Imagine you’re playing a game, the game of life. You’re standing in the middle of a many-laned road facing the traffic. The cars are coming toward you. These are life’s challenges. There are many challenges in life, such as finding a job, raising a child, breaking up with a partner, choosing a career, and so on. How do you choose to face life’s challenges?
Facing life’s challenges
Life presents us with many challenges. A child has to learn to walk, to speak, to socialise, and to become an adult. An adult then has adult challenges like getting a job, getting promoted, becoming a manger, and becoming a CEO. That’s just for the domain of a career. There are relationship challenges, personal challenges, and so on.
Passing challenges doesn’t mean that life gets easier. Passing challenges means we move up to the next level to solve even bigger challenges. For example, getting promoted in your job means having more responsibilities and having more people under your charge. After finding a partner, we then have the challenge of staying together and possibly raising a child.
One way to meet life’s challenges of course is to do nothing, and wait for challenges to hit us. It’s a passive approach, the equivalent of standing in the middle of the road and waiting for oncoming traffic to hit us.
For example, if we stay in a dead end job and never find opportunities to grow ourselves, our jobs will one day be automated, and we will find ourselves faced with the challenge of being made redundant.
Perhaps we also did not save money for retirement, so when we retire, we face the challenge of having not enough money.
We take the approach of doing nothing when we are generally resigned about life and about our abilities to overcome challenges. We no longer believe we could fight and win over life’s circumstances. So we choose to give up and stop fighting.
Life doesn’t make much sense. We experience it as a series of random events or even calamities. We may easily feel confused and overwhelmed when big problems appear. It seems we have no control over what happens to us.
Our level of responsibility is low. We externalise all problems, feeling that life just happens to us. We might blame external entities for our life situations. For example, we may become a keyboard warrior, blaming the government for water price hikes and foreigners stealing our jobs.
We feel trapped and fearful. There’s a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. We are unable to face life’s challenges powerfully.
There’s another way of meeting life’s challenges. We keep our eyes open and anticipate the challenges coming for us. We prepare for them.
Instead of waiting to become redundant at our jobs, we constantly learn and renew ourselves. We work to get ahead, making sure that we’re valuable and recognised for our contributions. We save money for our children’s education, we save money for retirement. We do all the right things become successful in the eyes of society.
Such a life might be one of constantly seeking stimulation. There’s a desire to gain more, and achieve “success”. There is a feeling of dissatisfaction, emptiness, and unease. We project this unease onto the external world, always demanding something from outside ourselves to satisfy us.
We’re afraid of being deemed worthless, so we focus our energies on achieving things and making ourselves look good. We focus on proving things – proving that we’re worthy, that we’re capable, that we’re good, that we’re right.
At the end of such a life, we look back and reflect. Yes, there were some ups and downs and we made some meaningful connections. We may have acquired power, fame, or wealth. We were esteemed by our peers, well-regarded by society.
On our deathbeds, a nurse would come along and ask us, “Do you have any regrets?” We would answer, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
In all that constant striving, we neglected what life was truly about. We hid away who we really were to fit in and gain recognition from society.
In such a life, we were unaware of our true selves, because we have suppressed or rejected who we really are in order to gain the love, approval, and acceptance we want from the external world.
There’s yet another way of meeting life’s challenges. We do not wait for challenges to hit us, nor do we simply prepare for challenges ahead. We create our own challenges.
Because we’ve found a value or a purpose or a motivation that truly matters to us, we stop being passively pushed around by external influences. It’s no longer about finding fulfilment outside, but about expressing who we really are.
We meet the challenges head on, even before we have to. We run towards the oncoming traffic intentionally. We foresee future problems and seek to solve them before they reach us.
To live an extraordinary life requires dedication, devotion, perseverance, discipline. It requires us to be in touch with our values and who we really are. We must have a direction, and a greater purpose.
In such a life, our work means something to us. Our work is not just a way to earn money or to gain prestige or fame or status. Our work is a reflection of what truly matters to us, of our deeply-held values. Work here is creative, it is play, it is an art. Work is how we express ourselves, how we serve the world, how we give of ourselves.
Instead of being driven by external rewards, we are driven by intrinsic motivations. We strive for mastery, for excellence, for self-transcendence. We constantly seek to break our limitations, to outdo ourselves.
The battle is no longer fought outside. The battle turns within. Can we overcome our fears? Put aside our doubts? Break our limitations?
Great actors, martial artists, chefs, spiritual teachers, sportsmen – anyone great who redefined their field, who pushed the edges of human accomplishment – knew they had to transcend themselves to attain mastery, to find the truth.
We walk our own path, gathering momentum as we run ahead, we reach great speed. Our lives become a dazzling glow, and inspiration and beacon of light for others.
Moving from doing nothing to looking forward
- Remember that life is not random. You have control over your life and your circumstances.
- Keep moving forward and keep trying. Seek to reach out of your comfort zone to learn new things and expand yourself. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Find hope. Don’t let resignation win. Seek out people and events that inspire and move you.
- Accept help from others. You may not have the answers, but there are people who do. Let them in, let them touch you and guide you. Be open.
Moving from looking forward to leaping ahead
- Figure out what is truly important to you. Find your values.
- Acknowledge your feelings and don’t run away from them. The more you suppress your feelings and deny how you feel, to more you remain trapped in the cycle of proving and demanding.
- Be vulnerable. It’s okay not to have all the answers. Do not conclude and tell yourself that your life is ‘fine’ and that everything is ‘okay’.
- Do not settle. There is more in life. Seek for truer answers within, through various forms like meditation or coaching or self-discovery and self-development programs.