It takes something that challenges you to change you.
In other words, you cannot have true deep change without true deep challenge. It’s common that the intensity of the given challenge matches the opportunity for change. So, instead of burying your head down when things get tough, even though that’s a normal, human reaction, what if you decided to meet the challenge dead on?
When I meet people in the world, the individuals that have some grit, stories of difficulty and, ultimately have faced challenges that they have overcome, those are the people I find more interesting and feel more gravitated toward.
Why is this? Do I love the struggle? Well, yes and no. I believe that “the struggle” brings up material that allows you the opportunity to become better and grow.
Simply put: No challenge, No growth. You need to challenge yourself in order to change yourself.
What I’ve noticed is that when you go through struggle you’re pushed to build internal emotional muscles in order to get through the challenge. You have the opportunity to build interesting and solid character when life gets tough. I’m not sure when I’ve ever gone through a trying time and came out on the other end without having learned something significant. Challenge pushes us to learn. Period. As tough and unpleasant as a hardship could be, the truth is, it’s an opportunity to really grow your character for the better.
One of the most challenging times of my life was in my mid twenties. My heart was hurting…..badly. As bad as it has ever hurt. I felt my gut pointing me toward a different life, but I was stuck in mourning the one I knew in my bones I had to leave. Tough times to say the least.
I remember thinking, “I have to look at this as if I didn’t have a choice. I have to go in a new direction for my well being. It’s not an option to stay (in this life).” Although, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to stay. I wasn’t uncomfortable with my life. I was still in love with my long term boyfriend, but it was getting hairy. Staying in my job made practical sense, but I was becoming drained. What pushed me to leave was a deep feeling within of what I felt I “had” to do. I knew, with everything in me, that in order for me to evolve into who I wanted to be, I had to go away and create something very different in a different place with different people. I just knew.
I didn’t want this to be true, although I felt in my gut that it was the truth. I had to GO.
If I stayed with how things were going in my life; my intimate relationship, my job, the routine of what I did socially, etc., I knew that the same circular pattern of happenings were going to continue. Why would things change if I didn’t change things? I felt that the only way to really change my reality was to “do something different.” Something I had never followed through with doing before. If anything, a different path was going to lead me to a different way. I began to accept that I was not in control anymore. (Even though I never really was.) I let go. I knew that I was being presented with a fork in the road at 27 years old. Two different lives presented on each road. It was time to pick, so I chose the road of the unknown, uncomfortable and scary.
As hard as this time of my life was, I now define it as the most challenging, as well as the most pivotal time of my life. My follow through with packing up, leaving a relationship and a town I knew, and physically entering a new life, changed everything. (*Sometimes you don’t have to make such a drastic change, but in my case, it was necessary to do so.)
So, how do you do it? How do you get yourself to change something when you feel stuck, tired, scared and lost? Believe me, all those feelings were present when I changed my life, but the trick is: I did it anyway. The fear and “scary” were absolutely there hanging out with me, but I did it anyway. I didn’t allow myself to have any other option other than 100% change. I clearly remember the feelings surrounding me the morning I had a U Haul and my car packed up with my life. I felt uncomfortable out of my mind. I cried the first night in my new sh*tty apartment with no appetite, mice, a mini fridge with a broken freezer and tons of doubt about what I had just did. I had no job, no routine, no more long term boyfriend, and no more town that I knew.
Although, I did have tons of new possibilities that I knew would come my way because I made a clear choice to go after something different. I figured that something good had to come from being brave, right? As fearful as I was, this is the thought that allowed me to have hope and allowed me to trust that “something” positive had to come from my decision to point my life in a new direction. I trusted that with my everything. It’s the only thing I had to hold onto.
I know that it can sound dramatic and not such a big deal to pick up and leave. (Depending on who you are, it may or may not seem like a big deal.) For me it was more about the emotional space, heart break and confusion about what was occurring in my life at that time that created the perfect storm of personal struggle and challenge for me.
The whole point in sharing this is to say that I don’t regret for a second the choice I made a decade ago. That one distinct choice has created me to be who I am. I believe it to be one of the most defining decisions of my life. It also was one of the most difficult and scary ones. That one decision pointed me in so many other directions, both personally and career wise. That one decision continues to affect and create my life today.
One of the biggest challenges in my life is what has led to so many different changes and opportunities in my life. This is often the way it works.
Looking at change as a vehicle for growth instead of something that is scary and uncomfortable is a great starting point. Accepting that fear will be present when you take any risk or make any change is another truth to begin to get more familiar with. Good things do take work and challenge. Also, just because the change I referred to was drastic, it doesn’t mean that you need to make a huge change yourself to get different results. We all have different circumstances that call for us to make different changes and choices. Change can come by committing to small choices that over time create a different way.
Bottom line: Challenging yourself leads you to grow. Give it a go.
* This image was taken by me in Joshua Tree, CA.