Is It A Problem Or A Challenge?

20 December 2011, by A. Cedilla

How are things looking up for you next year? This is not a trick question.

Today it’s all about understanding perspective — your own, and that of others. The way you look at something affects how you treat it, see it and handle it. It’s quite obvious, right? You don’t handle things of no consequence — you just sweep them aside, ignore them, don’t even see them — until someone tells you these things are important, or something happens to make you see them in a new light — and you shift a little in your world-view. When it comes to a lot of things, you just won’t care until you do.

You learn perspective the more life experience you willingly expose yourself to, and the more viewpoints you entertain from other people. If you get stuck in your head for too long without real-world feedback from others, you only have your own feedback to fall back on — and it would be like being stuck with only the music from your childhood playing on a loop.

Depending on the soundtracks you grew up with, this can go either way. And since every family’s dysfunctional in its own way, more often than not you get less than stellar messages: “You’re too stupid to succeed, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ll never be worth anything, don’t rock the boat, play it safe, don’t trust other people. Do what it takes to get ahead, but don’t be more successful than your family, etc.” ( And you wonder why you trip you up further down the road. )

Navigating between conflicting messages, you need to find a way to keep the balance. Putting things in their proper perspective: you share this world with other people, it’s only fitting that aside from learning to get along with others and respecting their viewpoints, you learn as much as you can from what other people have to show you.

Now when you apply this aspect of perspective to goal-creation, breaking down that into it’s most basic components, you get the following stages:

  • Seeing – Looking at things as they are now, otherwise known as assessing the situation realistically.
  • Dreaming or Envisioning – Seeing things as they could be, or as you want them to be, and how you want them to change.
  • Taking Action – You — your decisions, your actions, your work — are what closes the gap between your dreams and your reality.

A problem is something you can choose to solve…or avoid, pass onto someone else — or ignore,hoping it will go away or fix itself. A challenge is something you knowingly choose to take on and are determined to conquer; It’s like chess with yourself, but played out in real-world decisions and consequences. You are your own best enemy.

Perspective shifts from where you are placed and where you place yourself.
For a young child, power lies in his parents. They decide what bedtime is, what the rules are and what is good behavior, as well as dole out the consequences of bad behavior.

For a student, power lies in the knowledge his teachers posses, and their assessment of his understanding of what they have to teach.

Education inside and outside the home has taught us to lean towards looking to other people for sources of authority, of knowledge and of expertise. We are taught our place — and from a position where we’ve learned to look outward for all the answers, anything scary that comes at us is a problem.

People who have learned to look to themselves and inside themselves for the answers see these things as challenges. Through hard lessons and serendipity, they’ve learned to ask themselves, “How can I make this work out for me?” instead of “How do I get out of this mess?”

The problems happen when you live life with the approach of someone who life happens to. Things happen to you, you can’t help it. So you just take it. You fore-go your innate ability to respond, your response-ability, and react instead of respond –if you don’t know the difference, one is like a spinal reflect to get away from the problem, the other means assessing it and deciding to act.

When you get by on reactions, you let life happen to you, and so abdicate your place at the helm of your own life. You just get by.

Under pressure, control often is seen as lying inside or outside us — but life is fluid, the connection isn’t only always ‘OR’. Sometimes the circumstances are outside anyone’s control, so we can only master our reactions. Sometimes the choice lies only in our hands, and so we must dare to put our trust in an unknown future.

Putting it only as an ‘or’ leaves control 100% in our hand, or out of our hands, and that’s not realistic. One approach lies in evasion, the other one lies in action, and we have to use both if we are to thrive. We steer clear of things that hold a high possibility of slowing us down in our goals, and if that doesn’t work, we deal with them the best way we can.


Problems always come up. They’re an inherent part of life. How you train yourself to handle them –with grace, with frustration, with acceptance, with assurance or avoidance– ripples out from how you see things come towards you.

A challenge, on the other hand, wakes up that part inside of us that thrills to the discovery of what-can-I-DO, the deeply hidden wrestler-in-the-mud who liked to splash through puddles to see what happens next.

In everyday life, sometimes it’s scary easy how often we forget that we are a race of builders, dreamers and doers. We are creators and builders of our lives.

We choose, and act, and forge our own paths, and if circumstances force us another way, we can still change our actions to walk that path with self-determination and fore-sight. How you decide is influenced by the way you interpret things. For example, which of the following viewpoints have you most often used to make decisions?

  • The potential or inherent pain overcomes the excitement or pay-out = you approach it as a problem
  • The excitement or pay-off overcomes the accompanying pains = you take it as a challenge.

Here’s a list of questions you can use to shake things up in your plans for a better year ahead:

  • What are the major and minor areas of your life that you want to improve next year?
  • What do you see as the major and minor challenges you’ll be facing next year when you try to make improvements in these areas
  • Who can you enlist to help?
  • What resources do you have on-hand? On-line? In the bank? Any special skills you need to master or practice?
  • What visible and-or measurable results do you want to see when these improvements meet their targets? How will you measure and record them? When do you want these targets to manifest themselves?

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