Challenges and change are intertwined. This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about challenges. If something in life is a challenge, when you are through it, you will be forever changed on the other side. The degree of change may vary, but the change is inevitable.
Probably the most obvious place you see this is in the fitness world. If you are into lifting weights, then you know that when you start it’s small. You choose a weight that is doable for you, but still pushes you. Once that weight becomes less challenging you add more weight that stretches you to your new limit, but you accomplish it. As you move forward you become stronger. Pretty soon you’re adding more weight than you once thought possible. Running is similar. You set a baseline for a distance you want to run. Then you get into a training program. Soon shorter distances become longer, and slower paces become faster. And, before you know it, you are accomplishing more than you thought possible!
In the movie “The Matrix”, Agent Smith explains how the first version of the matrix didn’t have any struggles or difficulties, and the people in the matrix couldn’t accept it. There were no challenges, life was easy, and everything was ‘perfect’. What the first version of the matrix missed is that it’s the challenges that help us grow and become better human beings. People can accept, and even welcome challenges, because at some level we recognize the challenge will bring growth and new insights. Sometimes we aren’t sure how to get through the challenge, or we might wish the challenge was just a little bit easier, but ultimately we welcome the change the challenge will bring.
I believe challenges give us purpose. Challenge’s change who we are and prompts us to become better versions of ourselves. Moving on to a boat doesn’t magically change who we are. The challenges that come with a live aboard life will change us though. This past week we had a nasty hailstorm. It damaged our newly planted garden and left it’s mark on our son’s car. We were in my wife’s massage studio when it started. She heard the pounding and insisted we leave. We only had to endure the pelts for 12 feet from the door to the car, we were well protected. When severe weather hits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you must know how to handle it! You must be prepared to survive and endure a challenge that might end your life. This will change you.
As a family we experienced this when COVID hit our home last fall. Without a doubt, being forced to leave my wife at the door of the Emergency Room made me question what’s really important in life. I was told point blank, “You are not allowed to come in with her”. I left her in tears, clinging to me, in the care of a stranger. This challenge changed my perspective on things. I began to reflect on the fact that for 8 to 12 hours a day I’m away from those that I care about most. Is there a degree of personal satisfaction that comes from doing a good job at work and finding answers to problems? Absolutely! Without a doubt. But, can I find that elsewhere, while still being with people that I really care about? I think the answer to that is yes. It requires me to look at life a bit differently.
The Sailing Family recognized this when their children were young. They decided to do something a bit different and sail the world with their kids. Are they going to do this forever? Who knows, but for now their kids are learning two things that can’t be learned in school. First, mom and dad gave up successful careers to be with us. Without a doubt, video editing is still work, and the mom still has a business. But their kids are growing up with mom and dad, not at daycare. Second, there’s a great big world out there and you can do things differently. You can follow an unconventional path. I’m sure their life is challenging. They live on a 51’ catamaran with 5 people! Those challenges change them. And those challenges change them to be a better people. I suspect you must reach new level of understanding and patience in that kind of a living situation.
Life is about challenges. Challenges change us. We can’t always decide what kind of challenges we are going to face. The question is how do face the challenges that come our way. Do we crawl under a bed and hope the storm will pass and nothing will happen? Or do we face it head on, dig deep within ourselves, and recognize that with the storm we will come out the other side having grown as a person.
Some might say that our desire to buy a boat and sail the world is running away from the challenges of the modern world. There might be some truth to that. Another perspective is that we are setting ourselves up for a different kind of challenge. Not being able to call a plumber when there’s a leak forces a new level of self-sufficiency. This adventure is not just about swimming with whales, cliff diving, and eating fresh tuna. It is about the challenges that will change us.