Challenges are opportunities if you remember that they are

"Let life itself become your teacher."

Even when you're in deep physical or emotional pain, you can avoid suffering and even grow from it if you are able to frame the situation as a challenge for you to overcome or an opportunity to practice patience.

Always ask, "why am I being given this challenge?"

What is there for me to learn about life and myself from this problem? Through every struggle there's a way to hold on to your courage. Often the most meaningful moments in people's lives come from persisting through the worst parts of it. Challenges force us to learn how to get through them.

People can't handle pointless suffering, but they can avoid pointless suffering by mentally framing their pain as meaningful. The pain in your muscles from running and working out fuels us instead of holding us back. The pain energizes us as proof that we are working hard. But imagine catching a disease that makes you feel the same intense muscle soreness and fatigue pointlessly. Now the same sensations are awful and uncomfortable.

The stories, novels, and movies we create are about overcoming challenges. This is also how we tell stories about our own lives—we repeatedly struggle, learn, and persevere. Yet we still resist new challenges instead of seeing them as the fabric of our lives.

A life of complete ease would be torturous for us—no one wants to play a game that they always win or that they can win without trying. Life is exciting because it is hard which is what makes our successes feel meaningful. We want to be challenged. Looking back on our lives it's easy to see how we grew and learned from disruption, and that our struggles helped craft our identities, but we forget that the same will be true of our current problems.

People run marathons. People put themselves through days and weeks and months of physical pain for what? For the struggle itself, because as humans we are biologically programmed to overcome imaginary obstacles again and again. In a modern environment we must do stranger and harder things to challenge ourselves because we have so few obstacles left regarding our survival. We'll rarely fail at the now simple task of staying alive and relatively healthy, but we need other activities where failure seems to matter to stay motivated and engaged with life.

Even though running a marathon is causing yourself some of the most pointless pain possible, it doesn't make people suffer too much, because they usually have some deeper motive for doing it. They want to tell others about it, prove to themselves that they can do it, or get in shape, but the pain isn't meaningless so it doesn't turn into suffering. Most people, especially when looking back on their training and the final race, would say it was an enjoyable experience, that they're glad they did it. It's easy to see the story you might tell in the future about the challenges of your marathon. The present pain is put in the context of the larger story and goal, making it bearable. In dealing with problems where the larger context isn't as clear we can still bring a mindset of genuine curiosity to the problem: What is there for me to learn or practice in this situation?

An annoying stupid baby crying on an airplane is an annoying stupid baby crying on an airplane until you remember that it is also a chance to practice patience. This is even better than there being no problem at all. Problems and annoyances will certainly keep showing up, and dealing with this one fully will better enable you to handle future problems. Practicing patience now—when it's hardest to—means it will be easier to do so next time.

Your two options are to be pissed off by what's going on around you or taking it as an opportunity to practice so that you no longer are. Are you going to let fear hold you back, or see that it's giving you the opportunity to learn to push through it? Both frames are equally valid, but one leads to more growth and resilience.

The amount of agency you have often depends on your mental framing. If you can't remember to frame annoyances as opportunities to practice patience, they will always just be annoyances.

To me, many of these unavoidable annoyances feel like the perfect storm—that if just any of the aspects had been slightly different I would have been fine, but no the world decided to give it to me in this particularly terrible way. In reality I'm just seeing the many specific ways I'm unable to let go of things. The thing that pissed me off, because it pissed me off, is the exact thing that I'm worst at letting go of, or learning from. They are things telling me that I most need to learn from them, but I still resist them and wish they were different.

All these challenges give you a chance to see yourself more clearly if you are courageous enough to look.

Again, easier said than done.


"Let life itself become your teacher."

Always ask, "why am I being given this challenge?"

Pain becomes suffering when it feels pointless. Pain can be made meaningful by mentally framing challenges as opportunities. We already do this with past struggles, but forget to do it with current ones.


Wherever you go there you are

"These trials are not impediments... They are the practice, if you can remember to see it this way."

"You could look at each baby as a little Buddha or Zen master... whose presence and actions were guaranteed to push every button and challenge every belief and limit you had, giving you continual opportunities to see where you were attached to something and to let go of it. "

"Parenting is a mirror that forces you to look at yourself"

(Rough quote) "You have to be willing to let life itself become your teacher"