Have you ever struggled with a problem in your life?
What about a challenge that just won’t go away?
Like a puzzle with a few missing pieces, has the solution ever seemed close but not within sight?
Last weekend, I encountered such a problem, although for the purposes of our discussion, I will reframe this puzzle with a different word: challenge. Describing this obstacle as a challenge is more appropriate, as we will soon discover.
Problems vs. Challenges
About a year ago, I was working on a presentation when I was inspired with the idea that problems and challenges are distinctly different. While many may use the words interchangeably, I see these two concepts as being two sides of the same coin. Let me briefly summarize how I define each idea:
First off, a problem is a trial that comes into our lives because we have not done something we should have done. This is the classic “drifting through life” syndrome, and when we are not being intentional and working towards goals in our life, trials seem to find their way into our lives, probably as a twisted way to keep things interesting, but more likely as a way to wake us up from being “asleep” mentally.
On the opposite side of the coin, are challenges. Challenges are obstacles that we face when we are moving towards something. They can come at us in unexpected ways, and they are too numerous to count, but a challenge seeks to derail you when you have made the commitment to achieve a worthwhile goal.
How in the world can these negatives be blessings?
As I have already alluded to, problems can be a wonderful blessing if we have become lazy and need a wake-up call. Problems also alert us to areas in our lives that may need to have a little extra work put forth in them.
Truth be told, the only way we are ever able to appreciate a problem is looking back on it when it is history. The more optimistic we are, the sooner we are able to make the switch, and if you happen to be experiencing “problems” in your life today, then look for the lesson that the problem is trying to teach you. The sooner you find the lesson, the sooner you will be able to see the problem as a blessing in disguise.
Challenges are another story. Though they have a similar ending and are best viewed when looked at in history, challenges are only appreciated to the extent that they have frustrated us. A small challenge is quickly overcome and forgotten, while a seemingly impossible challenge will cause our lives to never be the same.
This past weekend, I faced a challenge, and while it could have been significantly worse, it still bothered me. For those who are technically minded in my reading audience, I was having trouble modifying an add-on (aka plug-in) on one of my websites to give it a more desired feature. For three days, I mentally jumped through hoops trying to solve the puzzle, all while the answer eluded me.
Tuesday was the turning point, and the day when I achieved victory over the plug-in. It wasn’t even 5 minutes after I had pieced together a solution, that I thought of an even better way to accomplish the same function. I am not very good at php (yet) and I still think Ajax is a cleaning agent, but I triumphed over the lines of code using both of these foreign languages.
It was a big challenge in my mind, and a big challenge equals a big victory.
What’s the blessing?
The blessing behind both problems and challenges is they keep us sharp, they keep us learning and growing, and they keep our lives interesting. Problems inspire us to act, and challenges are what make succeeding worthwhile.
What was a challenge that you faced? Specifically, one that you triumphed over!