How To Turn Today's Challenges Into Fuel For The Future

Have you ever had a Monday that felt like a “Monday”?

What I mean by this is having a Monday in the way that our culture describes it: heavy, a drag, lame, hard to get started, leaving behind the fun of the weekend and going back to work.

Well, this Monday morning was like that. I felt heavy, unmotivated, and a little down. But I knew that I didn’t want to have my whole day be like that.

We all have heard at some point that we are in charge of our feelings, or rather, we can decide what certain things mean to us, which in-turn influences how we feel about them. But this is easier said than done. It takes practice to master yourself, to become aware of how you are feeling and why, and then to decide what to do from that point on.

It takes work to reorient yourself when you “get up on the wrong side of the bed”.

It’s hard, but it’s possible.

While facing this conflict, I made a decision to do something about how I felt:

Rather than waiting until I “felt” like doing something good, I decided to use the bad feelings I had and turn them into something good. (Case in point: this blog post) I decided to process how I was feeling about life that day, take it apart, and dig for the GOOD. If I could find that good and write about it in a way that could help others walk through the same process with themselves, then I will have taken something bad and used it as fuel to do something good.

Ideally, I want to always wake up early to a brisk sunny morning, have a great breakfast, and then sit down at my computer with hours of uninterrupted time for writing, and craft awesome and insightful articles that change people’s lives.

In reality, those type of conditions seldom fall into perfect place, so I take a different approach to creating:

Use where you are right now, the feelings you feel, the thoughts you have, everything that you struggle against, as fuel for expression. 

Chances are that when you do this, what you create will be way more relatable to other people than a “Sunny day” post.

Why?

Because most people haven't arrived where they wish to be. Most people are looking ahead toward a point in the future. And if we only look at inspirational people who seem like they HAVE made it, but we don't hear about their process, then it feels like we can NEVER make it. The gap feels too big. 

But if we decide to be transparent about our journey, feelings, fears, doubts, and challenges, then as we make gradual progress, our stories now become accessible to people. 

It's super rare that someone's process to where they dream is like a rocket launch to the top. (And even then, those people are tested in ways that most of us aren't). Most of the time the people who have success (that LASTS), achieved it through a gradual process, one that isn't necessarily sensational, glamorous, or exciting. It's consistent, committed, and full of moments where they didn't feel inspired but they did it anyway. – I'd like my story to be one where I showed consistency, commitment, and dedication even when things were hardest.

I feel like finding success through that process is more inspiring than a person who makes it look like it was easy or happens super fast once they found the magic formula, while hiding all the gritty steps that led there. 

I think that people often paint that kind of a picture – if you just change 3 things, implement a simple strategy, then success pours in – because they know that people don't want to do hard things.

They don't want people to quit before they get started. They don't want to scare people away by discovering that the road to success is hard. Either that, or they hide the process because of personal insecurities like fear of being vulnerable, or wanting to portray themselves as having some mystical ability to succeed so they can be above others (“If you’re not first, you’re last” - Ricky Bobby). I tend to admire and feel more connected to the people who are honest about the hard work, the time it takes, and the process. I respect that they are honest about it. 

If success were easy, it would be more common.

We shouldn’t be surprised that success is hard. LIFE is hard! And most of the things that matter most require some kind of work. Why should the road to success be paved with rainbow sprinkles?

Why should we be afraid of hard work when life is already challenging? It's not something that we're inexperienced in; we know how to survive. For example:

  • We know how to work hard because we often work super hard just to maintain our status-quo.
  • We know how to learn because we are always finding new ways to stay comfortable.
  • We have the ability to remember the knowledge that could lead to success because we remember all sorts of other information like some lyrics, recipes, tv show plots, and sports statistics.
  • And we all have the ability to make something out of nothing, to be inventive and resourceful; otherwise, how would college students have learned how to survive on spaghetti and ketchup dinners?

What I’m trying to get at is that we ALL have the abilities, instincts, and intelligence that we normally credit as being the qualities that set successful people apart from us. We all have what is takes.

