s exactly what I would do! Have you noticed that? Or maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re fearful of something happening – it happens. Many people know about postiive thinking, but are we really aware of those sneaky thoughts that aren’t negative per se, but they are our minds toying with possiblities, the seemingly innocent “What if…?”

Another sabotaging mind trick is the one that seems to be positive or is simply preparing us for a possibility when actually it is making the mind focus on the negative. For example, if I had the thought that I didn’t want my javelin to land flat – it was likely that it would land flat. If I was putting my golf ball and thought about whether it could miss the hole – it usually missed the hole. The great thing is that the reverse is true too. If I simply “saw” in my mind the ball going into the hole and then putted – it would go into the hole! The thought had been “pure” and free from doubts or any tension. It would feel as if it were a done deal, a “fait accompli”.

Now, how does this work with other life challenges? It works with amazing power! Visualize the positive, happy outcome you’re seeking and focus on it with the wholehearted feeling that you know it’s going to happen. As a result, you both unconsciously and consciously start to take positive action to bring it about. Others are responsive to your positive energy and adjust their own behavior which in turn affects you back. The cycle of positive reinforcement continues and gathers strength.

Look at your challenge. Be clear on the result you’d like to see. At the same time, reflect on where you may have gone in the opposite direction too! Losing sight of the outcome we intend, can mean that we take actions that are not moving in the positive direction we want.
For example: Your relationship has become a challenge but you want to create more harmony and love. Then there’s this: You know when you’re just on the verge of having an argument and there is that split second when you know that you could either prevent it or inflame it with your very next comment or action? That’s when you should be clear on the outcome you want. In that second you have the power to change things. How? By taking a breath and thinking “I want love in my life, not war”, and asking yourself what you can do to prevent “war” (the argument).

What about other challenges? Again, what you focus on, you give energy to. If you want to sell your house and all that you focus on is “How can I get this house ready for sale? It’s so difficult!” Then you will continue to feel stressed and may not organize things well, if at all. Get off that hamster wheel! Instead try thinking this way, for example: “What resources (people/financial/physical/emotional/etc.) do I have right now that I can tap into to deal with this challenge?” See what comes to mind…

Resources for Facing a Challenge

  • Friends – those you’re close to and those whom you didn’t realize would be there for you (I call these acquaintances “gends” – people that you don’t realize have your back but are waiting in the wings and reveal themselves to be genuine friends when you really need support
  • Family members – even estranged or distantly related family could be a source of support if you just reached out for some advice or help
  • Community Groups including churches or non-profits
  • Teachers
  • Professionals or experts in the field your challenge is in (including a life coach)
  • Books and/or courses relating to your challenge: Learning everything you can will help more than you may realize…
  • Meditation and relaxation helps with centering your mental energy and calming your nervous system which in turn gives you more focus and energy to face your challenge
  • A mentor who “gets” you and has been where you are before (Don’t be shy about inviting someone you admire to be your mentor – the worst thing that could happen is that they say “No”. Most people would be flattered to be asked)

Surrender to win

Sometimes as you’re working on a goal or overcoming a challenge, delays come, there are road blocks that require detours or things are simply not going to plan. Surrendering to these doesn’t mean giving up. You may need to occupy yourself with some other important matter or hobby or just take time out, relax and have a laugh. We can get so wound up and stressed as we try hard to overcome obstacles and achieve our desires that it actually becomes counterproductive to our “higher goal”. For example, you argue with your partner or loved one over a pile of laundry not done as you’re tired from cleaning up a messy house. So while your challenge may be to keep the house tidy, your stressed and strained relationship is now counterproductive to your higher goal (and perhaps the real reason you want your house clean) – which is to have a family that feels cared for and content. Instead, you may want to surrender to your challenge temporarily and have a laugh, toss the laundry in the air and call out “piggy pile!” or whatever cracks you up. In my experience, joking around with someone is more effective than scolding them to get their cooperation.

Look at the challenges you have. Are they something you feel you are struggling to overcome? But have you considered whether the challenge is worth it. Deserving of your time and effort to overcome it? Did you create it? Why?

An example might be someone struggling with medical school, but in their heart they really want to be a preschool teacher. Some challenges could be so distressing and seem so difficult precisely because they are wrong for us and we should be doing something else with our energy…

Also, timing is important. Sometimes a person tries hard but feels as if they’ve come up against a brick wall. The timing could just be wrong. You may not want to stop but you may wish to take a break, do something else constructive or creative that you enjoy and then try again later. The break may also bring you a fresh perspective with different ideas on how to tackle the challenge.

Ideas for a break:
Spa or retreat
Pick up new sport or hobby
Learn a fun skill
Read books that you’ve been putting off reading but that really interest you (Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk: all big readers)
Go for long hikes or go fishing, and enjoy some daydreaming (Einstein said that his imagination while daydreaming was where he got his “lightbulb” moments).

Good luck with your challenges!

If you have an comments or questions, don’t be shy – let me know below!



Triumph Over Challenges – Part 1

Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov 

“You never fail until you stop trying.”

Albert Einstein

Challenges are not to be feared. They offer us opportunities to transform ourselves and our lives.

Take a long, deep breath, and as you exhale repeat these words to yourself, letting them ride on the breath you’re releasing: “I can find what I need to solve any challenge.”

Think you don’t have the strength or will? You do have it within you. Think you’re alone and without anyone to help you? You may be surprised to know that there are people willing to help you with whatever challenge you face. It’s true too, that whatever obstacle seems insurmountable on one day, can seem much smaller and scalable on another day. Time has a wonderful, softening effect on all of our troubles.

ʻAʻohe puʻu kiʻekiʻe ke hoʻāʻo e piʻi.

No cliff is so tall that it cannot be scaled. (No problem is too great when one tries hard to solve it.)

Ancient Hawaiian Proverb

Throughout history, all humans have been faced with challenges. It’s interesting how similar those challenges have always been, too. Read novels from over a hundred years ago or look into the history of different cultures (their poetry in particular), and you can find human beings suffering the same woes, pining for unrequited love, having trouble finding work or dealing with in-laws…The landscape, technology, and outward scenarios may change but the types of challenges – and what they require in order to overcome them – haven’t changed. Patience, tolerance, hard work, persistence, forgiveness, selflessness, vulnerability, cooperation, humility, kindness, love, faith, courage, and so on, are requirements to overcome different obstacles at different times. We have to reflect carefully and become aware of what is needed from us to improve a challenging situation.

Does it seem that certain challenges keep reappearing in your life?

You’re not imagining it! First, congratulate yourself on reflecting enough to notice this phenomenon. Next, stop blaming yourself for making mistakes or not having “learned” from past mistakes. We all are in the process of learning. Mistakes are just learning opportunities that will come again and again in our lives, so we must learn to embrace them – if not joyously, at least with curiosity and an open mind. Just as the other cycles of life repeat but are never exactly the same, so are our lessons (challenges) in life. Cycles affect and describe much of the events that we experience in this world. The Daoist philosophers, the ancient Hawaiians, The Mayans, the great Greek astrologers and so many more have all emphasized the importance of cycles. Seasons come and go every year. Tides come in and go out. The sun rises and sets. Our bodies have Circadian rhythms and fascinating cycles – for example, our bodies have completely renewed every single cell by the end of each seven-year period. Actually, life as we know it would not exist without the cycles of renewal (birth and death).

What does this mean for dealing with challenges?

It means that we can prepare for what is coming. It means that we can take comfort in knowing that “this too shall pass”. We may feel down for a bit, but then we will come through it. How well and how quickly we overcome a challenge will depend upon how aware we are of what is required to overcome it, how prepared we are to face it, and our will to overcome it.

Observing your challenges

Whatever challenge you are facing now – adversity in your job, relationship troubles, maintaining a healthful diet – observe it from an objective, unemotional stance. Note down answers to these following reflections:

  • When did the problem/challenge arrive?
  • When has a similar problem/challenge occurred? (If there have been multiple occasions, note them all.) They will not be exactly the same but have a common thread. (For example, a partner or family member who is disrespectful, or a boss or co-worker who takes you for granted, varying reasons why you couldn’t get to the gym.)
  • What did you do when faced with the challenge?
  • If the challenge occurred more than once, what did you do the other time/s?
  • How did you feel once the challenge ended – satisfied with your response and result or uncomfortable and regretful?

Facing a challenge

Now, as you look back over your notes see if you can find any repeating behavior associated with the challenges. What does this suggest? What have you learned from past challenges?

There is a funny saying, often attributed to Einstein:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

I find it funny because on occasion I have done this. Why? Perhaps because what I was doing seemed easier than trying another way that might have been harder, but probably more successful. Perhaps because I thought that being right was more important than finding harmony or compromise. Or, perhaps because I’d believed (from listening to others or reading something) that I was doing something that would get the result I wanted and I stubbornly persisted despite evidence to the contrary. I call this “The Emperor’s New Clothes” folly: blindly following popular consensus or opinions when you can see that it isn’t true (or true for your situation).

So, let’s look at our repeating patterns.

Hmmm. Time to do something different?

…Next week in Triumph Over Challenges – Part 2, I go into further details and make suggestions. In the meantime, sit somewhere quietly and ask yourself for answers to your challenges. Don’t try to force an answer, just release the question and be patient. Sometimes listening to your gut or your wisdom within takes practice. Write down any ideas that spontaneously pop into your head.

Have any questions about this week’s post? Write a response or send me a message!

Aloha, Lara