(You are likely familiar with the saying that "Bad things happen in threes." While I don't define them as "bad things" versus challenges, at least not in retrospect, they do tend to cluster ... in threes, fours, fives and beyond as a matter of fact. A key reason for that is also explained below.)
Left unchecked – that is, without taking a conscious and calm approach – it seems my body's natural reaction to these challenges times is to want to dig in deep and work, work, WORK to overcome these challenges.
Indeed, left unchecked my body wants to drive hard for hours, days or even weeks if it could to "conquer" the challenges. Left unchecked, it sometimes even seems willing to allow me to get sick and possibly even die trying to conquer the challenges.
But of course that is the polar opposite of effective.
All work and no play do not only make Brian a dull boy, they make Brian a tired, cranky, sick, uninspired, uncreative, and unfocused boy.
There is no surer way, that is, to deplete your energy, destroy your upbeat mood, and demolish your productivity – no surer way to sabotage your success at surviving and indeed thriving at life’s challenges – than by struggling long and hard to overcome those challenges.
And yet that is precisely what most people do when life presents big challenges.
People forget what sustains them, strengthens them, invigorates and inspires them, and they instead dig themselves in a deep hole and struggle hard to "beat" the challenge.
But that is something like having insomnia and forcing yourself to spend night after night staying awake watching instructional programs on how to get some sleep.
What is most necessary to effectively confront life's challenges successfully is energy, peace of mind, an upbeat mood, clarity and creativity. And those are not nourished by constant struggle.
Indeed, life’s challenges are often made much more challenging, and additional challenges are invited in, when people forget to keep nourishing themselves – and during the challenging times in fact nourish themselves even more – with what strengthens, invigorates and inspires them.
So what energizes you? What gives you joy? What centers you? What do you do that makes you feel most alive?
In challenging times now, when I feel my body’s primitive desire to charge headfirst into a challenge and keep going, going, going till I drop from exhaustion and stress – and typically the challenge has only been made bigger – I consciously stop.
I consciously decide that in order to succeed at this challenge, I will devote a certain amount of time (that day, that week, that month, that year) to doing the necessary work the challenge presents.
BUT I will also devote a certain – and generous – amount of time to doing those things that increase my energy, improve my mood, and provide me inner-peace.
For me that can include having good conversations with people, reading novels, watching films or baseball, listening to music, playing volleyball, working out, dancing, singing, drumming, meditating, taking a walk, or writing a creative piece like this.
And I am far (far, far) more successful at the challenges for it.
In fact, most of the challenges don’t even have the same magnitude I otherwise give them when I forget to live and enjoy in order to succeed at them.
Here is an expression that people who get trapped into believing that work, work, WORK is the best way to meet a challenge will often respond with when they first encounter the ideas I just presented:
“Oh, that sounds nice Brian, BUT I don’t have TIME to enjoy my life with all the stuff I’ve got to do. I can't even get to all the stuff!”
Please pause and consider: that is no different than saying you don't have time to eat, drink or sleep with all of the stuff you've got to do.
The key is remembering that the most important way to increase your energy, improve your mood and improve your productivity, and therefore succeed at your challenges, IS to commit to doing what replenishes, centers and inspires you.
It IS time better spent than virtually anything else you can do when confronted with challenges (in addition to getting proper sleep, nutrition and exercise.)
So try it.
In what are very challenges times for many people with the battered economy, ask yourself what most energizes you, centers you and makes you feel most alive.
To remind yourself to focus on this sustenance, write your answers down and locate them where you will routinely see them – above your computer monitor, above your mirror, on your refrigerator or car dashboard.
Then commit to doing them.
And remember: the greater the challenges you believe you face, the more you should do what sustains, energizes and inspires you to effectively meet those challenges.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A lot of people right now can likely benefit from the insights in this article. Think of anyone you know who could and please pass this page on to them. :)