“Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give it.” ~ Tony Robbins,
Let’s face it: we’ve all dealt with countless problems throughout our lives. These are problems that can come and go as quickly as our next thought, or stick with us long enough that we’ve forgotten their origins yet still see no end to them.
If our emotions dictate our behaviors, then I’m sure many of us are facing all sorts of problems right now. How many of us have cursed in public, sunk our heads between our hands, raged at an inconsiderate driver, slammed the door as hard as we can and locked ourselves in isolation?
I admit I have done all of those things and more in the past.
That’s not to say that today I no longer encounter problems in my life—I just deal with them differently than I used to before, because I’ve come to believe that our choices and actions has brought us to where we are. To find out how I utilize problems to create a much more favorable outcome, then I invite you to please keep reading.
Here are the two main ways that I approach problems:
1) Change the meaning and create an empowering one; or
2) Keep the meaning and use it to boost my self-awareness of pain and pleasure.
Changing the Meaning
I’ve looked at problems as a vehicle for pain that has put me in situations I have absolutely no desire to be in, such as an unwanted circumstance that adds resistance and potential harm into my life. This is usually how I know I have a problem. Knowing a problem exists is important because change doesn’t happen if we are in avoidance of our reality.
I remember an event almost ten years ago when I opened the driver door of my parked red Nissan only to be met with the deafening crash of a public bus violently colliding with the side of my car. Luckily, I was still inside with all limbs intact, for only a moment sooner I would have been scattered across the road.
Almost immediately, I did something I normally wouldn’t do—I assessed my situation instead of reacting to it. My thoughts ran like this:
“This is my present situation now, I can’t change the past but I’m safe and unharmed…”
As opposed to my Ego-talk, which would have gone something like this:
“OMG, my car is ruined, how am I going to afford to fix this—why did this happen to me?!”
The latter conversation did cross my mind but only briefly, but it was quickly replaced with a more empowered version.
That was the day I realized I had a choice.
The day I took 100 percent responsibility for my circumstance was the day I took back my true power. From then on I also realized that whatever situation I was in, the meaning I give to it would determine the quality of my life.
As a life coach, I’m presented with people’s problems all the time. Part of my job is to change their perception of a problem into something that will assist them in moving forward to achieve their desired outcome. But wishing a problem to simply disappear and moving away from it is not the best solution simply because what we focus on is what we will manifest in our lives.
For example, I used to dread that my car would break down every time I drove it, so low and behold, it kept breaking down. I used to hate seeing letters in my mailbox and as a result, I received bills and more bills.
I was in the pattern of looking for what I didn’t want in my life.
So I changed my perception. I would write “Thank You” on the bill every time I paid off what I owed.
Soon, the things that I wanted started magically appearing.
Having problems has also taught me one of the most important things in life—gratitude. I just needed to change the meaning and shift my focus by looking for the things that my problems have afforded me rather than what they’ve taken away. Being stuck in traffic means I still get to cover a huge distance in air-conditioning comfort with my favorite music playing, as compared to a many less fortunate who has to walk hundreds of miles in barefoot every day.
Sometimes, problems are not as big as they seem. We usually make them out bigger than they actually are and it’s a good chance that someone out there will have a problem much bigger than yours and mine. Some self-awareness can help put a lot of things in perspective.
Keeping the Meaning
Because I can associate problems with pain I can utilize this meaning to give me the self-realization, awareness and even courage to make important decisions. Problems have helped to reveal my highest values.
I also learned the importance of making mistakes because it shows me how to be more ambitious and strive to be better so that I can overcome the bigger obstacles. As a result I would break past the limits and beyond what I thought was even possible.
Once we are clear on what we want, the next question to ask is:
“Why is it a problem for me if I don’t attain this goal?”
I visit my truth every day and I have asked myself this question many times. I’m simply giving myself a big enough reason to go after my goal. In other words, I make it very important to me and I don’t allow my excuses outweigh the desire. The trick is, if you can imagine the unbearable pain of not having what you want versus the great pleasure you would receive by having it, you can begin to defeat the inner dialogues of: “Oh, it would be nice to have it”, or “Maybe someday…”, or “When the time is right…”
There is a certain pain threshold that we can handle so that when it reaches that threshold, it makes us more aware, more accountable and pushes you to take action. Have you ever said to yourself in the past after a prolonged state of contemplation, sadness or depression, “That’s it, I’ve had it. I’ve had enough, I don’t want this problem anymore and I want to do something about it”?
So where is your threshold? How much can you take before you finally tell yourself that you’ve had enough, that you’re going to change your life and make it happen this time?
Having said all of this, I don’t need to look for problems to make my life better, in the same way that I no longer chase happiness. I learned that in order to create flow and well-being into my life, I just focus on what I want and if problems arise, then I do my best to learn from them. I allow them into my life instead of pushing them away and I can open up to my vulnerability because I’ve found that in weakness comes true strength.
Imagine a life with no problems—there would be no challenges to make it exciting and it would make for a dull existence. We wouldn’t have many interesting stories to tell!
Problems can bring the world together, groups and communities bond to share a common experience. So the Universe works for us, not against us, by giving us these “problems” but we can either let them use us or use them to create amazing lives for ourselves.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Mark D. Flores
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo Credit: Celestine Chua at Flickr