2023 October 24 Turn challenges into the foundation for happiness

Oct 24, 2023

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me today to talk about working through challenges that come up in every day in life. So let's get started. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, and send me a message.


I had a conversation with somebody a couple of weeks ago. They had been watching and they asked what 7EveryMinute actually stands for. It's on the website, but if you're just listening to the podcast, that is the rate that Baby Boomers are retiring, about seven Baby Boomers retire every minute. If you work out the numbers, that's where that came from. 


We've changed our show around a bit over time. It's a larger audience now, but we still focus on people who are going through different phases of their life, so I have to come up with other things that happen seven times. What can go right seven times a minute? That's where the show name came from. 


This week builds off of last week's discussion on perspective, which is an important part of life. This week, we're going to talk about how to work through challenges. This builds upon that as well. But this week is more about situations that you find difficult or distasteful, but which still need to be done. Think about things like cleaning up after a party, filling out forms to get an insurance reimbursement, submitting your accomplishments to your company to motivate others, speaking in public, to advocate for a cause, meeting people from other cultures.


The list is infinitely long, and our excuses, or rather our reasons, for not doing these things are just as long. But if you think back to those times when you did force yourself to complete a difficult or challenging task, you will likely also remember how good (or at least satisfied) you felt at having completed something you knew you had to do but didn't really want to.


If you're at all like me, chances are that part of the reason you did something you didn't really want to do was because it benefited someone else, either directly or indirectly. You don't like to speak in public, but you did it for a cause you really believe in. You don't like to go to meet and greet parties, but you went because you wanted to support your friends who are trying to start a neighborhood meetup to ease tensions in the neighborhood. There are many possible reasons, but for me, it's much easier to do something if it's going to help someone else, because that's something that's important to me.


It's part of my purpose in life. Remember that word, purpose. I just started following someone on LinkedIn. Her name is Danielle Cervellos, who is a strategist and coach who helps business leaders with personal brand strategy, content marketing, and positioning. I know of Danielle through another friend, Angela Stilwell, who I've known for years and whose work as a coach I respect a lot. So it makes me think that Danielle is pretty good as well. Danielle had an interesting post on LinkedIn that meshes well with the book I'm currently reading, Build the Life You Want, by Arthur Brooks and Oprah Winfrey. 


It's actually a very interesting book. In that book, they propose that a happy life is not a life without challenges, but rather it's a life pursuing enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. There are those words again, satisfaction and purpose. They further propose that satisfaction and purpose generally require challenges to be overcome, and that attaining that goal helps you create a feeling of enjoyment in your life. In Danielle's LinkedIn post, she talked about the same general idea, but in the context of gymnastics and applying those concepts to both your personal and business lives.


Danielle explains that as much as she loved gymnastics, she was never fond of, nor particularly good at, the uneven bars. But at the time, every contestant had to do all the different forms of competitive gymnastics, and she loved all the other parts. Specifically, and I'm partially quoting her now, What if we stopped trying to make every part of everything we do easy and just accepted that sometimes some things will come naturally for us.


But if those hard things open doors to the things we love, it's totally worth it. There will be difficult things you just have to do because they're part of the game, things that allow you to do the things that you're brilliant at, the things that you love to do, the things that are easy. Instead of trying to escape the hard parts, she goes on to say, it's the hard parts that allow you to do the things that we want to do. The very things we don't want to do that allow us the freedoms to do the things that we do want to do.


Life can be funny sometimes. It's kind of counterintuitive. But by working through the hard things, two things happen. First, we feel satisfaction having completed something we found difficult. It doesn't matter if it was easy for someone else. For us, it was a challenge.


But the next part is just as important. That satisfaction makes us proud of ourselves in a good way. It reminds us that we are capable of doing more than we might think. It also helps us to value what we have accomplished, which leads to more life satisfaction in a very general sense. It gives us more confidence because we had something we really thought was going to be difficult.


We went ahead and we did it. Wow, we really can do those things! Finally, by working through something difficult when we really didn't want to, chances are we did it because it was important to our purpose in life. This is a double positive because not only do we feel good about working towards our purpose, but we've also avoided the negative self talk that we likely would have had if we thought about what we didn't do and we felt it was the right thing to do, but we didn't do it.


