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Why does life seem to be so hard? Why must it be so challenging?

We ask questions like these, but we usually ask them when times are most difficult. We rarely ask when we are in the flow and times are good.

Beth and I have found it helpful to look back at challenging times. That’s how we’ve come to realize that the challenges were both lessons and opportunities. It’s not easy to see, but those challenging times define who we are. With each struggle, we have choices.

How we react puts everything into perspective

Our first choice is to decide how to react.

We can choose:

  • To accept the situation or fight it
  • To recognize the struggle as an opportunity or see it as a setback
  • To embrace the opportunity and move forward or wallow in the past

All we experience is a reflection of our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. The challenges we experience do not occur by accident. They are not random or a form of payment or penalty levied by some external power.

Many of us choose to fight and see the challenge as a setback to be overcome. We choose to focus our energy on the challenge, not on the solution or outcome. By rehashing and replaying the challenge, we bring more of what we don’t want to us – the very things we are trying to eliminate or fix.

If we choose to react to our challenge by accepting it as an opportunity to move forward, the path forward can become clear. We become open to different possibilities.

When Beth and I first moved to the SF Bay Area, we tried to buy a house. We’d lived in many cities in the US and had already bought and sold several houses. We usually moved as part of a corporate relocation. We considered ourselves experts at coming into town, quickly scoping out neighborhoods, finding a house, and making an offer. We become very efficient at buying and selling houses.

We soon learned in the Bay Area, that’s not the way things are done. You essentially bid on houses. We were one of 9 bids on the first house we submitted an offer. It was in a great neighborhood and had the big yard we were looking for. It was an ideal place for us and within walking distance of coffee houses and parks.

We did not get the house and it really hurt.

For the next several weeks we were devastated. How could we have lost out on our dream house? We followed our agent’s suggestions and felt the house was ours. We were experienced buyers. It was so perfect.

Unfortunately, we continued focusing on the house we missed and saw it as a setback.

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want!

After a while, the pain of the loss went away. I remember resigning to the fact that we might have to rent for a while longer. The rental house was actually pretty nice. It was in a great location and we could easily walk to restaurants. The commute was okay. We became more satisfied with where we were. We choose to let go of the house we lost and the need to buy one right away.

We let go but didn’t give up. And that’s when a better house showed up! It was walking distance from the house we missed out on, but even closer to restaurants and parks. It was even better.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how it all worked out for the best, but during the challenge, we could only see that losing the first house was something to overcome and fight through by nursing our anger and frustration.

Understanding the power of our thinking has changed how we view challenges

If you choose to change your thinking in difficult situations, here is what you can do:

  • Recognize what happened was on purpose – nothing is an accident
  • Unconditionally accept it for what it is – try not to get too attached
  • Put together an action plan to move forward – staying open to new and different possibilities

We use these powerful steps regularly to continue thinking in a positive way. They work for us and we are sure they will help you too.