“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
The reason you fear obstacles is that you doubt your ability to overcome them. Obstacles are seldom the problem, it is our lack of power to conquer them that gets in the way. For example, have you faced a difficult situation in the past and worried you would not make it through? Recall the circumstances and how you felt as best you can. Now fast forward months from when it occurred and call to mind the same situation from a renewed perspective. Can you see how insignificant it seems from your current outlook? That is, we feel incapable of overcoming challenges instead of believing we will be ok. Perhaps it’s the element of surprise or the fear we are powerless to face the problem that scares us most.
It is what author and psychotherapist David Richo refers to in The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them when he says: “We worry because we do not trust ourselves to handle what happens to us. We worry because we do not trust that the way the chips fall will work out for the best. We worry because we have not yet said yes.” Therein lies the issue: acknowledging the obstacle instead of wanting it to disappear. I’m not talking about unexpected events such as a speeding ticket or your romantic interest not returning a text message. Whilst I acknowledge this may cause distress for some people, I’m talking about larger issues that call on our deepest inner strength. Saying yes to what transpires means leaning in to your difficulties even though it may look untenable on the face of it. However, if approached with an open mind, we will overcome it and gain valuable insights.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” — Dale Carnegie
Your inherent power is one of resiliency, determination and courage. Do you believe this power is available to you? Sometimes, we won’t know the depths of our power until we are tested. I have faced many challenges throughout my life including the death of a parent and coming to terms with a life-threatening illness. I didn’t realise I had the power to overcome those experiences until I had to. In the years that followed, I not only developed a greater strength of will, but the experiences softened me and I developed a humility towards life. I came to appreciate this entity called life is much greater than me. I came to look upon it with reverence and acknowledge that whilst I’m a small cog in the process called life, it functions perfectly irrespective of my thoughts.
Not everyone shares my outlook and that’s fine. I wouldn’t want to impress my views upon others because they are uniquely mine. I’ve met many people over the years who endured similar experiences and each person formed their own meaning of the events. Can you reflect on events in your own life that changed your outlook? Was the change for the better or were you angry with others, perhaps with life? It’s hard to know how we will react in difficult moments. Sometimes there’s no other choice than to face our hardships and step into battle with fierce determination and courage. For instance, if your loved one wants a divorce, you can wallow in self-pity and claim not to have seen the writing on the wall. You might experience sadness for months or brave through it as this is happening to you and see where it leads, not because you want to but because there is no other choice; sometimes there is no other choice than to be courageous.
Therein lies the key message of this article: when there’s no other choice than to be strong, life calls us to exert our greatest strength because what we’re experiencing may be bigger than we realise. When we don’t have a choice other than to step into the fire, what awaits us on the other side is a journey of self-discovery, knowing we are more resilient and courageous than we imagined. It is what author Alex Pattakos refers to in Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work where he writes: “Courage is not the absence of fear but the awareness there is something more important.” I’m reminded of those who lose their homes in a fire or their life savings to scrupulous insurance companies who undermine their trust or those whose family members betray them. These things happen to good people everyday and many of them have no other choice than to face their challenges. By leaning in to them, we develop the capacity to yield to the forces that oppose us. We learn the obstacle is never bigger than our power to overcome it. It is our willingness to move towards it with faith and determination, trusting the experience itself, which will activate our inherent power.
Originally published at medium.com