690th Week: Meeting Challenges

I had an experience recently where a colleague brought to my attention that three years’ worth of postings to one of my websites had never actually shown up for the pubic. I mentioned last week that I post a daily inspirational quotation and photograph to the Devadana Sanctuary Facebook page, and I also post it to the Devadana Sanctuary website. What I discovered is that the posts to the website were incorrectly programmed by me and never appeared…

This discovery happened on a work evening and I found that I had 16 pages of additional inspirational quotations and photographs to figure out how to post. One of the things I have learned in my years as a digital immigrant is that what to do with computers isn’t intuitively clear and I have to learn step by step. The saving grace has been the presence of google and YouTube, where I can find instructions for just about any challenge I may have. Within a couple of hours, I figured out what to do and got everything posted and published. What struck me was the attitude I brought to the challenge and that’s what I want to explore with you here.

I remember a time when this kind of situation would have created anxiety, tension, and overwhelm in me. Was I tense? Absolutely. Was I overwhelmed? No, and that’s what caught my attention. Over a number of years of having to learn things about the computer than I never thought I’d learn, I’ve discovered that each challenge is a matter of gathering enough information, making enough mistakes, and allowing myself to remember that there is a solution somewhere. I’ve also developed the attitude, long and hard won, that it doesn’t really matter, that most of what I feel has to be done, doesn’t really.

For this week’s experiment, I invite you to explore how you meet challenges that come up along the way. For sure, some of them do matter and do need to be done correctly right away. But, for many of us, not knowing how to do something creates a kind of pressure that forgets that most things can take their time to come together. It has seemed to me that a big part of this kind of pressure is the quality and tone of our internal self-talk. Mine has softened a great deal over the years, so I don’t tend to add as much internal pressure as I used to.

As you play with this week’s experiment, I invite you to pay particular attention to your self-talk and to become aware of which kinds of self-talk helps you meet challenges more effectively and which kinds of self-talk actually add to your inability to discover what is needed. So often our self-talk comes from earlier stages of development where we may not have been physically or psychologically able to meet a challenge but, now, as an adult, we are competent enough to do so. This earlier kind of self-talk tends to have an either-or, good-or-bad, and black-or-white kind of quality. A more updated quality of self-talk tends to have access to both-and thinking, which is more likely to give you access to a range of options.

Also, it’s helpful to track and accept mixed feelings. Where one part of you may be quite fluent in supportive self-talk, there may be another voice that brings self-criticism. With awareness, you have an opportunity to bring the supportive dialogue to the foreground and notice that the critical voice is way back there, somewhere in the background. I particularly like one of the Buddhist meditation practices where, when something painfully familiar pops up, all you need to do is say, “Oh, big surprise—here you are again!” Once you’ve acknowledged it, you can allow it to drop into the background of your awareness.

Whenever we face challenges, there are a number of opportunities, not the least of which is to generate new neurons in the brain as it responds to the novelty of the situation. Along with a chance to track and shift our internal self-talk, the benefits of learning something new or meeting a challenge help us build an internal “muscle” of deepened self-confidence and trust in ourselves.

As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat on the head any judgments that arise. Keep practicing how to allow these judgements to keep moving on through, which they will automatically do if they aren’t fed with struggle, resistance, or amplification.

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