“A challenge is an opportunity to prove your ability to yourself and others. Most never reach the level of achievement of which they are capable, because they don’t challenge themselves enough.”
Last week, I had an amazing opportunity to visit the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in the company of fellow entrepreneurs.
I had no idea where we were getting into and whom we would be meeting though we were told that most inmates were convicted to life sentence or long-term imprisonment.
After a long wait for security clearance, we entered one of the most famous prisons of the world and were walked into the Industries Area where inmates worked on carpentry, welding and art work. They were making number plates for cars too.
To my pleasant surprise, the prison houses a school — a primary and middle school, a computer centre, arts centre and most inmates receiving formal training into the various vocational skills.
The visit was truly eye-opening. Many inmates shared their story, how they ended up accepting their sentence as their fate, as they could neither defend themselves nor could afford a lawyer to fight their case.
The one common thing among most of them was that they started feeling better the moment they accepted themselves for what they were and saw this as an opportunity to realise their purpose in life.
Most interesting among them was the Principal of the school who was sentenced to death but was later reversed to a life sentence.
His words were genuine and confident. He started feeling his life had a purpose and God chose this path for him when he could help and educate other inmates.
This visit was an amazing proof of the saying, “Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
This is what the inmates of a high security prison feel about life. Do we have a reason to complain?
“The caterpillar that lies inside the cocoon will never become the beautiful butterfly if someone cuts open the cocoon prematurely. It is the struggle itself that allows the butterfly to emerge as a strong new creature of the nature.”
We don’t grow when things are easy; we do when we face challenges. Life has a unique way of talking to us, more often than not, by throwing challenges, sometimes at the most unexpected time and situations.
We either accept the challenge and move on or run away from it.
“When the mind is weak, every situation is a problem; when the mind is balanced, every situation is a challenge and when mind is strong, every situation becomes an opportunity.”
Every test makes us bitter or better. Every problem make or break us. And the choice rests with us, whether to be a victim or a victor.
Martin Luther King Jr once famously said, “The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge.”
The chances of success in life are higher when you realise that the obstacles you face are challenges to help you become better and your response equals the challenge. Challenges in life come in three categories – easy, difficult and impossible.
Those who take the easy way have a safe and boring life; those with difficult way have a tough but satisfying life; those taking the impossible way are remembered forever.
That does not mean you go looking for challenges, but when faced with them, don’t run away from it. Imagine a day when you lounge around doing nothing.
Imagine another day when you have had everything to do and you have done it, they may not be great things, but may be things that add meaning to yourself or to your life. Which one gives you more satisfaction?
Challenges are not supposed to paralyse, they are supposed to help you discover who you are. Here are five things to remember about challenges in life.
One, never limit your challenges, instead challenge your limits. Two, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.
Sometimes, overcoming challenge is as simple as changing the way you think about it and, four, if it does not challenge you, it does not change you.
Finally, challenges become obstacles only when you bow to it.
Say to yourself every morning: “Today is going to be a great day, I can handle more than I think; things don’t get better by worrying about them.
I can be satisfied if I try to do my best; There is always something to be happy about; I am going to make someone happy today, it is not good to be down. Life is great and I want to make the most of it”
Sri is the founder and chief mentor of Kuza Biashara Limited, a capacity building organisation coaching youth & SME owners across Africa. He chairs Entrepreneurs’ Organisation for Africa. He can be reached @Sbharatam or firstname.lastname@example.org.