How do you handle challenges in your life? How do you face your fears? Do they control you or can you step back & look at them with reason & rationality? Sure we don’t always have time, or the energy, to be clear headed and well-meaning for ourselves. If we consider our patterns & the way we face challenges then we can begin a process of transformation from reactivity to responsivity.
There is no doubt we are continually faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges during the course of our lifetimes. Sure, you can say ‘I’m ok. My life is smooth & relatively stress free.’ Great. Good on you. I am genuinely happy for you. Just a quick word of caution though – don’t get too comfortable! I’m not saying don’t relax & enjoy the good times – I’m simply highlighting that at some stage, somewhere, somehow, we will be faced with challenges that completely take the wind out of our sails, throw us off our course and even change the trajectory we thought we had set for the rest of our lives.
There are some folks who have a relentless onslaught of challenges and some manage their way through time after time. Sadly some cannot cope & make decisions that affect their lives and the lives of those who love & care for them. As a younger person I had the capacity to meet challenges head on. This strong trait of mine, to attempt to force challenges, face them and cut them off before they got the better of me, was great. This tactic worked, or so I thought, for a number of years until I realised it was no longer working & I had to change the way I took on challenges in my life. So I went to the opposite end of the scale & avoided challenges conveniently telling myself that I didn’t need any of the associated fallout from challenges. I moved to a pattern of indifference, procrastination & retreat. Not an inspiringly productive way to live life and certainly no life lessons provided in there!
Delving into personal process & group work exposed my pattern, not only to myself but also to my peers. I could no longer hide & pretend everything was smooth & seamless – far from it in fact. I was a walking time bomb ready to explode, at any time, to the smallest, unknown & insignificant trigger. Add health issues to this walking, experiential timebomb and my very existence was challenged deep to my core. The way I viewed life, my attitudes, how I engage, connect, give, receive, love – – – everything I thought was solid, unmovable & impenetrable were thrown into a mixing pot of chaos for reconsidering & rearranging.
Learning how to step up, accept responsibility, participate & fully engage in my every day was one thing to discover. Unlearning what I thought was true, good & right was another thing. Deciphering which challenges were important, significant & necessary for me to take on & which to side step is an ongoing learning curve. My base of beliefs & ways of being were challenged by forces outside my control & I had to let go. This was my own personal free-fall. Had I not embraced & let go of my need to control I would have been tied up in knots far greater than I could ever imagine.
Presenting a workshop, solo when I was supposed to be co-presenting, was yet another big decision. My friend & co-presenter was prevented from travelling due to her own health challenges and I was to represent both of us. I held an ancient story, that I am not a presenter & until I know more I can never share what little I do know. Yes I know it’s a rubbish story – but that’s exactly what these little pieces are that hold us back & prevent us from meeting challenges and potentially growing & learning more about ourselves & our capacities.
Transformation – (To Stay & Face My Fear or Run Away & Give Fear Control)
I did not want to do the presentation as my fear, and the old story, were in the driver seat and I was a mere passenger, convinced there was a way out of this. My inner chicken was roaming free range in my brain scattering nonsense that everything would be a disaster and better not do it at all rather than have a disaster.
Here’s the rub though – the presentation was about ‘transformation & change’ (as was the theme of the conference) and we had spent many hours working on & refining our presentation. I couldn’t let my friend down & I realised I would also be letting myself down and remaining in my pattern of denial. Make no mistake, I was afraid to my core yet if I didn’t face my fear I knew I was accepting complacency, indifference and defeat by my fears.
The conference & the presentation came & went so quickly and surprise of all surprises it was not a disaster. There was some lovely feedback which encouraged me to have a little more faith in myself. As a result I now have greater belief in my capacity and my ability. Yes, I still have nerves around presenting and sharing my knowledge but the crux of this is I faced a big fear, performed a task I believed was an impossibility for me & learned more about myself in the process.
What if I hadn’t stepped up? What if I had allowed my fear to control me? I would remain in my self-perceived ‘safe’ zone, learn nothing, deprive myself & others of experiences. Dishonouring myself & giving full permission for fears to control me. After all, fears are not reality. They are perceptions of what may be. They are certainly shaped by our experiences & our view of our world but they are not reality. They are old, stuck beliefs that can prevent us from facing challenges and thus reduce our chances of transforming.
Almost every day we are faced with fears. They can vary in degrees from us not even noticing a shift in our day to completely debilitating us. We all have a choice point when our fears sneak up on us – or belt us over the back of the head as some of them can tend to do. Sometimes it’s really difficult to choose a new way to respond so we react. Reacting is simply acting as we have done before and nothing changes from that old method! If we take control, notice we have choice we can choose to respond in a different manner than we have done previously. This small act of kindness and gentleness to ourselves can offer us new ways to view ourselves, the situations which challenge us and potentially begin to transform the way we cope in future.
How to begin a process of transformation?
- Begin with small steps – one task/issue at a time and please begin with smaller less challenging ones. Don’t try to take on everything that challenges you in one sweep – it is a recipe for failure.
- Expect to stumble and know that you can try again and again and again – practice helps get you where you want to be
- Don’t have expectations so big they cannot be achieved – we set ourselves up to fail when we do that
- Ask for help from someone you know has your back and will encourage you when you need it
- A quote from Samuel Beckett that helps me retry & try again & again “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Again. Fail better”.