Transformation – Can It Come From Challenges?

How do you handle challenges in your life? How do you face your fears? Do they control you? Or can you step back and look at them with reason and rationality? We don’t always have the time, or indeed the energy, to be clear headed and well-meaning for ourselves. However, if we consider our patterns of behaviour, and the way we face challenges, then we can begin a process of transformation from reactive to responsive. I believe this can be quite helpful, given the current world climate we are facing. 

There is no doubt we are continually faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges during the course of our lifetimes. This year has certainly proved that, thanks to Covid-19!

In the past, many of us would have said, “I’m ok. My life is smooth and relatively stress free.” Many of us also wouldn’t. It does pay never to become too complacent with our stress-free thinking. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is 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!

So, what do we do? Humans, by nature, are resilient beings. We need two draw from that inherent quality to get through the challenges ahead, coming out the other side stronger, more open to opportunity and altogether stronger. This is the very nature of transformation. 

Reality Check

There are some folk who have a relentless onslaught of challenges and some manage their way through, time after time. Sadly some cannot cope and make decisions that affect their lives and the lives of those who love and 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 and I had to change the way I took on challenges in my life. So, I went to the opposite end of the scale and avoided challenges, conveniently telling myself that I didn’t need any of the associated fallout that resulted. I moved to a pattern of indifference, procrastination and retreat. It was not an inspiringly productive way to live life, and there certainly were no life lessons provided there.

The Opportunity

Delving into personal process and group work exposed my behaviour patterns, not only to myself but also to my peers. I could no longer hide and pretend everything was smooth and seamless. It was far from it in fact. I was a walking time bomb ready to explode, at any time, to the smallest, unknown and insignificant trigger. Add health issues to this walking, experiential time bomb and my very existence was challenged, deep to my core. The way I viewed life, my attitudes, how I engaged, connected, gave, received, loved… everything I thought was solid, unmovable and impenetrable were thrown into a melting pot of chaos for reconsidering and rearranging. 

Learning how to step up, accept responsibility, participate, and fully engage in my ‘everyday’ was one thing to discover. Unlearning what I thought was true, good and right was another thing. Deciphering which challenges were important, significant and necessary for me to take on and which to side step is an ongoing learning curve. My base of beliefs and ways of being were challenged by forces outside my control and I had to let go. This was my own personal free-fall. Had I not embraced and 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 and 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 and 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 and prevent us from meeting challenges and potentially growing and learning more about ourselves and our capacities.

Transformation – To Stay And Face Fear or Run Away And Give Fear Control?

I did not want to do the presentation as my fear, and the old story, were in the driver’s seat. 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 and change’. It was the very theme of the conference! We had spent many hours working on and refining our presentation. I couldn’t let my friend down and 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 and the presentation came and went so quickly. And of course, it’s no surprise – 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 and learned more about myself in the process.

What Ifs?

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 and deprive myself and others of experiences. I would have dishonoured myself and given 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 and 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. Never more so than current day. They can vary in degrees from us not even noticing a shift in our day to completely debilitating us. I would imagine we all fall into the latter from time to time these days. It’s understandable, however, 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 on how to feel, we can choose to respond in a different manner than we have done previously, and we can transform our lives this way. 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 tour transformation and 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”.
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