How to Enjoy Challenges: Introduction

Happy 2009!  We’re going to kick-start the year with a series on how to turn discouraging challenges into motivating ones.

This morning in Minnesota, it was 6 degress (-14C).  As I walked out onto the icy pavement, I felt the familiar tingle on my cheeks. This winter has been colder, snowier and harsher than the average in recent years.

Minnesota isn’t the coldest inhabited area on this planet, but still, I can’t help but feel amazed that so many of us live in this harsh climate.  I’m a lucky one.  I have a down coat, -40F boots and waterproof gloves.  The 10-minute walk to the bus station is all that is required of me.  I would say living in a cold climate has its challenges, but those of us who are here have learned how to thrive in this environment.  The climate is harsh enough so that people who don’t thrive in it really have a hard time living here.

As many of you know, my family all caught cold in December.  It was not a tragedy or even major trouble by any stretch.  We all managed to have a good time for the holidays.  But for us parents it was a long and draining month, which was busy and challenging enough without any of us being sick.  I unintentionally took the second half of the month off from blogging.  Decembers can be a very challenging time to begin with, but the overlaying of several challenges made it extra difficult.

Two Kinds of Challenges

Life is full of challenges, big and small.  Unless you’re on vacation (which you should be, from time to time) you’re always facing some kind of challenge.  Fundamentally, there are two kinds of challenges:

  • Motivator: they invigorate you and give you energy, and
  • Deflater: they suck your energy and make you want to go hide.

Commonly, it’s easy to think of all challenges and problems as deflaters.  People would rather not deal with them.  For me, kids being sick was such a challenge.  It was draining and tiring — a problem I’d rather not have.  I’m not saying I was lax in my effort to make them feel better.  But did I get up in the morning going “how am I going to make my sick kids better today?”  Nop.

But while being with sick kids may never be something you look forward to, every challenge is an opportunity for growth and/or improvement.  By looking at the potential every problem brings, you can start to turn a deflater into a motivator.

Why a Challenge Deflates You

Now, I realize that it’s easier said than done — life can be full of discouraging, overwhelming problems.  Some, it’s hard to see how it can be an opportunity.  Some, you’d get so worried about it, you can hardly stop obsessing about how to make it go away.

When a challenge stays stuck as a deflater, it’s an indication that you have a mental road block somewhere relating to that challenge.  There can be myriads of reasons, but here are some common ones:

  1. Something painful happened relating to a similar challenge in the past.  So now you view the problem with fear.
  2. You just don’t see any positive outcomes to the problem.
  3. You have an eye on a certain outcome, and are worried/concerned about making it go that way.
  4. You are overwhelmed with too many problems, and can’t take on any more.

There are undoubtedly more, but many fall somewhere in the vicinity of the above four.

An Overwhelming Challenge

Recently, I had a challenge that really deflated me.

As many of you know, I’m putting together a business plan that will set up a situation where I can make music and blog full-time.  My business plan was coming along well in early December, but then I hit an unforeseen challenge.  One of the people I’m close to and respect pointed out that the financial portion of the plan was really not following the proper accounting format.  He went on to point out that the numbers didn’t make sense and that a business plan with flawed accounting was an indication that I didn’t know what I was doing.

All the challenges relating to my business plan up to that point were motivators, but this was the first deflaters — I felt very discouraged for a while.  Accounting was a foreign language to me, and to have to learn it this late in the process seemed an overwhelming task.  But more than that, it uncovered a hidden fear I had beneath — which relates to the reason #1 above.  I’ll discuss that in detail in the next installment of this series.

Suffice it to say, I did eventually overcome the challenge and gotten back to the point where I was before I encountered the problem, a couple of weeks later.  I feel confident about my plan again, and I feel that my plan is stronger thanks to overcoming this obstacle.

Challenges Make Life Worth Living

On top of being cold and dealing with sick kids, I had the extra stress of putting all my hopes and dreams into one basket and having it get shaken badly — hence my absence from the blogosphere, among other things I missed in December.

But I am proud to say that I didn’t let them bend me out of my shape too badly.  I still walk out into the cold every morning with a grin on my face.  Having turned most of my challenges into motivators, I feel alive and excited to live, immersed in a life full of problems worthy to be embraced and solved.

When you learn how to turn challenges into motivators, you gain the power to thrive in any situations.  Over the next few posts, I’ll walk us through how I’ve learned to do just that.  Together, let’s see if we can unlock the secret to turning adversities into fuels and energies of life, insead of letting them suck life out of us.


  1. I guess that when I see the word challenge it will always remind me of my great entrepreneurial effort that did not work out as intended. Upon reflection, more than one individual has asked me if I saw the significance in naming it, The Challenge Center. 🙂

    Now that I’m more than a decade removed from the closing of that business I can see that it was the right name all the way around. Although initially life-shaking, my major challenge lead me to discovering coaching, which is more enjoyable for me than all previous enterprises. How time offers wonderful perspective on challenging issues. It’s all good.

    I’m real pleased to see that you have placed things in their proper perspective by boldly meeting your challenge.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work´s last blog post..Parlay Your Wisdom

  2. Happy New Year, Ari! I’m glad you were able to work out the problems with your business plan. Business plans have never been my strong point.

    I’ve encountered a lot of motivating and deflating challenges in my lifetime. The motivating ones are easy to really sink your teeth into, but the deflating ones are the things you just want to avoid. I’ve found that once I’ve overcome the deflating challenges, I’ve usually learned more from them than I ever thought I would.

    Lovelyn´s last blog post..How to Stick to New Year’s Resolutions

    1. Happy New Year to you, Lovelyn!
      “I’ve found that once I’ve overcome the deflating challenges, I’ve usually learned more from them than I ever thought I would.” You hit the nail on the head there. Some challenges feel deflating, and there’s a reason — I’ll explore more in the upcoming installments.


    1. Hi Lori!

      Yes, life can seem deflating to perfectionists. 😉 But it’ll feel deflating until they learn a lesson — not to be perfectionists! 😉 Like you said, we humans can be pretty resilient — and therein lies the step forward.


    1. Hi Jarrod,

      “It is only when we re-interpret that we make a real problem for ourselves”

      Exactly. Sometimes there are certain scripts at work that force us to interpret things in certain ways. At least I do. I can rationally interpret challenges as growth opportunities, but yet emotionally feel very threatened. And that separation can be a real drag. So I’m going to look at various things that may cause this to happen, to see how we can rewrite the script.


  3. Hey Ari….

    Wow, turning challenges into motivators – what a powerful thing. When you can apply this to areas of your life you will indeed go far. People who see only disappointment and failure never really get anywhere!

    Good luck with your business venture, and truth be told – you never know unless you give it a go!

    Ross´s last blog post..Make money doing what you love

    1. Hi Ross,

      Thanks! I suppose it is a powerful thing — I didn’t think about it that way — to me, only a well-challenged life is worth living, so I always thought of challenges as my friends. But other people may see them as adversaries.


    1. Hi Karl,

      Thanks! Yes, I made myself learn basics of accounting, and now I can’t seem to get enough of it! 😉 Learning the language of finance is a powerful asset. I always thought that accounting was boring, but now I wish I majored in it. 😉


    1. Hi Chris,

      I do agree that it’s a part of life’s purpose to know the truth about yourself. The more deeply we know ourselves, the greater potential we have to truly master our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. And those are the only things we can truly control in life.


  4. Pingback: Our Best Version | Disassociating Fear from Your Challenges

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