How to Embrace ChallengesThere are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its reward is that it’s easy. ~Unknown
When I was younger, struggling to form bonds with my peers and muscle my way through the turmoil that is adolescence, I always pictured my life ten, twenty, thirty years down the road like an enjoyable trip down a lazy river — one that flowed effortlessly, guided by the wisdom I had gathered throughout the years.
I looked forward to the day when I could reach a plateau and things would come easily, because I had strength, knowledge and an abundance of resources at my disposal. I would be married with kids, surrounded by love that would never evade me.
To me, with age came certainty, stability, ease and grace. I thought that all of the awkwardness that comes with growth and change would be a thing of my past.
So, as I entered my twenties, I spent a great deal of time searching for “perfection” in my personal and professional life, believing that the only way to curb the constant upheaval from growth and change would be to find the relationship and career that would make everything else fall into place.I thought that if things weren’t easy they weren’t right.
In many ways we were all lead to believe that this is the way life works, we grow up memorizing fairy tales with a distinct and unoriginal ending–one that always involves happily ever after. We then set off in pursuit of a similar scenario, utilizing energy from today to create a tomorrow that will most likely never look like a scene from a movie.
We believe that the idyllic life we seek is out there, and we shouldn’t have to bend and mold what we already have to make it that way. After all, looking outside of ourselves is always easier than creating change within ourselves.
Perfection was at the forefront in my search for a partner, and I still find myself in deep inner debates over whether another relationship would be better suited to me, easier for me to handle.
The truth is, my relationships has a way of bringing up my junk — all of the things I would like to sweep under the rug, all of the attributes I wish weren’t mine, all of the beliefs I would rather not claim. It exposes who I am, and can, at times, leave me feeling raw and vulnerable.
In other words, it’s far from easy.
When I was in college, I decided to change majors a few short semesters before graduation in order to pursue a degree in an area with less certainty and fewer job prospects.
Now, when I’m cursing my inability to buy a house or fund a retirement account, I think “It would have been much easier to be doing something else right now. I wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of stress.”
But as I grow into a more adult version of myself, I know something for certain — life doesn’t become easier with the passage of time, we simply become more equipped to accept challenges with ease and grace, and apply the lessons we’ve learned to do better and be better next time.
When I was swimming through the intense despair brought on by an unexpected breakup, I had brief flashes of one very clear thought: “I am grateful for this experience because I know I will be a different person when I reach the other side.”
While that experience was easily one of the toughest of my life, it did help mold me into another person — one that was able to greet adversity with strength, release expectation and fully understand the power of letting go.
When I start to entertain thoughts about what would make my life easier, I try to turn my thoughts to the benefits of greeting challenges with an open mind and heart.
1. Being well versed in challenging situations makes us more open to expressing gratitude.
People who have dealt with great adversity in their life have a better grasp on the miracles present in every day life. It makes them more present in the moment and willing to allow the trivial problems we all face to fall to the wayside.
If we are open to experiencing challenges, we can fully appreciate when life is smooth and the waters are calm.
2. The greatest rewards are offered to those willing to take largest leaps.
The reward you receive, whether it’s in the form of money, pride, or mental clarity, will only ever be as big as the risk you were willing to take. And risk is rarely ever attached to anything easy, anything that doesn’t require stepping out of what’s comfortable.
While I didn’t make the conscious decision to experience heartbreak, the growth I experienced in that situation matched the depth of the struggle I endured. It wasn’t an easy path, but the peace of mind I experienced at the end wasn’t something I would have found on an easy path.
3. The more we dig through our junk, the more we become complete versions of ourselves.
We often avoid tough situations in relationships because we don’t like to see certain aspects of ourselves, and we have a hard time accepting all facets of ourselves. Yet, the more we dig and uncover all that we seek to avoid, the deeper and more satisfying our relationships become.
In addition, if we are only willing to accept and share the parts of ourselves we are most proud of we cannot be well-rounded and complete. This in and of itself is exhausting.
Only when we are willing to dig, examine and understand what we try consciously or unconsciously to cover up can we become authentic versions of ourselves.
4. Accepting challenges allows you to live life in the flow.
Allowing life to flow through you instead of trying to push, pull and drag it in a certain direction invites positive people and circumstances to enter. This means accepting the idea that challenges are an essential part of life and forcing an easier outcome can often make life more challenging than it needs to be.
Often times rough spots lead to abundance and a deeper sense of fulfillment — things that taking the easy route don’t offer.
My life in its current state is a steady stream of challenges and less-than-comfortable situations. Underneath it all, I know that these circumstances are priming me for a push towards life experiences I couldn’t have imagined for myself. And that makes it all ok.