Challenges are demanding. And when you can’t accept what it’s demanding of you, you can go into a denial, focusing all your energy on how reality shouldn’t be this way. In this installment of the How to Enjoy Challenges series, let’s look at what happens when you get stuck in the world of shoulds.
Challenges often come in the form of problems. And problems are most often interpreted as something undesirable, a disturbance to an otherwise good state of being. It’s easy to fall in the trap of thinking that a challenge is something that should not be there, and any dealing with the said problem should not be required of you.
When you have a hard time accepting the existence of challenge to begin with, any possible solutions to it all seem undesirable. And this line of thinking can spiral down into a massive state of denial, one in which the problem is bad and all solutions are worse.
Let’s take my recent challenge as an example and see how such a mindset reacts.
Refusing to Accept Leads to All-Negative Mindset
Problem: my business plan’s financial projection does not follow proper accounting formats.
- Go hire an accountant to help me -> it’s costly, and it would take time to figure out the right accountant to work with. I don’t want to do that — it’ll bog me down and slow me down even more.
- Go get a software that’ll do the calculations for me -> do I have to buy it? I thought I was almost done! I have to learn how to use a new software. Again, it’s costly, both time- and money-wise.
- Go to a local business planning center and ask for a consultation -> which means I have to admit my mistakes, plus I have to take time out of my busy days to get there physically when it’s open.
- Talk to a local SCORE counselor -> see all the reasons above. How would I know that I get someone who can actually help me with my problems? Making a new request to see a counselor can take days to get processed by itself! I want this problem fixed right now!
…and on and on. You see, how all the arguments appear semi-logical, yet they all come from a negative, this-should-not-be-happening kind of attitude. If you indulge in this too much, you’d eventually get to this:
- It’s just too much for me to solve this problem. None of the solutions are any good. I’m going to go hide in the corner and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. I wish it’d just go away.
Accepting instead of Resisting: Byron Katie’s The Work
All these negative view points stem from one fundamental truth: you believe this problem should not exist. That’s why none of the solutions sound good to you, because you’re basically dealing with a challenge that cannot be welcome in your life.
Your inability to accept reality for what it is — and instead spending a lot of your emotional energy focusing on the conflict between what is and what should be — is draining your resources.
If this happens to you, I highly recommend you check out an inquiry process simply called “the Work” by Byron Katie. Her site offers great insights, but at its core, it is simply a series of questions that are designed to help you examine your interpretations and resistance to the reality. Ask yourself:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react, or what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
And after you answer each of the questions — then you turn it around.
Let me use my accounting problem as an example and go through the process:
Belief: I shouldn’t have to solve the accounting problem in my business plan. They should just accept what I’ve done, in my own way.
- Is it true? Of course it is. I was following examples, but the formats they used really didn’t fit my business. I should have been able to use formats of my choice, and they should understand me.
- Can you absolutely know it’s true? Well — all right, no, I understand why it happened. I’m not an accountant, and I don’t know anything about accounting. But I’m going to talk to bankers and investors — people who speak this language. I can’t expect them to all the sudden abandon that and speak my language.
- How do you react, or what happens, when you believe that thought? I really feel discouraged, dumb and insecure. Like I don’t know what I’m doing — and worse than that, I know people can see that I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s terrifying.
- Who would you be without that thought? The person I was before I encountered this problem — confident and optimistic. Full of myself, in a good way. 😉 I was very excited about pursuing my business.
Turn around: Actually, realizing that my accounting had a problem was a huge blessing in disguise. I realized that problem before I showed it to the really important people. Basic accounting is a knowledge I must acquire if I want to operate any business at all, and this is a great opportunity that forces me to learn. Not being an accountant never meant that my business vision was invalid, but armed with this knowledge, I’m actually increasing my odds of success.
You see how the final conclusion is so accepting, affirming, and encouraging? By inquiring my beliefs and turning it around, I opened my arms wide and accepted the reality: there was an error in the financial projection. By embracing the reality, I was able to then re-interpret it in a way that was empowering and energizing.
How Overcoming Challenges Strengthens You
With my particular problem, once I accepted that it was an opportunity, rather than a threat, I eagerly embraced my challenges and made the necessary investment of time, effort and money to overcome it.
In the particular case above, I actually applied all of the solutions I thought of. I didn’t buy a business plan software, but I did go to a local business planning center and used theirs to check my numbers. While I was there, I had the counselor there look over my financial plan. I also got in touch with a SCORE counselor and got feedback from him. Finally, I went and paid for an accountant to consult me on the best ways to present my financial plan. And on top of all that, I got a couple of books from the library to further educate me on the language of accounting.
How did this affect me? In exchange for extra time and delay, I gained tremendous confidence, both from deepening my understanding of the subject and assurance from my advisors that when my final plan conformed to the standards and that it was sound. I no longer have the problem, and my position is stronger than where I was before I discovered the problem.
Embrace Your Challenging Reality
As you can see, challenges are great opportunities. And they are facing you everyday, everywhere you turn, begging you to come overcome them so you can become bigger and stronger. Do you feel silly for cowering in the corner and pretending they don’t exist? You should — only harm will come out of that.
I’m not saying that you have to tackle all your challenges at once. Some are bigger and more overwhelming than others, and you need to pick and choose your fights — both when and how — according to your resources (time, money, energy).
But leave no doubt in your mind: challenges are to be embraced, not run away from. That’s the only way to live, if you wish to live happily at all.