Embracing challenges enables us to navigate life adeptly, circumventing hurdles which may hinder physiological, psychological and spiritual progress.
We are constantly faced with situations which take us out of our comfort zones. It may be attending a function by yourself, not knowing anyone else there… and you are an introvert. Or it may be losing a job or simply the prospect of losing a job.
Perhaps you are awaiting the results of a medical examination; you play a variety of scenarios in your mind: “I have cancer…or diabetes… or high blood pressure…or a heart condition”… and the list goes on.
It could be the devastating news of the death of a loved one. Divorce may be on the horizon. Maybe you left home blissfully unaware of dramatic circumstances that would soon unfold: a robbery or an accident.
Such negative news could have been received personally; alternatively it may have been relayed through another person directly or by different types of messages (written, text) or by a telephone call. It may have been obtained through a newspaper article or a television programme or even via the Internet.
Whatever the situation is, it takes you out of your comfort zone; out of that sphere of life with which you are most familiar and with which you are most capable of handling.
If you are a fan of athletics you may be aware that when winning times for certain events such as the sprints, hurdles and long jump, are announced, mention is made of the wind reading. There are two categories of wind reading: a positive reading resulting from a “tailwind” or a negative reading resulting from a “headwind”.
A “tailwind” is one which assists the athlete. It exerts a push from behind the athlete and enhances his performance. Up to a given maximum, a “tailwind” is legally accepted; beyond that maximum value, the result is illegal and does not count for record purposes.
A “headwind” is one which creates resistance for the athlete. The athlete moves in one direction while the wind blows in the opposite direction. All headwinds are considered legal.
Today as I was running I was reminded of these two terms: “tailwind” and “headwind”.
I used a different venue for my usual evening run. I was asked to meet my nephew after an event at a local mall in South Trinidad and then take him to my mother’s home. It was more convenient for me to run at a nearby ground in San Fernando called Skinner Park than close to home, so that I would be on time for him.
The Park has a field which is widely used by Southerners for walking, running, football practice and games and also for socializing or “liming” as it is referred to in Trinidad.
Running in one direction around the field, I faced a mild tailwind.
Running in the opposite direction left me feeling as though I was in a hurricane zone: the headwind was tremendous. I was being pushed backward almost literally (perhaps not eating properly today could have contributed to that).
What was I to do?
I could have stopped running. However that would have upset my running goal for the week.
I could have tried to push harder to keep moving at the same pace. This would have left me depleted and unable to complete my daily running goal.
I could have adjusted, and did adjust, my stride so that I was able to move more slowly along that portion of the field. In this way, I was able to accomplish my goal and save some energy by adapting to the conditions along the different areas of the track.
When we are dealt with circumstances that upset our equilibrium in life, what do we do?
Do we stop doing all that we set out to do? Do we pretend that we are superhuman and fight and struggle unsuccessfully against those upsets? Or do we adjust our internal meters, reset our goals and circumnavigate around the obstacle?
To be able to stand tall, with your character strengthened and your dignity maintained, I propose that it is best to select the last option.
Initially you may have to stop doing some activities which become beyond your new capacity. You may need time to come to terms with the situation. The time needed for grief and eventual acceptance of the setback is unique for each individual.
This is an essential step before anyone can overcome any type of challenge. Some persons need very little time; others need days, weeks, months or years. It does not make you inferior to someone else if you need more time than they appear to need.
Like in the story of Cinderella, no one else can fit exactly into your shoes. Your inherent traits such as personality, your experiences, your beliefs, values and faith, your position in life and your resilience are some of the factors which determine the size and shape of your proverbial shoe.
Science is now finding evidence that there is a secondary, chemical-based system which works along with the main central nervous system for relaying messages throughout the body. This secondary system uses large molecules to translate emotional experiences into physical symptoms or signals.
This means that emotions are not experienced only in the brain but they may also trigger biochemical reactions in almost every system in the body (https://experiencelife.com/article/emotional-biochemistry/). It supports the mind-body connection; what affects the mind does seem to affect the body.
The point is that you should not allow anyone to minimize your grief or the time you need to heal after an experience that was traumatic for you. As I already said, it may have been a missed deadline or a broken relationship and it may have been traumatic for you.
So there will always be some kind of challenge in life. We have to be prepared for such challenges and go through a process of grieving, customized for our unique situations.
My only qualification for the grieving process is that you be mindful enough to know if and when you need professional help.
However, once you are past the grief stage of a trying experience then acceptance of your current situation will step in and you will be ready to take responsibility for reassessing and resetting your goals.
The real challenge is not in avoiding the hurdles of life but in being able to recognize them for what they are: catalysts of change. It is in being able to embrace those obstacles which stand in the way of the path that you selected for yourself and using them to sidestep to another path.
Great insight is gained when the curved ball thrown at you is used to your advantage. The greatest gain comes when you are able to discern that the ball was curved to divert you in a different direction.
A curved ball sends you on a spontaneous journey; a journey that is unplanned and unknown.
Such a journey could be postponed if you live in denial of your fate, of the circumstances created by your trouble or trial. Postponed but not cancelled. Rest assured that no matter when you do decide to embrace the challenges of life, you will once again resume the journey for which you are called.
The challenges life deals to us are meant to steer us in the direction of our personal spiritual journeys.
I see it as a cycle: we face challenges which help us to mature spiritually; our spiritual maturity then helps us to cope with further challenges. The cycle repeats until the final destination of our spiritual journey is on the horizon.
Are you aware of your spiritual journey? Have you taken a conscious decision to embark on such a journey? Do you need to rejuvenate and resume your journey?