Thursday, July 12, 2012

The BEST FRENEMIES: Turning challenge into opportunity

We've all heard phrases like, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" and "love your enemies."

I think the same can be said, metaphorically speaking, for challenges and setbacks. We loathe them... we avoid them... they're the f-ing devil!!!

But what if they weren't all bad? What if "challenges" were the ultimate FRENEMY? What if "setbacks" were just opportunities in disguise?

What if embracing them... even loving them a little, allowed us to live fuller and freer lives?

Most of us fear suffering, and we work incessantly to create our lives in ways that avoid it like the plague.

It doesn't feel good when we're in it, but it's just our body's way of telling us that something isn't right... something needs our attention... something needs to change. 

If you think of it from an evolutionary standpoint, it's like survival mode. We sense the threat of danger and make moves to adapt.

The old "fight or flight" instincts get triggered, and we want to defend and attack or run away and hide.

So really, challenges and setbacks are there to protect, prepare, and empower us... if we do the work required to not only get through them, but to get the thing they're there to teach us.

It's not always as obvious as you'd think, so you have to really look. And in looking, you might not always like what you find. But once you identify where the work needs to be done, you can take action around that.

The beauty is that really seeing it this way is a powerful tool that allows us to accept that what's happening is a natural part of the ebb and flow of life.

Doing that allows us to then figure out a way to deal with the circumstances powerfully, instead of spending all of our energy resisting it.

Swimming with the current instead of against it allows us to evaluate and react from a place of strength and empowerment instead of fear, worry, and upset.

This is NOT an attempt to "positive think" your way out of problems.

It's actually a tool you can use to step back and address whatever needs to be dealt with so you can be better equipped for survival.

Life will never be perfect and neither will we. There will never be a space in which everything goes right all the time.

Sounds like common knowledge, but a lot of us (consciously or not) still buy into the illusion of control on some level.

That was one of the biggest challenges I faced in getting to a better place.

I used to get frustrated when, after making progress, something would happen that sent me spiraling back to the same old space. I would wonder what I did wrong.

I finally realized some very important things:

1- We can't control outside circumstances no matter how equipped we are.
2- It's not our circumstances we need to manage, it's our reaction.
3- Acceptance vs resistance, is the best way to regain strength and deal powerfully with things when they go down. 
4- Acceptance doesn't mean defeat. 
5- Seeing the opportunity and taking action will move you forward.
6- Something feeling bad in the moment doesn't necessarily mean it is. 

The best personal example I can think of is my decision to move home. I was pretty devastated and depressed about it at first. I saw the move and myself as a complete failure. I judged myself as harshly as you can imagine... all day, every day. I spent every ounce of energy up in my head, in panic mode, overwhelmed by my circumstances. After a while, I had nothing left to create something new for myself. No strength, no clarity, no motivation, no life. In a nutshell, no MOJO.

I couldn't see how counterproductive it was at the time, but I was literally suffocating myself with worry. After doing some hard labor on myself (and still doing it), I learned to let go and accept that it would all be ok. And over time I saw amazing opportunities in this so-called setback.

It was an opportunity to step away from all the things distracting me and address what I really needed to work on. It was also an opportunity to discover what I really wanted, to fulfill my dream of traveling to Europe, to create a new business, to create this blog, to reconnect with old friends I grew up with, and especially, to build an amazing relationship with my mother and grandmother.

I had already been close with my mother, but there is a closeness and understanding now that never would have occurred if I hadn't moved back home. I also had next to no relationship with my grandmother. There's always been love, but never closeness. There's a language and cultural barrier that kept us from sharing anything more than superficial, almost scripted conversation.

She's come to stay with us every other weekend over the last year, and we now share a bond that was never there and would've never existed otherwise. I now know that she has a fully functioning sense of humor, she likes the Kardashians, and I even know some phrases in Arabic. She's 85 and the only grandparent I have left, so it's especially meaningful to have had this time with her at this time in my life.

I now look at the challenge of moving home as a necessary opportunity... one that has given me so many gifts, and has also strengthened and prepared me for the life I really want for myself.

Where can you see opportunities in your challenges? If you don't see any, look closer.

I've learned to love all my challenges. I make them my BEST FRENEMIES.

I expect them and I do my best to embrace them... because I know they're leading me someplace bigger and better than I am today.


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