You can’t have a hero’s journey without adversity.
After all, how satisfying would Harry Potter’s adventures be without Voldemort?
Or, how complicated would Frodo Baggins’ life be without the One Ring (or Sauron, Gollum, etc.)?
And what would Luke Skywalker be without Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker? (Trick question: Anakin is Luke’s father, so the answer is “nothing.” But you get the point.)
Other than death and taxes, one of life’s other absolutes is that we all will face problems and dark times. Though the tendency is to bemoan life’s challenges, would we have any wisdom, character, or achievements without them?
Turning Pain into Purpose
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” -Helen Keller
Some people who suffer great pain and injustice become devastated. Many never learn how to cope with their struggles. Others use food, drugs, alcohol, or sex as a form of self-medication, or become a victim to their tragedy, using pain as an excuse to hurt themselves or others.
It seems to be in our nature to complain about the hardships in life. Yet, it’s through trials that we can develop resilience and effective coping strategies. By overcoming obstacles and troubles, we can become stronger and better able to handle a variety of challenges in the future.
One of the best ways you can turn pain into purpose is to know your “essence.”
Discover Your Essence
“Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” -Dr. Christina Puchalski
Your essence refers to the passion deep within that stirs your soul. It can be described as your spirit and is often born out of frustration or pain. In fact, the Latin root for the word “passion” is pati, meaning to “suffer” or “endure.”
Your essence is connected to something bigger and more important than yourself.
So, what’s your essence?
Clear your mind and meditate on the following questions, or journal your thoughts and responses to them.
- Get in touch with past or present pain and injustice in your life. Where in your body do you feel it? Where does it hurt?
- Think about what you’re truly passionate about. What connection might there be to your suffering?
- What are you willing to suffer for? Write down the things you believe in so strongly that you would fight for them without concern about criticism or ostracism.
- Meditate or pray daily and focus on what you’re most passionate about.
- Ask yourself, “Why is the world a better place because I breathe?” If you aren’t sure, start journaling your personal skills, interests, and passions, and ask yourself what small step you can take today to make a difference, to create happiness and healing in the world.
- Find someone with passion, whom you respect, and ask them to mentor you.
- Find someone else to mentor. The most effective way to increase your passion for something you love is to mentor someone else and watch them grow. As they flourish, so will you.
Knowing your essence can better equip you to handle crises when they arise. Here are some other effective strategies for dealing with challenges in life…
10 Ways to Overcome Adversity and Remove the Obstacles in Your Life
1. Write It Down
Writing down your thoughts can get them out of your head so you can view them more rationally. Jot down any major issues you faced during the day. Writing in your journal about your challenges, and possible solutions can help alleviate the worries of the day and put you in a restful state of mind at night.
2. Don’t Back Down
Unless the situation is life-threatening, don’t ignore or run away from whatever is causing issues in your life. Like standing up to a bully, you must face the fear or concern directly, or it will have control over you and increase your stress and worry. Though there are many ways to tackle a problem, sitting on the sideline isn’t one of them.
3. Be Realistic
Goal-setting isn’t having a vague idea of something you’d like to obtain at some undetermined point in the future. Write down your specific goals in a calendar and then review them every day to make progress toward completing them.
Success comes much more easily if you set small and manageable goals. Setting realistic goals, that you can focus on daily, can help reduce stress and make a significant difference in your outlook on life.
4. Thought Stopping
An important part of gaining control over automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) is to become aware of them when they occur. When negative thoughts start to creep into your mind, envision a red stop sign, and say to yourself, “STOP!” The more you practice this, the more you will gain control over your thoughts.
“Your thoughts really matter. Left unchecked, ANTs will cause an infection in your whole bodily system. If you can catch them at the moment they occur and correct them, you take away the power they have over you.” -Dr. Daniel Amen
5. Stay Positive
Though easier said than done, staying positive is essential for maintaining physical and mental well-being. Begin each day with words like, “Today is going to be a great day.”
Such a simple sentence can cause your brain to look for ways to fulfill that affirmative statement. It also establishes a healthy thought pattern that you can continue throughout the day.
6. Learn to Let Go
Accept that you can’t control everything. If you’re holding on too tightly, you might be causing yourself unnecessary stress, which can only make your problems worse.
There are plenty of things in the world right now you can’t control. Feeling a lack of control over a concerning or frustrating situation can increase your stress levels. Training your brain to think about the things you can control, and not about the things you can’t, can help relieve anxiousness and provide a more optimistic outlook.
7. Quality Connections
Social connections are incredibly important to your overall health and well-being. When you’re faced with a problem, seeking advice from a friend or family member can be an important step in helping you overcome the obstacle. It’s recommended that you surround yourself with people who are upbeat, kind, and who have proven themselves to be trustworthy allies during difficult times.
8. Break It Down
If working on all your goals at once becomes overwhelming, set up a hierarchy. Select a few things you absolutely must accomplish, several things you want to complete, and many things that would be nice to finish. Not only will this pyramid structure allow you to focus your time and energy on the essentials, but it will also help to reduce the debilitating pressure of trying to juggle so many objectives at one time.
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” -John F. Kennedy
9. Laugh It Off
Aside from making you feel good, laughing provides many health benefits, not the least of which is to relieve tension during hard times. Another perk of levity is that laughing releases stress-reducing endorphins into your bloodstream. Laughter truly is the best medicine…it can work wonders in relieving stress and helping you deal with life’s challenges.
10. Reach Out for Help
Though isolating yourself during tough times may feel like the safest option, closing yourself off from the world can intensify your feelings of grief and loneliness. Resist the urge to shut out the individuals who can offer you encouragement and support.
Talking through your problems is an absolute must. Reach out to friends and family members and let them know when you’re emotionally overwhelmed. Seek professional help if necessary, but don’t fight your battles alone.
“Those things that hurt, instruct.” -Benjamin Franklin
Though they’re seldom enjoyable in the moment, challenges can actually produce long-term gains in your life. How you handle those obstacles largely depends on your mindset.
So, wherever your hero’s journey takes you, always look for ways to turn roadblocks into stepping-stones…it’s what Messrs. Potter, Baggins, and Skywalker did.
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