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The Proving Ground

Last week I wrote about our work/life as a process for transformation into our highest and best self. I ended with the notion of our challenges being our proving ground. So, let’s talk about the challenge, the adventure, the struggle – since that’s the transformative bit.

The challenge is what provides the impetus for change. “Impetus” - that sounds like a disease of some sort. And… well, it kind of is. For there to be enough motivation to change, there needs to be dis-ease, there needs to be some critical level of discomfort caused by the discrepancy between how we wish something to be and how it actually is (a delta between reality and our aspirations). This dis-ease can be caused by good things (inspiration) or by difficult things (crisis). Either way, there is a need to launch into some sort of transformative adventure – willingly or unwillingly. As the Jungian analyst Marian Woodman said – you can either get dragged down that road kicking and screaming like a pig being led to slaughter, or you can muster as much courage and grace as you can and walk down the road with your head held high – either way, you’re going to go.

Life throws us all kinds of situations to test us and wake us up to some greater understanding of life and our purpose in it. Our veterans, active service members, and first responders experience crises and existential threats more directly than most of us. However, we each have our own moments where we are faced with a challenge and either become smaller or greater as a result of how we met that moment: Peer pressure, heartbreak, love, parenthood, physical and mental illness (in ourselves or in those that we love), divorce, lawsuits, annoying neighbors, difficult work situations, bankruptcy, aging, career changes, leadership opportunities, pandemics, and the list goes on. As a mentor of mine told me more frequently than I like to admit, these are all ways that we come up against the limits of who we thought we were only to realize that we are much greater. Do not wish them away. When these challenges get dropped on you, lean into them and see what lesson is trying to be taught and learn it the best you can – don’t worry, if we don’t learn it well enough, life is kind enough to give us more chances – after all, it is all in service of us becoming our highest and best self.


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