There are always going to be challenges in life when you may not be certain about what your next step should be and as well there should be. It’s not the easy path that necessarily leads to a personally fulfilling life. We shouldn’t want life to be easier, but relish the challenge and grateful for the opportunity to grow. If you haven’t got a challenge, go out and find one because otherwise the universe will find one for you. And you might not enjoy that one so much.
You don’t develop mental toughness and emotional fitness when life’s easy. The first Noble Truth that Buddha talked about was that ‘life is pain’. At times it is, but suffering is optional. It’s our mental and emotional responses to challenges that make the difference. When the famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, faced the challenge of having his bike stolen, he responded by learning a new skill and honing that skill to such an extent that ultimately the missing bike became inconsequential.
If you are in a period in life when you have doubts, are frustrated, unhappy or disillusioned; the strategies and qualities outlined below are good tools to develop:
Solutions Focussed: We believe that people are afraid of change, but that’s not quite true. People change all the time to stay in the same place. If, for instance, you’re having a hard time at work and begin to feel frustrated, angry and eventually depressed, instead of doing something useful you may just try to escape the feelings temporarily. You might choose to feel better by buying a bottle of wine, kicking the cat off and slumping into your favourite chair to begin watching endless soap operas on TV.
These are all symptomatic solutions that don’t actually solve anything. The relief you feel is temporary and always has a negative side effect. You’ll become unhealthier, your best friend, the cat, may leave so you become lonely, you become less motivated to change anything because time and opportunities have passed you by and you begin to feel more powerless.
You’ll always know when it’s time to reach for the next level in life because you will feel
comfortably uncomfortable in your comfort zone.
Feelings of frustration, boredom and apathy begin to set in. Life becomes very much like a continuous re-run of the same dramas that you waste time watching on TV. It’s tedious and stressful but you become comfortable with this level pain. It’s deadly and is a one way ticket to an unfulfilled life.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe
Open up to the experience: Most of the time we try to avoid painful feelings triggered by a negative event. We have all these feelings rushing around our body and we don’t like them. We tend to chase immediate relief by resisting the feelings and ignoring the lesson. We build defenses so we won’t have to feel this way or that.
The counter intuitive thing to do is to employ what I call the ‘E-mind’ or enlightened mind. Embrace what’s happening but take a step back mentally and become the observer of all these thoughts, feelings and inner self talk without attaching any meaning. Lessons are repeated until they are learnt. So rather than rush in to fix life half halfheartedly, allow yourself time to truly feel the experience and learn what’s really going on, explore the whole experience. Similarly, if you’re helping a friend through a hard time, just sit with them and let them fully experience their emotions. Just be present with them and don’t make the mistake of trying to jump in there and solve their problems for them. (Listen up men!)
“The only reason why most people have not realized the inner realities is, they believe things that they do not know” ~ Sadhguru
Adapt: Challenges persist today because of the human inclination to adopt a state of denial in the face of adversity. So many of the systems we operate within society today are delusional. It’s natural when things are not working to blame this or that reason. But unless we accept reality, we will not be able to move towards solutions.
Life does go wrong and nobody is happy all the time. So always be willing to ask the difficult questions, face the truth and work from there.
Charles Darwin, the first person to write on the subject of evolution as we know it today, said it was not the strongest or most intelligent who are successful, it is the ones who are most adaptable. Bruce Lee said ‘Be like water’, and water doesn’t resist, it moves around, it accepts the barriers and its own limitations then works with them. Water doesn’t pretend they’re not there.
‘Research on people with ‘true grit’ is nothing short of astonishing. Having determination and perseverance is a higher prediction of success than intellect or raw talent. Perseverance and passion matter at least as much, if not more than other cognitive qualities.’
Resilience: There is nothing more inspiring than to hear of somebody overcoming challenges. Nearly all the great movies throughout history have been about people who’ve stayed the course, overcome challenges and transformed themselves in the process. It’s true that we’re all a product of our childhoods and environments, but we don’t need to remain victims of circumstances.
Resilience is often described as the ultimate art of living. It’s recently been the subject of lots of research and so far this has revealed that at the heart of resilience are a belief in oneself and also a belief in something larger than oneself.
Resilient people are defined by their adversities and succeed as result of their challenges. They don’t become resilient by standing still or staying on the ground when they’ve experienced a setback. They keep moving down the corridor of life, opening doors and searching for the answers. They look at bad times as a temporary thing which is not pervasive throughout their lives.
How much resilience is due to genetics is not really known and people do seem to differ in their inborn ability to handle life’s stresses. But resilience is a set of behaviours which can be learnt. A good start is to look back over hard times in the past and realise you’ve already shown resilience because you’re still here.
Then ask yourself what strengths you used that enabled you to pick yourself up and carry on. Having a great purpose is a big help. Also; lots of training on your talent imbues a sense of self mastery. That you believe that just by being alive you’re worth something, you matter and you can contribute to others.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt