In an era of self-development, positive psychology and self-awareness, people are learning to recognize things as challenges, not as problems so they could deal with them easily.

But is it always a challenge?

And can calling it a challenge create an even bigger problem?

We are taught that when we see a situation as a problem, it becomes harder to deal with it.

Instead, we should observe it as a challenge and increase our odds to overcome it.

After all, that is what challenges are for, right?

Opposed to the leading opinion today, not every situation is for us to interpret it.

There is a big, clear difference between a problematic situation and a challenging one.

Learning that difference could be crucial in dealing with whatever stands in our way.

So here’s what this is about.

A challenge is a situation that can be changed with a lot or little effort.

A problem is a situation that can not be changed at all.

So let me explain what I mean by this.

Imagine someone told you that you are about to have a meeting and you don’t have enough time to prepare.

You can say that’s a problem and panic about it without taking any action to try to solve it.

Or you can view it as a challenge and boldly go for it.

You can put yourself in a good state, and there are lots of great techniques for this.

This way you can be more open, creative or flexible to deal with the situation you know little about.

Being flexible and calm can sometimes do more than days of preparation.

Or you can try to think of one thing that you can focus on during the meeting, something you know and are good at.

There are lots of things you can do in five minutes to make sure this meeting is not a complete waste of time.

Turning the focus from the problem and on the challenge can relieve the pressure and even make you feel energized and motivated to jump right into it.

But be careful which situations you can change.

Imagine this one for a moment.

A guy had a traffic accident and is in a hospital in intensive care.

He is stable but has to stay in a hospital for at least a few weeks.

Thinking this is a challenge and trying to get out of the hospital the next day is not what’s going to help him recover faster.

This example might be harsh, but it can illustrate the point very clearly.

With more delicate differences in situations, here’s how to know whether you need to push harder to deal with the challenge or let it go.

When facing a situation that’s waiting for your judgment, stop for a second, take a deep breath, commit to full honesty and ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this difficulty in me or on the outside?

2. What can I do to change this situation?

3. Will it still be a difficulty in five years?

Answering these questions is going to help you plan your actions in a smart way.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying give it up or quit when it becomes too hard.

I’m saying don’t waste your time on things you can’t change and focus on what is, or can become your responsibility.

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Mark C. Williams
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