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Sometimes the only way out is to go through

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Sometimes the only way out is to go through

Scott Miker

When I was younger I had a bad tendency to avoid difficult tasks.  I would try to find a shortcut or any easier way to do something. 

It didn’t matter if the difficult situation was one that was good for me long term and teaching me a valuable lesson, the only thing I could think of was to try and get rid of the uncomfortable feelings of being outside of my comfort zone. 

But over the years I have realized that these challenging situations aren’t as bad as we think.  Yes there may be some hardships associated with going away from the usual, comfortable things in life to explore a new area or interest, but we can’t grow unless we accept this and keep moving. 

What I learned (often times the hard way) was that no storm lasts forever.  Everyone faces challenging times and everyone fails.  It isn’t about the failure as much as it is about what you do when faced with adversity.  Because how we approach a problem can increase or decrease the impact of that problem.  But it isn’t usually what we think. 

When I was younger I would always look for the easy path.  I would try to avoid unnecessary challenge.  If I found myself in a difficult situation, my focus was on trying to eliminate the discomfort. 

But these times can be incredible teachers.  We can learn so much about life and about ourselves when we face adversity.  If we can make it through a few storms we can realize that we don’t have let these situations tear us down, we can use them to build us up. 

I am a big fan of author Rory Vaden.  In his book and in various articles and speeches he references where he grew up (Colorado).  He talks about how cows and buffalo live together in close proximity and gives a story about how each species handles storms.

In a blog post, he describes the cows approach to a storm.  “What cows do is very natural. Cows sense the storm coming from the west and so they start to try to run toward the east. The only problem with that is that if you know anything about cows you know they aren’t very fast.”

“So the storm catches up with the cows rather quickly. And without knowing any better the cows continue to try to outrun the storm. But instead of outrunning the storm they actually run right along with the storm. Maximizing the amount of pain and time and frustration they experience from that storm! “

For me I can completely understand the cow’s point of view.  Whenever I found myself in a challenge, I would try to find a way around it.  But this often just made things worse, instead of better. 

He goes on to describe the buffalo.  “What buffalo do on the other hand is very unique for the animal kingdom. Buffalo wait for the storm to cross right over the crest of the peak of the mountaintop and as the storm rolls over the ridge the buffalo turn and charge directly into the storm.”

“Instead of running east away from the storm they run west directly at the storm. By running at the storm they run straight through it. Minimizing the amount of pain and time and frustration they experience from that storm.”

Years ago I realized that I tended to avoid challenging situations.  Since then I have started to work hard to learn from these situations and go through them.  Instead of trying to find a way out, I try to find a way through.  To me this is what the buffalos are doing.  They are facing their fears and charging right at the challenge instead of being worried and trying to find a way out. 

The best part is that going through is actually a lot more beneficial than I ever thought.  Storms don’t last forever and facing problems head on makes problems less difficult in the long run.  If we face a problem we can work to overcome it and learn from it. 

Charging at the storm coincides with doing the right thing, owning our mistakes, and being willing to confront fears.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have storms or that we always succeed.  It simply means that we face our problems head on and work to constantly improve, rather than constantly avoiding this chance to grow.