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Are You Avoiding Your Challenge?

Truth and feeling. Whether we realize it or not, these two things set the stage for our life’s experience. There are ideals, beliefs and circumstances we encounter that we cannot change. Also, there are emotions, sentiments, and depth of being that, at times, we cannot escape from. How do we marry the two and, more importantly, do we need to?

We live in an age where our best interpretations of truth depend largely on how a truth or situation makes us feel. If something makes us feel revered, in control or happy, then we like it. If something challenges us, makes us feel scared, tired or overwhelmed, then we tend to avoid it. As a general rule, this is fine, normal even —  call it an evolutionary pre-wiring from our hunter-gatherer days — but there is also a problem here. If we’re always looking for the path of least resistance, if we only decide to use our feelings as a barometer of success, then we could be stunting our growth.

If something makes us feel revered, in control or happy, then we like it. If something challenges us, makes us feel scared, tired or overwhelmed, then we tend to avoid it

Professionally, relationally, personally, there are times when we won’t come out as the winner. We’ll give more than we’ll get. We’ll wait longer than most. We’ll end up with empty hands. And we need such challenges, for if everyone always got their way we’d live in chaos, not in harmony. The key is in knowing when to let the challenge pull rank over how we feel about it.

When do we avoid the challenge? First, know this: any situation that’s degrading, abusive or against the law should never be endured. Challenges in life should help quicken our character, not harm or lessen it, so ask yourself this question the next time you’re facing something you don’t enjoy: What am I sacrificing in the midst of enduring this?

If the answer is your worth, your dignity, a priority that matters to you or something that you otherwise couldn’t get back later in life, let your feelings weigh in here. Listen to them. Intuition often tells us what others can’t — and our intuition is often impartial, meaning that it may tell us something we don’t want to hear or would disregard for lesser things. This is when we must look within to know the difference between challenges that mature us in a good way versus those that bend us around the wrong. Just because some things in life are hard doesn’t mean they all need to be, and if we’re only enduring something to save face or prove a point, it’s time to humanize a bit. Allow your feelings to have a say.

Intuition often tells us what others can’t — and our intuition is often impartial, meaning that it may tell us something we don’t want to hear or would disregard for lesser things.

When do we endure the challenge? Likewise, the question of sacrifice also reveals a lot here, and again, our intuition plays an important role. If a challenge is forcing us to face our pride, expand our worldview, hold our tongue, or to otherwise root out something, let the challenge have its way. We’re not born with patience; it’s something we choose to weave in with our personality and certain experiences. Challenges may require more time with patience at the loom.

A broken arm needs a cast to set it straight. Tomato plants need stakes to grow and produce fruit. Sometimes — most times — we need a little help to reach our best self, and those experiences that we wouldn’t necessarily choose have a way of touching the parts we can’t reach. There are those hard lines that remind us of our edges, they’re the finite along which we can continue to expand. Don’t we want to be more than we think we are? To believe that our lives can be just as adventurous, purposeful and beautiful, even when they don’t turn out exactly as we imagine? All challenges are a sign of striving, of enduring, of charging forth through what’s narrow and wild. Though distinct, we don’t have to pick sides when it comes to feelings and truth. If we view them both as guideposts to a richer, more thorough experience of our one, precious life, then we won’t want to.

By Nicole Ziza Bauer