Have you ever noticed that you keep experiencing the same problems over and over in your life? I noticed this blatantly for myself when I saw a friend recently that I hadn't seen in a couple of years. As we had coffee and caught up on our lives, I heard myself recounting the same old story I had told her years ago.
I had been living in a different place then, and had a different job at the time, but here I was still talking about the same issues in my life. For me, the problems seem to always revolve around not having enough money. What’s up with that?
I've noticed that I’m not the only one who has the same recurring problems. I have friends who are independently wealthy whose perpetual issue is their unsatisfying search for the perfect home. And most of us in relationships have the same old fight, perhaps with a slight change in the details, year after year.
As I'm becoming more and more bored with my own broken record of the same old problems, I've been wondering why certain things never seem to change. Here’s my theory:
1. Problems need solutions.
Perhaps the reason so many of us have the same recurring problems is that we actually enjoy the process of finding solutions. I know I do, and usually I'm pretty good at it. Tell me the problems in your business, your marriage, or your relationship with your kids and I bet I can offer you some pretty savvy solutions.
It's always easier to see the clear path to a solution when the problem isn't your own. That's probably why I've always been successful as a consultant coming in and fixing problems in other people's companies or ventures.
But when it comes to solving the simple problem of money in my own life, I have been blocked. And this gives me an endless challenge to tackle. It keeps me on my toes as I’m constantly reaching for creative solutions. Could it be that, on some level, we actually enjoy the challenge our problems present?
2. A shortage of challenges leads to boredom.
Studies have shown that humans thrive when we have the right amount of stimulation. Too much challenge in our lives feels like stress—which has both negative emotional as well as physical implications. But too little challenge can be equally stressful.
Scientists have shown that eustress—a type of stress that feels motivating rather than daunting—actually helps us achieve our goals.
The trick to harnessing this phenomenon is learning to recognize when our internal scale tips from eustress to distress, and then pulling back the reigns on worry and anxiety before they take over.
3. If we never had problems, we would never learn and grow.
What would happen if my money problems were magically solved tomorrow? Would I come up with a new slew of troubles to focus on? Because a challenge-free life isn't only boring, I believe it is near impossible.
From the simple daily issues of how to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit to the mega difficult troubles some face such as poverty, hunger, and abuse, experiencing and overcoming challenges is an essential element in the human experience. Many spiritual teachers say that is why we are here.
But often, I am too focused on the problem to realize the solution. And that's when the challenge stops being fun. So my new goal is to try to see my own life as I would view that of an outsider’s. To remove the obsessive fixation which keeps me clenched in fear, and instead put on my creative solution hat.
4. Problems give us an opportunity to get creative.
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And how many of the greatest innovations in history were created in response to problems that needed to be solved? We are each as brilliant in our own ways as the world's top inventors—especially when it comes to the topic we know best: our own lives.
The real challenge is to recognize the patterns we are stuck in, and decide we want to do something to break the cycle. For me, this starts with an attitude adjustment. If I keep stressing about money, afraid that there will never be enough, I am not open energetically to the abundant solution which could be waiting right around the corner.
The energy of focusing on a problem is very different than the energy of focusing on a solution—one is fearful, while the other is hopeful.
5. We get to write our own stories.
I'm a writer, and that makes me a story teller—but in a way, we are all story tellers. Every time we talk about our problems, we are weaving a story that has energy and power to reconfirm what we believe, and thus create, in our lives.
While I was hearing my own voice telling the same old story to my friend over coffee, I realized my story really was getting old. If I was tired of hearing it, I'm sure she was too, and so is probably everyone else who is close with me.
But no one can make up a new story, and change the course of my life, besides me. Now that's a challenge I can embrace!
This post originally appeared on mindbodygreen as Why We Face Challenges + How to Overcome Them.
Dear friends, the message contained in this article is expanded on in my new book, The Joy Plan, releasing on 7/11/17. I wanted to remember how I found joy so I could do it again if I forgot, so I documented all the steps I took to transform my experience of life from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic. Although The Joy Plan is my story, it’s also yours. Because 30 days is long enough for you to form new habits, harness the neurobiology of joy, and radically upgrade your experience of life. It’s simple, it’s practical, and it’s something anyone can do. Think of The Joy Plan as a memoir with benefits: as the story evolves, the book provides a blueprint for creating your own joy plan. No matter what you’re currently experiencing in life, joy is possible, and it’s easier than you think. The Joy Plan is available from Amazon and everywhere else books are sold. Find out more at TheJoyPlan.com.