by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
It's easy for any of us to be defeated by our problems. Whether they are big or small doesn't matter. They're our problems and because of that, they can seem tailor-designed to knock us down.
Someone recently asked me how to overcome their problems. Regardless of specifics, when faced with difficulty, having the attitude to work toward a solution or win victory, is the first step to creating forward momentum.
I praised this person for having the desire to find a way through their challenges.
The Buddhist philosophy I practice has taught me that struggles are actually precious treasures to appreciate. We can actually use them as stepping stones to deeper happiness, solid inner strength and an awakening to our inherent wisdom. All this personal expansion leads to experiencing a rich, more fulfilled life.
The conversation with the person who asked for my help reminded me that I need to repeatedly polish my attitude and actions toward the challenges in my life.
I've learned that developing a determined spirit to win over difficulties is powerful. No matter what the problem is, having that spirit to keep fighting is itself the key to victory. It’s when we lose hope, or stop believing in our vast potential to achieve or transform anything, that problems get the better of us.
There are many things we can do to deal with our problems. But without the mindset toward winning ultimate victory, the results may prove less than satisfactory.
In other words, we can take plenty of action, but if we still hold doubt in our hearts about ourselves or our desired positive outcome, we diminish our results.
You Get Stronger Through Challenging A Problem
If we first work on strengthening the attitude behind our actions, we stand a greater chance of overcoming the problem or reaching a goal. Actions we take are only part of the solution or winning strategy.
Equally as valuable is the inner strength we forge by enduring the problem state.
As long as we resolve never to give up on ourselves, every problem actually can serve as a springboard toward improving ourselves and our quality of life. Building a strong inner intent ultimately manifests in taking wise action. This is the basis for creating a happier environment, and advancing our personal growth.
Plus, the added perk of solving our problem.
Be Like Einstein; Stay Longer
There’s an Einstein quote I love that goes, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
Problems can function as beneficial to our lives because they push us into the proverbial corner until we learn to strengthen our belief in the unlimited potential within ourselves and humanity.
Problems can force us to work harder to mine that golden potential. Perhaps if we didn't experience our difficulties, we'd never make the kind of effort necessary to uncover our full abilities.
The fact is that we all have problems. Our capacity to overcome these is infinite. And by winning over them, we give others incredible hope to do the same.
Let's continue seeking ways to overcome our problems. In that sense, we are already winning.
By the way, my photo essay, How To Use Difficulties To Inspire Appreciation & Creativity, touches on this same point. I hope it encourages you and others reading this!
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
People think I have a large life. My energy commands a room. But it’s not intentional. In fact, sometimes I think I have two personalities.
And, no, I'm not schizophrenic.
I developed my exterior confidence through my job as a music educator, and my role as a Buddhist facilitator. Directing, leading and teaching large groups of people performing music, and facilitating faith-based activities with diverse groups provided abundant training.
When I’ve had the opportunity to lead, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to do. I’ve honed that skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to my personal feelings.
I appreciate this skill.
It enabled me to achieve more as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician. It allowed me to see beyond myself and do more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder my capability.
Battling An Attack of Self-Doubt
On the flip side, my alter-ego is debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting doubt. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI-USA Buddhist philosophy, I’ve managed to function well—beyond my insecurity.
But it relentlessly attacked me when least expected with insomnia. Even when I thought I’d confronted my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously assaulted my thoughts until the wee hours of morning.
I’d combat it with my intellect, of course. I spoke to myself with a voice of calmness about reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons. I distracted myself with reading, deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions.
I chanted my Buddhist mantra while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain. I got out of bed and stretched. I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I fought the battle until 3am, despite exhaustion.
Finally, I’d drift off for about three hours of rest.
In the morning, it would all seem perfectly stupid. In the light of day, my evening struggle seemed like a mirage. Except that I was depleted for two days afterwards.
Making Headway By Forging Inner Strength
This darkness beat at my inner doors all my life. I’ve dramatically lessened the effects of it. It used to cause such stomach-upset agony I couldn’t function beyond bed-rest. It caused me to develop respiratory issues. I had no stamina against this demon.
I continued consistently battling it from the inside out with my determined prayer. I forced myself through the exact experiences that caused me anxiety, repeatedly. I forged directly through anxiety until I incrementally gained strength over it.
I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body with nausea or stomach pain. I no longer get respiratory illness or stage fright. I have no qualms about public speaking, performing, or facilitating. I've led hundreds of groups as a music educator and chorus conductor, performed in front of thousands as a vocalist/pianist, and spoken in front of countless audiences from musical to community events, from weddings to funerals and beyond.
I don’t worry about what people think of me anymore. All those battles forged my strength and grew my confidence.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Notably, when I’m striving to reach a personal goal, or break through to a new level of success in any aspect of my life, my doubts rear their ugliness to challenge me.
That’s how I know I’m on the right track.
A Strong Opponent Builds Your Spiritual Muscle
My Buddhist practice confirms this is a sign of my inner growth; I’m pushing myself beyond comfort and growing my capacity larger than before. There should be some fear or doubt because...I’m human. I’m tackling new and bold territory.
I’m on to these twin evils (fear and doubt). They appear so I may open the path to my future with my true essence—my inner power fueled by belief in the human heart. My heart.
