Image courtesy of Jonatan Pie (Unsplash)

How to Attack Problems and Overcome Insurmountable Challenges

I remember when I used to feel sorry for myself.

I used the problems in my life to fuel my excuses and self-pity.

We read about how true champions use problems and challenges as motivational drivers on the path to success, I was doing the opposite. It was spiralling out of control, to the point that it makes me cringe to reflect back on this behavior.

I was diagnosed with a chronic disease (non life threatening), and in my mind I revelled in the thought that someone might have an ounce of sympathy for me. Maybe they’ll take pity on me and give me a break because I was dealt a bad hand.

When I didn’t get a job I wanted, even after 6 months of applying and interviewing, I felt sorry for myself. Why me? I thought. What did I do to deserve this? When was I going to get mine? I was dealt a bad hand.

Even something as simple as my lack of progression as a musician — I would get frustrated if I felt I was moving slower than I thought I should. Other musicians were doing much better than me. Again, I felt sorry for myself. Why can’t I be as good as the others? Why was I dealt a bad hand.

It was a destructive pattern. When things didn’t go my way, when a problem arose — whether large or small — I thought the world was against me.

Adding perspective to problems

In addition to a few choice words from my partner (essentially — get the F*ck over it Allan), what snapped me out of this self-pity was a simple dose of perspective. I woke one morning to a message from my mother back in Australia.

She told me that a long-time family friend, Jessica*, had been involved in a serious skiing accident in Canada. Her spinal cord was intact but there was significant damage to the nerves and the prognosis was that she was unlikely to walk again.

Jessica was a globe trotter and was always travelling to far ends of the earth in search of adventure. She was also a keen drummer. Immediately, I thought of all the things that being in a wheelchair would stop her doing.

No more going to the beach where she grew up, no more hiking trips, no more drumming.

Her whole life was upended.

What a way to put your petty problems in perspective, right?

Her initial accident was enough to make me forget about my problems but it was what happened next that really stuck with me.

When she was flown back to Australia and admitted to hospital for rehab and physical therapy, she was still told she’d never walk again. At that moment, lying in her hospital bed, she took control of the situation.

Jessica vowed to walk again. Heck, she even set the goal of heading back to Canada to ski. Once her mind was made up, that was it.

Positive vibes only, she said.

She wanted no sympathy.

If you visited and felt like you had to cry, go outside.

No social media posts of pity.

This was not a time for sympathy or misery, this was a time for action.

This attitude has stayed with me until this day.

There’s really no problem we can’t attack head-on with a positive, action-oriented attitude. And yes, maybe it doesn’t always work out the way we planned, but feeling sorry for ourselves or thinking only about the negative outcomes, certainly won’t help.

Jessica is back walking again. She’s still on the road to recovery with plenty of physical therapy ahead, but her positive attitude shines through. No doubt, she will be on the slopes again, much to everyone’s disbelief.

Find your perspective

Too often, we get stuck in the day-to-day grind and can’t see the forest for the trees. Our problems feel overwhelming. We don’t approach them with the right perspective. Maybe you’re dealt a bad hand on occasion. Heck, maybe you’re dealt something horrific that is truly life-changing, but if Jessica can face off with paralysis with a smile, then you can do the same to whatever you’re facing. In fact, it might be a healthy challenge for you to overcome that helps you in the long term.

Perspective is all around us. You don’t need to look far to see people who are dealing with far greater challenges than you. Millions of people sleep rough in the frigid cold every night, families are displaced by conflict, children have to walk miles to find clean water, people are handed devastating diagnoses every day.

There are a million ways it could be worse.

Challenge yourself to power through problems with positivity

Challenge yourself to put your problems in perspective and tackle them with deliberate action and positivity. The weight of a problem gets worse with the more angst you assign it. If you believe a problem is insurmountable, it will be.

But if you attack it knowing that things could be worse, I think you’ll find yourself toppling your problems methodically, maybe even with a smile on your face. It might not be easy, but it’s certainly better and more effective than revelling in your own self pity.

And if it’s really something you’re struggling with, maybe I can help, or I can put you in touch with someone who can. Email me: