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