I’m not sure where most folks land when it comes to addressing this topic, but I tend to subscribe to the notion that it’s the challenges that we face in life, and how we overcome them, that determines our ultimate identity. That’s not to say that we should go out looking for those obstacles in order to test our mettle in the face of adversity — not at all — but if we make every attempt to avoid such confrontation, how will we really know who we are?

Of course, challenges come in all shapes and sizes; completely relative to each individual. What appears easy for one person to deal with may in fact be debilitating to another. Though there have been somewhat recent large-scale issues such as the collapse of the financial industry and various acts of nature that have affected scores of folks simultaneously, it took the current pandemic for nearly all of us to experience such an unprecedented “collective” adversity, albeit in our own personal ways, which we’d never before witnessed in our lifetime.

Within weeks, if not days, of its immediate onset, the fallout from the pandemic forced each of us to take a huge step back. Some were able to adapt to the situation by assessing its scope, evaluating the “damage,” and ultimately plotting a course of action that would be different from those previously followed. 

For others, that didn’t happen too quickly, if at all, with the circumstances proving to be insurmountable for a period of time. Personally, it took a good six months of the latter before I was able to finally climb out of a dark hole that I never would have imagined.

We are creatures of habit. We seem to thrive on routine. Our days and nights tend to follow a set pattern that, when disrupted, throws us completely off-kilter. Multiply that disruptor by a factor of ten, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. A key element that took months for me to finally grasp was that this repetitious lifestyle, which we’ve relied upon for so long, has everything to do with the way our brains are wired. It sounds quite obvious, but it took forever for me to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Dr. Sarah Gingell, in a recent piece written for Psychology Today acknowledges this struggle: “Brains resist change for good reason. Accepting that we have an evolutionary drive to conserve resources and keep ourselves safe helps us understand that resistance to change is not a sign of weakness. Instead, our inertia is something we need to work with – not fight – if we are to change our direction and habits.”

Some might decide that a “change of scenery” is in order by electing to start anew elsewhere; only to come to the realization that the change tabled or temporarily delayed the inevitable inner work that needed to be done. Seeking change requires an investment in oneself by altering our personal narrative that we’ve become so accustomed to implementing when confronted with difficult circumstances. 

By relying upon all-too-familiar rationalizations and methods within our comfort zones, we are, in essence, doing ourselves a great disservice. Once we’ve become convinced and have consented to repeating this pattern, there’s little chance the outcome that we are hoping for will indeed manifest. Not surprisingly, we’ll find similar results with each failed attempt.

Viewing one’s personal challenges as opportunities no doubt involves taking a good amount of risk, and it requires courage. It’s a choice that each of us makes in order to explore new possibilities, be they relationships, careers, or seeking to drop a habitual vice. 

Or as author and leadership consultant Dr. Eric Allenbaugh writes in his best-selling book “Wake-up Calls”:

”By being willing to be uncomfortable for a while, to experiment, to stick to it, and to make mistakes, we can make a difference in our lives and in those around us. The greatest opportunity to learn and grow can come from the areas you resist. Resistance can be good feedback and may be a disguised gift. Learn to look for the gift.”

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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