The Secret to Minimizing Worries about Your Challenges

The part 4 of “How to Enjoy Challenges” deals with something we all experience from time to time — a problem threatens your plan.  You start to worry about the outcome you desire, and that anxiety makes you the challenge as an enemy — something you view it with hate and contempt.  How do we turn this around, so you can embrace challenges with more positive attitude?

The third way a challenge deflates you is when you perceive the problem as a threat to your plan.

Many of us plan our future.  To what extent varies from person to person, but most of us in “developed” societies have to have some kind of plans.  But life being what it is, there are all kinds of twists and turns — and your plans may or may not come to fruition.  Your faith, or attachment, in your plan determines how you handle unexpected challenges.

My Carefully Laid-out Plan

With my recent challenge, it certainly changed my plans.  I was preparing a business plan to submit to a banker, and discovered that my accounting had a problem.  I didn’t have any appointments or deadlines to submit the plan, but I most certainly had a timeline in mind.  This was going to have to be adjusted.

Any time when things don’t go according to the plan, it’s easy to feel anxious.  I most certainly did.  I was coming close to an end of a contract I was working, and I needed to figure out my next step as soon as possible — and the business I was proposing was the next step I wanted.

So when the problem arose, it was easy for me to be upset and threatened.  A delay meant more potential for lost income and prolonged uncertainty.  The fact that the business plan had flawed financial components could possibly mean that my whole plan was invalid.

Do You Really Know What’s “Best?”

But here is where your plan needs to be questioned, and rightfully so.  How do you know your plan is “the best?”

To ponder this, let me share another personal experience.  This current business is not the first business I have tried to launch.  I have had a go at it at least twice before, and failed.

The first time was 5-6 years ago, when I tried to start a computer repair service.  At the time, I knew next to nothing about running a business.  I just thought that if I took out an ad in the Yellow Book and applied some of Guerrilla Marketing tactics, I would have a business.

I could not have been more wrong.

Not only did my Yellow Book ad generate no leads, but I discovered that I hated fixing computers while charging an hourly rate.  The few jobs I did, I felt rushed and uncomfortable, as the clock ticked and my client’s cost grew.  After only 2-3 months, I ceased operation and pretended that I never started it. Financially, I lost like $2000.  Emotionally, it was a miserable failure — I felt stupid and incompetent.

But looking back, I am certainly grateful for the experience and what it taught me.  Had my business been successful, I would have hated my own business, as I didn’t enjoy fixing computers and charging hourly rates.  Ever since this experience, whenever I take on any freelance projects, I always charge on per-project basis and not hourly.  I just want to take my time to do the good job and not have to keep watching the clock to minimize my client’s cost.

When I set out on that business, my plan was certainly to succeed.  However, the problems that made me change my plan, actually for the better — to get out of that business before I poured any more time and money into it — were the best things that happened to my ill-formed plan.

Stop Playing God — You Don’t Have to

By saying that your carefully laid-out plan is the best for your life and future, you’re pretending to be a god.  You’re putting value judgments on something you don’t know anything about, which is your future.  Obviously, this is a very insecure assumption.  Even the most educated guess, based on thoughtfully analyzing the past, is still a guess.  You feel threatened by challenges and problems precisely because you’re basing your values on an insecure ground.

Let’s all pause, take a deep breath, and accept this one truth.

You and I are not a god.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

….and that’s OK.

Why?  Because all of us possess the power to rise above our challenges.  To gain from the learning opportunities these “problems” present.  When a challenge forces you to postpone, alter, or even abandon your plans, embrace it with arms wide open, instead of resisting it.  Because that change may well be the very best thing that can happen to you.

Challenges Are Opportunities

Time and again, I come back to the realization that challenges are opportunities.  Just like a blacksmith has to hit on his metallic creation with a hammer, so do all of us require all the knocks and bruises to chip away at excesses and ill growths.  Pruning is another example — you don’t just grow sporadically in all directions, instead you focus your growth for the better overall health of the plant.

If a challenge forces you to abandon a plan, that’s actually good.  Your intention was not standing on a strong enough foundation and would have died sooner or later anyway.  If a challenge forces you to change your plan, that’s good, because your resulting plan has the opportunity to be better and stronger for the change.  The fact that it survives strong oppositions means your intentions are rooted deeply and securely, and that you can have more confidence in your vision.

In all scenarios, challenges have the potential to do good in our lives.  It’s only our reaction to them that can do us harm.

So the next time an unexpected problem or a challenge threatens your plan, take the opportunity to reflect and evaluate.  Is my plan really the only way to achieve the desired outcome?  What are the reasons why changing a plan feels disappointing to you?  Can your plan withstand the change, or will it die?  Which path is beter — do you know?

Open your mind up to the limitless potential that lies in this uncertainty, and get the most out of your challenges.  Whether it’s the “best” or not, you can decide, later.

What Was Your Experience?

Have you had occasions in your life where you had to change or abandon your plans because of obstacles, and the outcome turned out better than you expected?   Please share below.


  1. Ari, Another great post. Because of the way my life has been, I really do have this feeling that things are going exactly the way they are supposed to. I have definitely come across obstacles in my life, which changed the course of what happened–which I ultimately feel shaped my life in a more positive direction. The experience that comes first to mind was when I was accepted to Harvard University for graduate school. This was my dream–to go to Harvard–but the cost was a huge obstacle for me. Every time I sat down with the numbers, I could not make them work–not without incurring a HUGE amount of debt, which, as an older student, I hated taking on.

    I contacted the advisor at Harvard and asked him about funding–and he told me that they didn’t guarantee any funding but that they would ‘try to help me find work at the University while going to school and that some grants or scholarships *might* be available. A week later, I received a an acceptance letter to Penn State–not my first choice of schools but a very good program, nonetheless. They offered me *full and guaranteed* funding. My entire PhD paid for! Not only would tuition and books be paid for but I would also be given a living stipend, which was a huge dream also. I was so torn–I really wanted to go to Harvard but Penn State would allow me to finish graduate school taking out no additional loans.

    I ended up going to Penn State–which altered my path–but it also altered it in a way where I truly do believe in a more positive way–because through that course, I not only got my degree, I met my (now) husband, who really is the love of my life.

    I believe we are placed on a path and along the way, we are given signs or directions in which to go–sometimes we listen to our heart and sometimes we don’t. I believe if we listen to our hearts, we will rarely go down the wrong path.



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