From Challenge to Meaning

I work with a lot of folks who are experiencing big challenges. In some ways I think coaching is the new therapy; people are finding that they don’t need to pathologize their responses to universal, normal life experiences and transitions. Instead, they look for a guide, someone who can walk with them on their path and be a second set of eyes or ears or a second brain or heart or even soul. Someone removed enough, but also with awareness enough to lend insights that help them grow through their challenges.

With these challenges can come great change as lives are disrupted: The loss of a loved one, a new or lost relationship or job, the loss of one’s sense of self through illness. Or even growing pains around a new sense of identity. These are all normal experiences and we all face them from time to time. Just as normal are the infinitely diverse ways in which we can choose respond; the path forward is never one size fits all.

You’ll never hear me say on a stage or in a video, or write in a book or blog, that everything happens for a reason. There might be a bit of comfort in a declaration like that I suppose but it subverts the potential transformational nature of our challenges. I prefer to help people connect with meaning. The difference between ‘reason’ and ‘meaning’ might be subtle but it’s profoundly important.

It’s tempting to say that everything happens for a reason and to simply look for a path forward in the face of challenges. Sometimes people even look for a path backward, imagining the day when things will return to normal, the way they used to be, the old self will reemerge, or toward the time when a new person, place, or thing will appear to fill the void and take away the hurt. We might even resolve that whatever happened was deserved and something to get used to.

But there’s a much more transformational way to approach challenges, one that honors the challenge that the universe has set out for us. When we embrace it we shift from seeing the challenge as a difficulty to make it through, or as something we deserved, to experiencing it as an opportunity to reconnect with who we really are. From that place we have the opportunity to find, or better yet to define, its meaning. And then we can put the challenge to good use.

When I work with people on a meaning- rather than reason-level they choose to grow through their challenges and with that comes the realization of a promise that challenges are transformative and integral to their evolution as a soul. Granted not everyone wants to do such work, but if you’ve read this far you’re probably open to it.

As you face challenges this week, no matter how great or small they might be, always consider this question as soon as you’re able: “If I were to sit with this for awhile rather than being quick to write it off as happening for some ‘reason,’ what might this actually mean for my life?” Stream of consciousness style: Jot down all the possibilities without judgement or editing out what you might label as good or bad. The point is to simply get all the possibilities out on paper. Take five minutes, a pencil and paper, and scribble them down. Resolve to review the paper once or twice a day for now.

Then when you’re ready, maybe a few days later,

“How might this experience bring me to a better understanding of myself — who I really am, my authentic self — as a piece of the puzzle on my journey to Paradise (re)Discovered?” Again, stream of consciousness style.

And then maybe,

“Even though I might never, ever have chosen this experience, what is one thing I can imagine doing with it that absolutely empowers me?”

And along with that,

“What might this experience gift me with, something maybe that could help others?” Think Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey — surviving a challenge for your own growth and then for the benefit of your community through your story.

These are deep questions, and depending on the nature of your challenge they could take some time to get through. But even being aware of them now, even if unfathomable in the moment you are still raw from your challenge, gives a sense of the promise of empowerment to come and hope that there will be healing through your ability to use your experience for a greater good.

And that is the purpose, the meaning, of any challenge you may face.

Scroll down and let us know your experience, comments, and questions!

With blessings and gratitude
from Santa Fe, NM,
Dr Mark

PS, Be sure to enter to win this month’s free giveaway — a copy of A Life Aligned and the never-before-released A Life Aligned Workbook! Mailed to you anywhere in the world. Enter here: drmarkarcuri.com/free-monthly-giveaway.

Dr Mark Arcuri

Author. Speaker. Coach. at Transformational Life Guidance
Dr Mark Arcuri is an internationally recognized Author, Speaker, and Integrative Wellness & Life Coach. His mission is to connect with others in a variety of meaningful, creative, and spirited ways, allowing for transformational alignment leading to extraordinary growth and wellbeing!

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