I grew up reading a lot of books that elders deemed as a little too “advanced” for my age. But they didn’t take it from me but instead let me read it on my own. They later told me that they let me read what I wanted, as long as it’s still suitable for my age, because they wanted to see if I would take it as a challenge and finish it up to the last page. I picked up on some important insights that helped me live my life as I grew older. My favorite among all the books that I have read is Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie.
I clearly remember the way their eyes sparkled when I told them that that one was my favorite and the puzzled look they gave me after I told them why. It seems that what I learned from the book was not what they expected me to remember. Among all the wisdom that Morrie and Mitch imparted to the readers, the two things that stuck to me was when Morrie talked about dying and having a little bird on your shoulder that asks “Am I doing all I need to do? Am I the person I want to be?” and when he said “If you hold back on the emotions - if you don't allow yourself to go all the way through them - you can never get to being detached, you're too busy being afraid… But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.’”
Maybe by now, you’re wondering what those two quotes has got to do with how to overcome challenges. We face challenges, may it be big or small, every day. Sometimes, we don’t even notice that we are on the process of tackling a challenge because it already became a norm in our lives. It may come in the form of worrying about how to manage your time for the day, what to cook for dinner, how to stretch what little money you have left for another couple days, making a strategic business decision, or writing a paper.
It’s kind of odd how mundane challenges like that have the power to change all of us as a person, no matter how insignificant it seems. But we have to remember that all of us experience challenges in a different way. What may seem difficult for me, may come off as easy for you. And so we have to ask ourselves, what can we do to make tackling the challenges bearable? Can we find a way to make easier? Should we take it slowly or tackle it head on? No matter what steps we take or how long we take until we overcome those challenges, the end remains the same: we experience transformation along the way. The transformation caused by the challenges that we’ve overcome will not come instantaneously, we may have to go through a long process of digesting what we have learned.
So why did I start my essay with a quote? What do they have to do with how to tackle challenges? I use them as something to push me to continue to do my best to overcome the challenge when it gets too tough and I’m on the verge of quitting. I keep those quotes in mind when I wanted to quit college because I didn’t know how to deal with failed subjects, when I felt like I couldn’t juggle my academics and work life, and when my plans for the year got derailed.
The first quote is simple: I just have to ask myself if who I am at the moment is who I wanted to be. Am I happy with who I am and where I am? If the answer is no, then I ask am I doing everything I can do to get there? This is mainly for motivating myself to continue on.
The second, however, is focused on dealing with the pain and hardships that come with tackling challenges. It’s saying that we should familiarize ourselves with what we feel and have peace with it so we will be able to manage our emotions, get back on our feet, and walk hand in hand with those emotions and not letting it get the best of us. This has helped me when I’m struggling with the challenges that I have to face for as long as I can remember. It surely helped tackling every challenge bearable and easier to manage.
The outcome of a challenge may be satisfying or devastating, and the harsh reality of life is no matter our social, financial, or spiritual standing, we will have to tackle challenges one after another. The best thing we can do is to keep reminding ourselves that we have to live to fight another day and face every single one of those challenges with the strongest will and determination we can muster. We must not take our eyes off our goal no matter what challenge we have to hurdle to get there.
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Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson. New York: Doubleday.