The difference between surviving and succeeding isn't your circumstances, it's how you decide to channel your focus. 

 

Survival vs Success.

You can take two different people in the same circumstances with the same desire, but if they have two different motivations, they will end up in drastically different places.

One person will spend their free time escaping their circumstances, the other will rest when they need it, but they will also dedicate time to learning what they need or working on the side to move out of their circumstances. One person will complain or tolerate their job and do just enough to get by, while the other will view it as a stepping stone and steward it well until they can move on. 

Survival person falls into despair and believes the lie that things will never change, Success person CHOOSES to believe that things will get better and learns and grows from even the most challenging situations.

Oftentimes Survival and SUccess aren't two separate people, but rather two sides of the same person. 

I think we all have these sides in us, I sure do. And it's a constant struggle to decide who will win. 

Sometimes it feels like my survival side is always way louder than my success side.

It overrides my vision of the future and my positivity with immediate needs and fight or flight responses to life's challenges. My survival side is the one who doesn't want to get out of bed because he's intimidated by the responsibilities of the day, he would just rather escape, curl up, hope for something to swoop in and save the day. 

But my success side has belief.

He believes, "If it's to be, it's up to me.", and finds the ways he can take action today, even if it's little baby steps. My survival side worries, gives in to anxiety, and longs for the future but misses the present. My success side is the one who trusts that things are going to be ok, looks for the value in each experience, and believes that there is joy and peace available in the moment. 

It's a hard scale to tip sometimes; when I want to have the success mindset but I'm faced with survival scenarios on a daily basis.

Oftentimes the success experiences are intangible, and the survival experiences are all too real. 

I don't know about you, but there are days I feel weary, where I'm not sure if I can go another step, when the place I want to be at seems so far away, or it seems like I missed my opportunity. Those are the days when I feel like I'm just surviving; and not even by choice, it's just the default setting in our brains: DON’T DIE. 

Those are the days where I have to choose how I want to be. I choose what my circumstances mean to me and about me. I'm the one who decides what to believe. I'm reminded of something my good friend John said last week when we got together:

There are good days and there are learning days.
— John Schreiber

Which is why he also says he's never had a bad day in his life, because having a good day or a bad day is a CHOICE. (Read his FR article HERE.)

That's the key: Choice and action. 

Choose your belief, and act on your belief. Your feelings and momentum will follow. 

Life isn't perfect, it's not clean. So you can either be a mess, or a "Mess with Momentum". (Stole that from my friend Ben Rose).

Today, I've chosen who I want to be despite how I feel. I've chosen to be the Success part of me, not the Survival part of me. I've chosen to believe, not to fear. 

I choose to take the "just another day" mindset and change it to a "one day closer" mindset. 

I've chosen to use my present circumstances to fuel my daily actions. 

Think of it like Life keeps handing you lumps of coal each day. These are challenges. You can either carry them all in a giant sack on your back, weighed down each day, or you can burn them and use it as fuel to move forward.

Writing for Frontrunners is a big way I turn my present circumstances into future fuel, because it forces me to process my challenges in a way that pulls out the value in them and puts it front and center in my mind. Frontrunners is meant to build people up, not depress them, and that keeps me accountable to look at whatever I'm going through, and sift through the dirt to find the gold. 

Many days, like today, going through this process of writing, journaling, and prayer, is the only thing that changes a depressing day into a great day for me. That's my way of being fueled by my present: I use my challenges to encourage others, and in return it encourages me. 

Whatever your method is, don't wait for the sun to shine to make it happen; do it now and use your TODAY to move towards TOMORROW. Don't be passive about what happens to you, turn it into action.

Using your challenges as fuel keeps you accountable to becoming the person you wish to become, arriving at the place you wish to arrive, and achieving the things you wish to achieve. 

So go ahead: Write, draw, paint, dance, speak, encourage, serve, build, sign-up for the thing you want to do, record the song, publish the blog, post the announcement, make the commitment.