Pliable Perception – Overcoming Challenges Part 1

Pliable Perception – Overcoming Challenges Part 1

It has been a while, but now it is time to continue with the pliable perception series…

What is a challenge?

Quite simply, a situation that makes you uncomfortable.

This could be physical discomfort, or psychological discomfort. Either way, when we have that feeling of discomfort, we know we have left out safe zone and have entered our learning zone. The zone of growth.

First, we looked at how we can shape our perception to make effective decisions. This is really about being able to be true to ourselves by making consistently authentic choices. It is these choices which may put us in a situation where we are challenged. We have chosen to do this because we know that we need to be challenged to grow.

Think about a cliff dive… jumping off is one thing… being able to stay composed so you perform the right technique for your landing requires a whole different set of skills and a different mindset.

Everyone can jump off, but not everyone can pull off the perfect landing.

This collection of insights offers practical tools for how you can stay focussed when faced with adversity and ultimately overcome life’s challenges. Even if you are the one that has chosen to jump in the fire!

Get Curious

This is a matter of choosing where to focus your metal effort and energy.

Why did the human climb to the top of the mountain?

Because they wanted to see what was on the other side.

When faced with adversity, we have lots of choices for how we can focus our minds:

  • We can face in to the challenge right in front of us, biting down to tackle it…
  • We can focus on the goal, reward, or prize as a motivation for overcoming the challenge…
  • We can transcend the challenge facing us and ponder what will come next…
  • We can observe ourselves immersed in the challenge and become fascinated by our emotional experience in the moment…

There is no one single right way to focus the mind as they all have their pros and cons, and some methods are better suited to certain challenges rather than others. The reality is that we will often flick between these different perspectives, or you could say mindsets, rapidly during the moment.

A mindset that is strongly promoted as the “only right way” in western society, and as such is often our default state, is to bite down and overcome our challenges with brute force and effort.

While this is sometimes great for physical challenges, it is more often than not, not the best way to overcome psychological challenges. To overcome challenges of the mind we require mental adaptability, flexibility and fluidity.

This is where curiosity comes in…


In a previous post (7 tips to cultivate curiosity) we explore ways to develop your own curiosity. Here is a simple way to trigger you to think of using these strategies:

Don’t get frustrated, get fascinated.

When things get tough, become curious about yourself, your experience in the moment, and your emotional response as it arises. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow.

Remember you can learn every step of the way, not just when you have reached your goal.

You see really, this is not just an opportunity to learn, it is a trick of distraction. Consider this:

When walking up a hill, you can give up as many times as you want, as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Ponder this while walking up a hill and you will find you have reached the top before you have acknowledged the discomfort you are in.

Curiosity to learn, curiosity to distract… two edges of the same sword which can be used to help you face in to an overcome any challenge that you face in life.

Remember Time keeps moving forward

If we have an important event coming up such as a meeting at work, an interview for a new job, or a date; in the build up to the event we can often start to feel a sense of anxiety and maybe even dread.

We want things to go well for us, and because of this, our egoic mind starts to think of all the different ways and reasons it can go bad. This is just our egoic mind doing it’s thing and trying to keep us safe.

Now in this situation you have two choices:

  1. Try to reason with the egoic mind and create counter arguments to spin your vison of the future in a positive way
  2. Detach from your ego and observe the chatter. Accept that the noise is not a true reality and instead choose to focus on the present moment.

By choosing option 1, you are giving the chatter of your ego credibility by choosing to create counter arguments – you are saying the ego is worth arguing against. You see, what you are actually doing is choosing the feed more energy to your ego and give it more strength.

Option 2 is an approach which you can learn how to apply through the practice of mindful meditation. It is a skill that you can develop and improve over time. There is however a simple little mantra you can use to make this choice more accessible.

When we are choosing to listen to our ego and focus on possible negative outcomes of future circumstances, we can pause for a moment and choose to consider that:

Time will always keep moving forward.

As we experience the present moment, that moment will slide to become the past as the future manifests into the present moment. If we stood still and did nothing, time would still pass.

Everything that starts has and end.

Now for situations where we are looking forward with a sense of anxiety and dread, this can be a great reminder that “this too will pass”. If we are looking forward to something with excitement and positivity, it may be a sad truth that “this too will pass”. Change is simply a reality of life and moments will always follow moments in to eternity.

Ultimately, remembering that time keeps moving forward is a practice that enables you to acknowledge the temporary nature of everything and learn to embrace change in new potentially daunting situations in your life.

Adopting and applying this tool of perception is a choice that you have the power to make. You just need to realise and accept that it is a possibility.

Focus Your Efforts

When exploring the principle of prioritising increasing vitality, we looked at all of the different aspects of our life that can influence our vitality and wellbeing.

When an exercise where we audit the landscape around us to find areas for growth and improvement, we can often end up with a long list of things that we think we “should” be doing. We have built a psychological elephant which we need to eat!

When faced with an elephant to eat it is easy to become fixated on the elephant and to forget that the only way to get it eaten is to focus on there here and now and simply take one bite at a time.

I mention this principle because the essence of focusing your efforts was captured there. Here is an excerpt from that post which can be applied to taking action to overcome a challenge:

If you think you are too busy to effect change in your life, I put this to you: There is no such thing as not having enough time to do what is most important. If you feel like this, the reality is that you have not done one or more of the following:

  • Accepted your current life situation or,
  • Been honest with yourself about realistically what is achievable within the amount of time available or,
  • You have not prioritised effectively to decide what is truly most important


You are the one that has created the perception in your mind that there is not enough time; and you are the only one that can accept that fact then take action to change it.

Once you get to the root of this perception, you can break free and empower yourself to:

  • Accept what you can change and cannot change – Accept your life situation
  • Be realistic about what you can get done in the time available – Plan accordingly
  • Refine your plan of action to ensure that the most important things get done first – Prioritise

The mountain pathway is designed to help you do this.

If you still don’t think you have time to effect change, it is simply because you have decided that something else is more important. Accept it.

If you have ever been on a plane, you will remember the key advice that they give during the safety demonstration: “Always put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others”.

It is fundamental advice that when applied at our core, empowers us to take the required action to achieve the goal of increasing the vitality of ourselves and the universe.

Enjoy, for now.

Previous Posts – Pliable Perception – Making Effective Decisions Part 2

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