Challenge AND Opportunity

In a Law and Order (opens in a new link) episode the District Attorney said “Challenge and opportunity come in pairs.” I found that intriguing because the expression I’ve typically heard is challenge OR opportunity. The “or” distinction being used in the terms of determining a person’s mindset I.e. predisposition to viewing situations as challenges or opportunities. The former tend to bemoan difficult situations, the latter are excited by them.

Upon hearing “and” in the District Attorney’s statement, I wondered: Can this simple word make a difference in the way we handle the challenges we face? I believe that it can.

The word “or” implies choice; choice, at least good choices, involve an evaluation of whether or not to view what we’re facing as either a challenge or an opportunity. To me, this evaluation seems like a waste of time and energy. We don’t really have a choice, we will ultimately have to deal with the challenge. Running and hiding, wishing that it’ll go away, or denying that it exists simply prolong the inevitability of facing our challenges.

“And” implies that there is no choice, consequently, neither time nor energy are wasted trying to make a choice when none exists. The realization that every challenge poses an opportunity enables us to quickly engage in answering the question: “How can I deal with this situation effectively?”

We’re able to move to the “how” question quickly because we realize that challenge is always accompanied by opportunity. It’s easier to move forward when we see opportunity than it is when we feel challenged. Opportunity is new, exciting and intriguing whereas challenge often feels daunting.

“How” question

There are several important benefits to getting to “how” quickly:

  • Neither time, nor energy are wasted evaluating a choice that doesn’t exist.
  • “How” implies that there is a solution. It’s easier to find a solution when we are confident that there is one.
  • “How?” affords us access to our subconscious mind which is where the best, i.e. the simplest and most effective solutions, reside.

We’ve already discussed how time and energy get wasted when we feel there is a choice so I won’t belabor the point.

Another big time waster, one that delays the discovery of a solution, is the doubt experienced when we feel challenged. One of our natural tendencies is to doubt whether or not a solution exists when we feel challenged. The reality is that there is always a solution…even though that solution might be between the lesser of two evils. You can verify that statement by recalling the challenges you’ve faced and the solutions you created. You’ll realize that you always found a way to deal with challenges you’ve faced.

Finally, the “how” question enables us to tap the power of our subconscious mind in finding solutions. This is something you already have experience doing…although it’s likely that you weren’t aware of what you were doing.

Here’s an experience I’m certain you’ve all had. You wrested with a problem all day to no avail. Just before retiring you wondered “How am I going to solve this dilemma?” The next morning in the shower, the solution came to you and you thought: “It’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of that before?”

Without realizing it, you tapped into the power of your subconscious mind. You did that by wondering, “How am I going to solve this problem?” In effect, you assigned the problem to your subconscious mind and it provided a solution for you. The key to your success in this unintentional assignment was the fact that you used a “how” question.

As we discussed earlier, “how” implies a solution. “If” questions, the ones we ask all too often, imply doubt. When you feed doubt into your subconscious mind, it functions much like your computer does when it locks up…the little wheel keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning until you reboot. In the case of the subconscious mind, rebooting is replacing an “if” question with a “how” question.

As you can see, the “how” question can dramatically shorten the interval between when you ask the question of your subconscious mind and when you get an answer. “If” questions waste huge amounts of time and energy. “How?” questions produce results quickly.

One final thought about utilizing your subconscious mind, you don’t have to wait until bedtime to utilize it. You can tap into the power of your subconscious mind any time of the day or night, consciously and at will. All you have to do is plant the “how” question into your subconscious mind. I do this anytime that my conscious mind is struggling to find a solution. By shifting the assignment to my subconscious, I can focus my conscious mind on a task that I can complete. Employing both my conscious and subconscious minds simultaneously I accomplish a great deal more in considerably less time.

For you

When faced with a challenge, remind yourself that “challenge and opportunity come in pairs.” Shifting your focus from challenge to opportunity opens your mind to a vast array of solutions. That translates into quick, more effective results…as long as you’re using “how” questions.

If your conscious mind doesn’t produce a solution in less than 30 minutes, assign the problem to your subconscious mind using a “how” question, then focus your conscious mind on a task that you can accomplish. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your subconscious mind provides  an answer.

Interestingly, the subconscious mind rarely interrupts your conscious mind when it’s focused on a task. It typically provides the answer when your conscious mind is unfocused, i.e. open to receiving input. The increased productivity you experience is due to this amazing aspect of the relationship between your conscious and subconscious minds. As you gain experience in this practice of employing both minds, you’ll gain both great joy and heightened confidence.

For our kids

As kids see you viewing challenges as opportunities and quickly finding solutions to whatever situation you face, they’ll mimic your behavior. They’ll automatically view challenges as the opportunities they represent.

When you see kids struggling with a dilemma, share with them the success you have when you ask “how” questions. Let them know that “how” implies a solution whereas “if” implies doubt. Feel free to use the computer analogy to help them visualize what’s happening in their subconscious mind when it’s fed an “if” question.

Finally, teach them how to employ both their conscious and subconscious minds effectively. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, As always you make good points to consider! I’ve learned through experience for me, the sooner I get out of the emotional state and into a rational state the better I will respond to any stimuli!

    • dfurtwengler

      Bill, that’s true for all of us. When emotion wanes, we respond better to any situation we face. We can accelerate the shift from emotion to rational state by simply pausing as soon as we realize that we’re in an emotional state. The pause allows the emotion to subside and rational thinking to replace the emotion. Thanks for your always insightful comments.

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