Merrily, Merrily, Merrily

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” ― Og Mandino

When I was a kid, I played a lot of video games. There was something so compelling about the challenge of figuring out a level or a challenge, trying to beat my high scores and maybe even beating the game itself. Sure, I would get frustrated when I’d mess up on a task once, twice, even ten or twenty times. I threw more than my share of fits when I failed to beat a level right at the very last moment! But really each failure just ramped my excitement and enthusiasm for solving the puzzle or overcoming the obstacle and pushing further ahead. Each stumble made the eventual success all the sweeter.

Of course, those were just games. But what if we could experience life this way?

Our lives are full of struggles and challenges. We like to believe that if we work hard, make all the right choices and do all the right things, we can get beyond all of that, but really we know we’re just fooling ourselves. If we struggle with money, we hold up financial abundance as the final end to our problems. Yet, managing large amounts of money comes with its own set of challenges. The same goes for finding love or having children or getting that perfect house. Once you reach that milestone you’ve always believed will bring you peace and happiness, new obstacles present themselves. There are always more opportunities for stress and suffering. That’s the nature of life.

As a wise hero once said, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” (Quick, guess the movie!)

But what if we could shift our perspective and see those struggles and challenges as a game to be won? What if, instead of stress and suffering, we saw opportunities for stretching and overcoming? What if instead of seeking ways to avoid or get beyond the struggles, we recognized and embraced them as the real juice of life that they are?

In the Open Door, Helen Keller wrote, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

I love how that last line helps put life’s challenges into context. We can never escape the challenges of life; they are all around us. To live is to risk. In fact, one could say that the meaning of our lives can be summed up in the challenges we have faced and overcome, and the ones we are willing to step up to.

We don’t expect to win video games the first time, and we don’t give up when we hit a setback. So why give up or get frustrated in life? The only difference is that with the game we believe passing the level is possible – eventually, with the right skills, tools or timing. Life can be the same, if we choose to believe in the possibility. By shifting out perspective — treating our problems, challenges and failures like levels in a game — we can create some distance from our fear of not being enough, and tap into our courage and resolve. Like picking apart a video game level, we can break down our obstacles into manageable steps, and tackle them one at a time. Our overwhelm melts away with the progress we make towards our goal.

What aspect of your life are you “leveling up” right now? What about this challenge overwhelms you at times? How can you convert those feelings of overwhelm into energy to make it to the next level?

Buttercup: We’ll never survive.

Man in Black: Nonsense. you’re only saying that because no one ever has.

― The Princess Bride (did you guess?)

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