We've talked before about damage from negative self talk. One of the biggest problems is that we're always with ourselves. So, in those quiet, in between moments, if we're harboring negative feelings about ourselves, our mind will conjure up related negative thoughts and we will start to believe that we really are incapable of doing something.


But by actually doing the difficult or challenging task, we break that cycle. That not only avoids any immediate negative self talk, but also gives our brain a reason to think that we are incapable of doing anything that we put our minds to do. That's a much better way to live. 


Relatedly, sometimes they are tasks that you just have to push through because there's no way around them. I spent the past week at the day job reassembling some documentation for a project that had gotten a little disorganized. I had two options on how to perceive the task. The task wasn't going to change, but I could change how I viewed it. Either it was going to be total drudgery, and I could despise every second of it, or I could think of it as something that would allow me to complete what I needed to do to support both the project manager, who I respect, and the lead person for the agency who we're doing the work for, who I've known for over 20 years. I took the second view and celebrated every little win as it evolved, and I finally got through it.


It didn't make it fun, it didn't make it easy, it certainly didn't make it go fast, but at least every time I could get through something, I could say that things were coming together, we're making progress towards the goal. The result is that the past two days have been very productive, and while I'm still late, I'm sure if I'd made every second totally horrible, drudgery, I probably wouldn't have made the progress I did and still would have to complete the exact same task.


So sometimes there's a slightly different situation, where there just isn't an option to not do something, but you still have the option as to how you want to think about it. When you focus on the benefits and the positive outcomes, you still end up with the needed results of getting satisfaction from your work and appreciating that it has a purpose in your life. Those two things will form the basis for getting some degree of enjoyment from your efforts, even if it's just the enjoyment of not having the challenge still in front of you. So I hope this quick look at how diving into challenging problems can help form the basis for happiness in your life.


The task itself may not be especially enjoyable, but the results should lead you to more satisfaction and support your feelings of purpose in your own life. Note that the purpose may not be direct. You may not care about the task at hand particularly, but it allows you to make more money, for example. That allows you to pay your grandchild's tuition. You can come up with lots of scenarios in the same vein, where the task itself isn't necessarily the most favored thing, and may be not directly related to your purpose in life, but it allows you indirectly to then work ahead towards the purpose of your life. It's still consistent with your overall life purpose, and that will help keep it in perspective. 


That's it for the evening. I hope you have a better feeling towards addressing some of the distasteful challenges that could arise. They're just unavoidable in life, and realize that rather than keeping us from happiness, they can potentially be small stepping stones to actually bringing us more happiness in our lives.


Your homework (optional, as always) is to think of a task or situation that you've really been putting off because you just don't like to do it. Pick anything, but just one or two things at the most. Try to reframe them in terms of how completing them might make you feel more satisfied with yourself and the joy of not having to deal with them anymore. Just look at the joyful side of getting past this hurdle you've been looking at. Extra points if you just pick one thing, write down what you could do and why it's consistent with your purpose in life. If you want to be a real superhero, then actually set a time and just do it. Don't forget to celebrate the win when you complete it. That's super important so your brain really learns that success makes you happy. 


That's it for the evening. As always, UKR7.com has some links to various organizations to donate to help Ukraine, and the link to World Central Kitchen is WCK.org. Remember the Ukraine war is still going on. It's dragging on. I know there are lots of things in the world. We just picked that one to focus on. 


Obviously, there's lots of things related to Israel and Palestine, the war there. There are lots of situations all through the world. One of the nice things about World Central Kitchen is they're active anywhere there's a disaster or a problem in the world. 


There are lots of ways to help people. You don't have to go through one of these organizations. Even locally, in your own life, in your own neighborhood, in your own way. Even just saying hi to somebody on the street can change their whole day. Remember that one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. It takes you outside of yourself, puts you into the whole world, gives you a different perspective. If you can and are able, please try and help any way you can.


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you've found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please hit that like button. If not, please jot me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you.


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