In part 2 of the series “How to Enjoy Challenges,” we take a look at how we may associate fears from our past with our current challenges — and how such an association may inflate our perception of the problem.
In the previous post, I mentioned that my recent obstacle with my business plan preparation really deflated me. My plan was coming along nicely until someone pointed out that my financial projection was all out of whack because I wasn’t following proper accounting formats. This led me to a couple of weeks of fear-drive obsession in solving this problem. I was so consumed with this problem that I had a hard time thinking about anything else — I spent all my time thinking about how I needed this problem to be solved, or rather, I wished it would just go away.
Why a single obstacle would drive a grown man mad like that?
It’s because it tapped on a hidden fear I had.
Something Painful Happened in the Past
When a problem reminds you of something painful in your past, it’s easy to blow the problem out of proportion and make it seem bigger than it is.
For me, I’ve been wanting to become a musician ever since I was 16. But along the way, I’ve heard many “helpful” comments like “it’s a tough business to get in,” “you have to be super-talented,” “music is something you eventually grow out of,” and so on. Most were not designed to really discourage my pursuit, people were basically voicing various beliefs they held about an industry most of them did not know well. But I internalized such messages quite a bit. Couple that with other insecurities, and I learned to interpret such message as direct threats to my aspirations. What I was doing was illegitimate, and should not be pursued.
So when my adviser pointed out a flaw in my plan, I interpreted it as a sign that my entire plan was invalid and unrealistic and should not be pursued. Is that what he was really saying? Perhaps, but probably not. I wasn’t in a business to become an accountant — not knowing how to record my financial projections in a format that’s accepted doesn’t make me incompetent as an entrepreneur.
Connecting the Dots to a Bigger Fear
You see, the problem here was really not my business plan. I had this secret fear that what I was doing was invalid. Over the years I purged much of such fear, but pieces of it remain still — hence, the fact that I’m still not a full-time professional musician — and these fears look for reasons to justify themselves. Challenges and problems you encounter along the way, or rather, how you interpret them to be bigger problems than they are, are really signs indicating that you have an underlying, deeper fear.
Because I was so afraid that my whole plan was in shambles that I became obsessed with finding a solution. I suppose it’s good that I didn’t just cower in the corner and tried to hide until the problem went away by itself — I’ve seen such fearful reactions in other people — but it really became an all-consuming affair for a number of days. I couldn’t think about anything else, I felt insecure and compromised and distracted. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy myself.
Digging out the Root of the Fear
Once I realized that I was inflating the problem because I had an underlying fear, it pointed better ways for me to deal with it. From my past experience, I knew that obsessing on any problems actually contributes to the problem instead of solving it. I used EFT to purge my fear, I intentionally made myself focus on other things in life, and I worked to rescript some of my irrational thought chains. By “rescripting,” I pointed out flaws in my own reasons for feeling what I was feeling — mainly, equating a lack of accounting knowledge to the whole notion of how I shouldn’t be pursuing music as a career — so I worked on telling myself that it was illogical and I needed to believe otherwise. It definitely helped that the holidays forced me to take days off, talk to other people, laugh and relax a little.
Eventually, I relaxed and my confidence came back, as I sought logical solutions to my problems. I employed some software and consulted real accountants for their opinions. I’ve made an appointment with a CPA to check on all my numbers — and after that, I’m sure I’ll be able to move beyond of this particular challenge, having done everything I could to portray my financial projections in a standardized and accurate manner.
What Is Your Problem?
I firmly believe that most of us are creative and resourceful and when tasked with solving problems, we rise to the occasion and find solutions. But it’s only possible when we are able to recognize and assess the very heart of the challenge. It’s one thing to apply correct accounting procedures to a business plan. The only thing it takes there, is time and perhaps a little money (if I buy a software or hire a consultant). It’s quite another to prove to myself or anybody else, once and for all, that I am good enough to become a professional musician. I can’t begin to think how such a thing is possible in a quantifiable, objective way, without selling millions of CDs or something. The first problem is solvable. The second, near impossible. I sure would cower in the corner and hide if I really felt that the second task was what I needed to perform. But it wasn’t.
My music career mentor Tom Hess gave me this quote the other day:
The quality of your questions will determine the quality of answers. – Tony Robbins
The important question you have to ask here is: what is your problem? Be honest and truthful in your answers. Don’t let your challenges be more than they are. Or if you do discover an underlying fear, then separate that problem from the challenges at hand.
You Can Rise above Your Challenges
If you learn how to disassociate fear from your current challenges, then your problems will seem smaller and more manageable than they seemed. Solvable problems are exciting — because it’s easy to envision the fruits of the solutions, how it’s going to help you or make your life better. And each problems you solve add to your fundamental confidence as a human being. With each challenge, you are sculpting a better version of yourself.
Life can be full of problems, but there is no reason to feel discouraged. Take your challenges for what they are, and solve them one by one. That’s all anyone can do, and that is quite enough.