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Our two greatest challenges
In our lives we need to face many challenges, some of our own choosing and some that are thrust upon us. Sometimes they are troublesome, sometimes they are interesting, and sometimes they are exciting. And no matter how we feel about them when we face them, we feel good when we overcome them. Indeed, studies such as Czikszentmihali's 'Flow', have shown that challenge is a great path to happiness.
Two of these challenges that we must unavoidably face are perhaps the greatest challenges that we face during our lifetime.
As a child, we live in the cocoon of the family where much is provided for us. But this does not last forever. At some time we must face life, striking out by ourselves, becoming independent and self-sufficient. We go from being child to adult, from receivers to providers, from students to workers. We have total choice in all things, but have to face the consequences of our choices.
A difficult transition here is that children are often happy to receive more authority, gaining control over their lives, but they do not like having responsibility, with nobody to rescue them and nobody to blame but themselves. Many people show a failure to complete this transition to adulthood as they avoid responsibility and try to blame others when things go wrong. It can also be seen when people feel that they are still somehow a child rather than an adult well into their 20s and beyond.
As an adult, we grow older and must eventually face the inevitability of our own deaths. With luck, this comes with old age, but can appear at any time. It can be a surprise and it can be the end-stop of a terminal illness. When we are young, life seems infinite, but gradually the horizon gets closer. We busy ourselves with our lives and ignore it for as long as possible, but aches, pains and the death of loved ones increasingly reminds us of our own impending doom. It catches us up as the value we place on the remainder of our life seems constant, such that the older we get, the more we value each day.
We may find religion, science or philosophy to help explain what it is all about, yet we must still face our death. A question here is in the difference between dying and being dead. Being dead may be easier to accept. Religion promises a glorious afterlife, while science suggests non-existence removes worry or pain, although the philosopher in us worries at the loss of identity. The process of dying can be a more immediate worry, as it suggests pain or perhaps the loss of mental function and consequent identity.
As a young person, we must face life. As an old person, we must face death. Both are inevitable. While others can help, we must ultimately face these challenges alone. If we can do this, we will have cleared the way to a happier life.
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