There’s resistance so I may develop spiritual muscle. These most powerful opponents enable me to forge my full potential. Anything easy would not warrant a victory celebration.
I wage on—with a resolute vow to never give up until I win absolute victory over every new challenge. I know it is always a test of my faith. A chance for me to see how my determined prayer—starting from the inner realm—manifests in tangible, conspicuous external proof, based on the interconnectedness of life.
I just have to do the inner work first.
Take that, doubt and fear. Take THAT.
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By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recently read a Buddhist reference to a mythical insect called the kalakula that inspired me to see problems in a completely different way. Legend has it that the kalakula grows larger while resisting strong winds. The wind increases its size until the insect becomes big enough to devour any living thing. Quite the image, right?
(I don’t intend to go heavily into Buddhist theory here, but feel free to ask me anything about my 32+ year SGI-USA* Buddhist practice in the comments. Explore SGI-USA and SGI for more info.)
The More Problems You Have--The Closer You Are To Fulfillment
This Buddhist bug story alerted me that I’ve held an unenlightened view of my struggles. I’ve been falsely looking at my problems as;
The latter has sent me into many a tailspin of negative self-talk.
But this Buddhist analogy explains that the more handicaps, persecutions, obstacles or challenges thrown my way, the closer I actually am to developing my true potential.
What Does A Bug Story Have To Do With Your Potential?
Ok, sorry, I didn’t exactly explain what the bug and the wind are all about. The insect represents me (or you), my (your) progress, potential, capability and strength. The wind symbolizes all the crap in life that happens (relationship troubles, grief, financial struggle, illness, etc.).
The more heavily the wind (problems in life) attacks the bug (you or me), the larger it (we) grows, until it’s able to devour any opponent! The wind triggers the bug’s strength and growth.
Obstacles do the same for you and me, IF we are able to use them as a catalyst for tapping our full potential. All the difficulties we face are the mark of our impending potential and the barometer of the progress we’ve made.
This simple analogy shows me the wonderful result of shifting my perspective. Life’s challenges are not insurmountable and are not indicative of my inadequacy or inability. They are also not a burden.
Problems Point To Opportunities For Your Potential
Challenges are the complete opposite. They reveal how much strength my life contains, and that I’m powerful enough to handle what’s happening next. Difficulties point to my opportunity to unleash my full potential.
Forging my full potential by facing my problems through this enlightened perspective brings the benefit of confidence, and the joy of victory. This shift of my viewpoint provides energy to reach my goals and feel a kind of happiness that’s independent of inevitable ups and downs.
Recognizing that problems can be the powerful catalyst for inspired growth ignites my determination. This awareness deepens my faith in my capacity for empowerment. Seeing myself as a worthy opponent to life’s obstacles leads me to encourage and lead others on the same path.
Your Pretend Rival Helps You Succeed
Mystically, this same point came up today while listening to a podcast I randomly selected. The podcast, Optimal Living Daily, hosted by Benjamin Hardy, featured Nir Eyal on the topic How To Achieve Your Goals By Creating An Enemy. The episode was about how creating a fake opponent actually helps people “summon the tenacity to succeed” and “work harder to attain goals.”
Easy paths don’t lead to accomplishing goals or dreams. Defeating a weak rival is no real victory. But, rebelling against our problems by seeing them as ‘the enemy’ can spur us to pull out the necessary qualities for victory. A fierce adversary (or difficult situation/person) is one that forces me to develop my full potential so I can win.
Resistance is critical to strengthen oneself. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the chance to forge strength for undeniable victory. Having this kind of fighting spirit is what it takes to overcome challenges and win success.
Problems Make You A Worthy Opponent
Doubting myself or others means I’m disbelieving in the greater potential that resides in every life. I now recognize that seeing my obstacles as indicative of my flaws, propensity toward failure, or as punishment for past negative karma (effects received through having made negative causes) is self-slander. That is the worst negative cause because it essentially denies the true potential of my life, other’s lives, and the sanctity of life itself.
How To Win Over Your Negativity
Treasuring life is the way to replace negative causes. Making good causes is the way to create a pattern for good effects in the future. Learning to treasure my life, which includes actually embracing my every flaw, shortcoming, arduous circumstance, or mistake, is an enlightened perspective. Viewing difficulties this way honors my life and others.
I had been mulling on past failures and setbacks. But the Buddhist wind versus bug story changed my viewpoint. It showed me that life’s snags are not there to reveal my mediocrity. My personal battle, and yours, is rather more about how we can fulfill our potential by using everything to create value.
When I use my struggles as a springboard toward deepening my commitment to develop myself, I become stronger than my opponent (hardship). This creates momentum for confident decision-making, and manifests itself in one small victory after another.
Obstacles Are The Path Itself
I’ve learned that troubles are not an indication of my tendency to fall short. Nor are they there to highlight my distance from success. Instead, obstacles, failures, setbacks, and/or handicaps are the path itself to success, happiness, and enlightenment.
The most valuable way I can live is to show proof of how remaining undefeated by obstructions along life’s road leads to a more meaningful life, successful contribution to the world, and the joy of believing in human potential.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
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**Although I'm a proud member of SGI-USA, I'm not an official spokesperson for SGI-USA. Though I base my actions on my personal Buddhist practice as an SGI-USA member, my online business and content associated with YourCreativeChord is not in any way affiliated with SGI-USA.
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In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.