Overcoming Challenges

Overcoming Challenges. Psychology Fanatic article header image
Overcoming Challenges. Psychology Fanatic
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We look for truth in a jingle. A quick phrase that feels good. We continuously hunt for a magical ointment to soothe. We are distracted by grand promises of greatness, requiring little but offering the world. Raised by the half-hour sitcom, thirty-minutes problem solving, we seek the same. Overcoming challenges requires work. Simple solutions don’t work in the real world of complex systems. Many obstacles take weeks, months or even years to resolve. Perhaps some irritants are relieved by removing a single thorn—but most discomforts stem from more, requiring multiple treatments, and prolonged recovery.

​The felt experience has a variety of factors; not readily resolved—or even known. A simple jingle may offer momentary hope, but the catchy rhyme doesn’t replace constructive work.

“All things are difficult before they are easy.”

~Thomas Fuller

Science supports the effectiveness of positive mantras. Pondering positive mantras isn’t straight bunk. But a positive mantra—by itself—isn’t enough. Good feelings inspired by a rhyme relieves anxiety, but some anxiety is necessary for planning and motivation. Dismissing all anxiety, we may find that along with the worries also goes our motivation to change. No Worries, Be Happy. But bills still need to be paid, lawns mowed, and spouses loved.  Overcoming significant life challenges requires more than positive thoughts. we must engage in real work with an effective plan.

Remember Your Successes

When life difficulties overwhelm, we may recite a mantra to give us strength. However, we also have a history. We have overcome life challenges in our pasts. These memories strengthen our resolve and motivate effort. Shashi Dubey explains “even when a new challenge arises that we believe impossible, remember all the times you thought you could not overcome something” (2020).

“Achieving massive success always means very big sacrifices.  If you are not prepared to make big sacrifices, you are not prepared to achieve big successes.”

~Auren Hoffman

We become great through the way we handle our challenges. We are in this magical process of becoming. Our challenges are essential to this process. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, distinguished professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University, wrote, “most people add to complexity in more modest, less spectacular ways. They are the kind of people who have learned to derive spontaneous joy and deep satisfaction from living their lives.” He continues to describe their path of development explaining that it didn’t come “from gaining riches or honors, but from the very process of living, from developing skills and overcoming challenges—from being a part of the evolutionary process that leads to higher levels of harmonious complexity” (2009, Kindle location 3,880).

Fighting Inclinations to Take Path of Ease

We must courageously fight through impulses for constant pleasure and ease, willing engaging in the blandness of establishing new behaviors and habits, persisting through the challenges of trial and error as we find new footing in a better life. IN order to overcome challenges, we must awkwardly stumble through uncomfortable changes during the weeks, months and years of developing new habits while abandoning old ones.

​As we travel, new insights emerge, new adjustments must be made, and unforeseen difficulties will arise. New practices initially require constant attention but with repetition become automatic; freeing resources to address other changes. If a jingle motivates during these processes, then whistle away.

We can move wherever the wind blows, not worrying about tomorrows; or, as I prefer, direct our own path, securing marvelous change by attending to our lives. Our lives are perfectly imperfect. Imperfections may discourage, and that is perfectly okay, just keep going, curiously examining life. Our personal tower of Babel will never reach the heavens. The construction is never completed. But each new window adds light, each door adds accessibility, and each floor adds perspective.

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Dubey, Shashi (2020). How To Overcome Life’s Obstacles. Thrive Global. Published 2-12-2020. Accessed 6-13-2023.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2009). The Evolving Self: Psychology for the Third Millennium. HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition.

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