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:
- Something painful happened relating to a similar challenge in the past. So now you view the problem with fear.
- You just don’t see any positive outcomes to the problem.
- You have an eye on a certain outcome, and are worried/concerned about making it go that way.
- 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.