How to Find the Lesson in the Life Challenge

by Stacey Curnow on · 8 comments

When my son, Griffin, started kindergarten, he had an interesting assessment of his teacher: "She's nice, but says 'not-nice' things."

Like him, I also noticed that she issued a lot of stern commands, and I had noticed that the teacher in the next classroom invited her students to do things in a friendly tone and used words like "Let's…" in order to elicit cooperation.

The two teachers have the same challenges (class size and makeup), but very different approaches – one based on authority vs. one based on partnership.

After two days in the "authoritarian" model classroom, I asked the principal if Griffin could be moved to the "partnership" model classroom. She was happy to do this, and the "partnership" teacher, Ms. Ferris, was happy to have him.

Now, I'm leaving out a lot details surrounding his first week, but suffice to say there were many (for me, tough) challenges. At one point my husband said, "It's great that the universe orchestrated things so that Griffin could be in Ms. Ferris' classroom."

"But why," I asked, "didn't the Universe conspire to have him in that class in the first place?" And my husband replied, "Maybe so you could appreciate the school more."

And so once again I learned that life's challenges always contain meaning – even a gift, if you are willing to look for it. I think wanting to have control over the outcome (and I face this most often in parenting) is rooted in the false belief that to make a mistake or to fall short of one's expectations is a bad thing.

It reminds me of a great quote, "You either succeed…or you learn." Whatever we're doing, we're either succeeding or we're learning, and either option is pretty great.

So today, if you find anything particularly annoying or upsetting, consider this:

Your current reality is not what's really upsetting you. In fact, the state of your emotions has aren't caused by the present situation, though the reverse is often true.

In Eckhart Tolle's (for me life-changing) book, A New Earth, he writes, "External reality always reflects back to you your inner state." I take that to mean that everything occurring in our lives is a result or reflection of our thoughts and feelings.

So if you don't like what's happening in your life, then the cause is something within you, not in external circumstances. In other words, you're the problem.

But that's no reason to despair! By creating such undesirable "circumstances," the Universe is actually doing you a favor. It's giving you an opportunity to take full responsibility for your external reality.

What's more, we can derive meaning from any experience — no matter how "bad" it is or how much pain it involves-if we're willing to look for the hidden meaning, or the gifts it's offering us.

You don't even have to figure out the cause of the challenging emotion or "fix" it. Just allow yourself to feel it, and see what comes up. The next time you feel a negative emotion, try the following approach:

· Place your palms gently over your eyes, carefully sealing out stray light. Allow your breathing to become steady and observe your thoughts and feelings.

· Try not to judge or react to your thoughts and feelings; just be present with them, and let yourself experience them, even if it hurts.

· At this point, you can also acknowledge and offer appreciation for the challenge that is playing a part in your growth and positive transformation.

· Now ask yourself, "What is this here to teach me? What is the possible gift in this situation?

Don't have time to do the full exercise? Then just ask yourself that last question. In fact, you might want to memorize the question and imagine yourself asking it the next time you're facing a challenge.

Finally, one gift you can always find in a negative experience is that it sharpens the contrast between what you do want and what you don't want, giving you an opportunity to focus more powerfully on your desires. (Which is another reason why it's important to carve out time to sit with your negative emotions.)

It sometimes also helps to acknowledge that any gifts that may arise from adversity might not be apparent to you for some time. After all, such gifts are almost always more obvious in hindsight. So at the very least, you can derive comfort from knowing that you can expect-very soon-to see the bright side, even if you can't yet.

What about you? What helps you find the lesson in the life challenge? I'd love to hear in the comments!

by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Richardson December 10, 2012 at 8:29 am

I needed this like a shot of b-12 for my soul!
thank you….going to close my eyes
and linger for just a moment:)
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Stacey December 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

Hey, Jennifer!

I’m so glad you were inspired to take a little mini-vacation for your spirit after reading my post!! That makes my day!
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chanikacha December 14, 2012 at 4:32 am

In life there will always be a challenge. The fact that this challenges need to be overcome we always need to have faith and do whatever it takes to live. Awesome Information Stacey!
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Stacey December 15, 2012 at 9:20 am

Hi Chanikacha!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment! I appreciate you!
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chanikacha December 17, 2012 at 3:28 am

Thank you Stacey! I really Love reading your article.
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Stacey December 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Aw, thanks so much for continuing the comment love, Chanikacha! xx
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Terie January 2, 2013 at 8:28 am

This is one of the best things I could have read today… Thank You so much for this little lesson. What amazes me is that these are things most of us know but sometimes we are so overwhelmed or caught up in the negative that we fail to realize that every challenge is a lesson and we can choose to succeed or fail. I am very optimistic but sometimes or there have been times when I feel like I’m never going to get out of a deep hole…guess what I get out and I’m stronger for it.

Thanks again, great post.
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Stacey January 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Terie!

I’m so glad that my post provided just the reminder you needed — and you made my day with your comment!

I’ve come to re-frame my thinking about failure so much that I’ve almost expunged it from my vocabulary. Now I tell myself there’s only success or…learning. 🙂

Bright blessings and massive success to you in 2013!!
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