Course 3: Challenge

Welcome to the COURSE on CHALLENGE!

“Amor Fati”

If this is NOT your first course, feel free to skip the video below, although it’s a good reminder before diving into more Self-Study. 


Know Thyself Better to Suffer Better

“The most hopeful result of analysis finds the patient suffering more of his pain than he was able to manage before. More of his pain is held in conscious awareness instead of being discharged into behavior that jumbles up his life, injuring his relationships or his work. A successful therapeutic venture leaves the patient’s… life improved, perhaps dramatically…instead of being tormented by meaningless pain, he will suffer pain constructively. Pain is always part of life, and the wounds that have molded the person into exactly this or that shape will continue to channel his responses to pain in his unique ways.”
— Barbara Sullivan

Introduction to Challenge

“Our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.
Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz

Course Objectives

This Course on Challenge is about knowing who you are by understanding your challenges that are rooted in the nature of being human—limitation, mortality, and anxiety. Sounds like fun, eh? The course asks you  to approach locating your challenges with nonjudgmental curiosity to learn more about them, thus more about yourself.

You will be asked to:
(1) deliberately, carefully, and curiously examine the nature of your specific challenges,
(2) define your attitude toward your challenges,
(3) learn more about  your own degree of willing acceptance of and responsibility for challenge, and
(4) learn more about the important relationship between challenge, discipline and honesty.

Whether your challenges involve reaching your potential through an expression of a talent or strength you’ve been reluctant about or clawing your way out of the gutter, working WITH the energy of challenge rather than against it is a liberating and transcendent process that will give your life meaning and purpose, regardless of whether or not you succeed or fail in terms of outcome.


“No Mud, No Lotus.” ––Thich Nhat Hahn

Challenge Audit 

Who are you in terms of your challenges? Are you afraid to leave you self-constructed safe-space, or do you push so far beyond your boundaries to the extreme, forgetting self-awareness, that you injure yourself? Are you afraid to be more, become more fully alive and well, express yourself as uniquely you?  This audit asks you to describe to yourself in writing where  you are on the spectrum of challenge.

Writing About Challenge

Writing is a powerful way to articulate how you understand yourself and your experiences. This practice asks you to sit quietly and HONESTLY reflect on your understanding of challenge, common human challenges, and your specific and particular personal challenges and how you relate to them. In other words, in the Audit practice and this one, you are getting a lay of the landscape of yourself in terms of challenge– those which come from within and those which come from being a vulnerable human in a challenging world.

Your Whys 

You will explore your motivation for facing challenge and values (see your work in the Attention Course) and observe how your values relate to your willingness to accept and respond to challenge in order to create a life worth living.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Are you pleasing everyone else instead of facing the challenge of being and becoming authentically you?
Are you aimless?
Are you aiming low and playing it safe?
Which values will inspire and motivate you, drive you toward facing challenge, willingly?

Facing Challenge
Willing Acceptance of the Discomfort Zone

Humans struggling to face the challenges of being human need at least a minimal sense of security and safe relationships. Safety is critical for learning and healthy development. A mom must nurture her baby so that he can crawl away from her to explore the world, out beyond his boundaries and limits. There’s no other way for him to grow and create his autonomous life but to leave his comfort zone. Humans need a secure home base from which to venture out into the unknown. Sometimes you have to become your own sense of “home.” And so, the process repeats– out of the comfort zone, back home, out again, return to safety over and over again. This is learning.

As we mature (notice I don’t say become adults or mention some specific age), we learn to be both our own safe home base and the brave explorer. This is an inside job done through trial and error, testing boundaries, and the repeated practice of challenge (stress, anxiety, fear, mental suffering, etc…) which is a process of gradual exposure therapy. Fear never disappears.

You don’t have to spend all your effort and energy resisting fear or wishing your were fearless in order to face your challenges. You need to BUILD COURAGE through ACTION– trial and error. The learning process IS the same thing as Challenge. It’s scary, full of ambiguity and uncertainty and vulnerability, but it is THE PATH, THE WAY, to survive, grow and thrive.

 Discipline & Freedom

When I think about learning to discipline oneself in just the right amounts, depending on who you are and what you’re like in order to face and respond positively to challenge, I think of the fairytale, Goldilocks & The Three Bears. I also think of parenting. Too soft, too hard, and just right. How do you know what is just right for you when dealing with challenge?

Should I push harder or let up and recover? Is less more in this instance and context or is more appropriate in this instance, in this context, here and now? Aye aye aye!!  How to grapple with challenge?! I told you life is hard! You will suffer, but you don’t have to make your challenges worse!

Resistance & Letting Go

In this practice, we will look at your challenges and observe how your resistance and reluctance to let go may be part of how you relate to challenge, perhaps making managing them better or worse, depending on the challenge and the context etc…

What you resist persists, so if you want to better relate to  your challenges, it’s better to welcome them, willingly accept them (and all their “unfairness”) and relate to them in healthier ways (aligned with your values) in order to suffer better, rather than resist them and suffer worse!

*A Word about “Extra” Challenging Challenges and Extremes*

None of these courses are ever complete. They live on as long as you do, yet you have, indeed, just willingly met another challenge by engaging with studying yourself in terms of challenge.

Good for You!
Please proceed to the
Course on Choice!


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