There’s a popular television show where one of the main characters accepts challenges that weren’t necessarily proposed. He hears the glimmer of doubt or a shred of competition in the voice of any other character and he readily “Accepts the Challenge.” This is just a funny piece of comedic acting, but I understand this mentality. In fact, I understand it so much so that I find myself regularly smirking a little at naysayers and silently accepting their challenges. When the world says throw away sentences such as “you could never do that,” or “that’s just too hard” or “that could never happen.” I find myself wanting to grab their hand, shake it and accept their challenge.
I grew up in a family full of bold and ambitious people. They were kind and generous, but they were never naysayers. None of my parents (and I grew up with 4) would look at a situation and say; “we can’t do this!” I never once heard, “That is too difficult for us,” or “this is impossible.” These simply weren’t sentences used in my home. Instead my family had always looked life directly in the eyes. They had always taken problems, unexpected events, both good and bad and quite readily accepted the challenges life threw at them. It wasn’t that my family didn’t have real hurdles to over come. We faced divorce and illness, job losses and moves, births, deaths, and major life style changes, but we always faced them and we always came through on the other side. We didn’t always get what we wanted, but we still took the challenge by the horns and we have all lived to tell the tale.
I’ve been told on multiple occasions that my family were the exception, not the rule. That many of the adults in my life today consistently heard ‘never’ throughout their upbringing. That they were told they couldn’t accomplish things because of their gender or their age or some other absurd restriction. A sad sentiment, but far more common than I realized. More people than I could have ever imagined, have lived with that internal (and often external) negative voice that throws a dark and foreboding cloud over their lives and ambitions. I never experienced this growing up. In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult and I entered the academic and professional world that I realized that society is chalk full of naysayers. Full of “no, nay, nevers…” and I’m saddened by this.
And though some of these negative responses to life can be attributed to sexist, ageist and ignorant prejudices, I think, more often than not, they are simply caused by fear. A fear to try something new or unfamiliar. A fear of failure. A fear of what people might think. A fear of authenticity or of the unknown. I don’t think this ‘can’t, won’t, couldn’t’ mentality always comes from a place of ignorance or prejudice, I think, often, it comes from a lack of ability to face those fears.
I’m sure for every time any of us have said or heard ‘impossible’ we have a perfectly legitimate reason for believing it, but I’d love us to start questioning that naysayer mentality. I’d love to see more people think positively. More people ready to try, to push beyond their comfort zones, to step up or step forward, to do something great and make a difference. To face down life’s challenges and come through stronger and better on the other side.
We need more people who look at their lives and the opportunities before them and say “we’ve got this!” people who don’t let age or gender or personal history stop them from being the best they can be. We need people who know life can be hard and uncertain and messy at times, but who still live it to the full. Who don’t stay home and hide away but who live abundantly!
As I look at a new year, full of adventures and unknown, as I ready myself for new challenges, inevitable hiccups and unforeseen opportunities, I look on with confidence. Not all of it will be fun, it certainly won’t all be easy, but will I make it through? Of course! Will I have to improvise, problem solve, push myself and experience my own set of failures – absolutely! Will I quit? Will I mumble ‘never’ or ‘impossible’ or shy away from the difficulties that are bound to come – no I will not.
And I hope as you face 2018, that those negative, limiting voices that perhaps you grew up with, or maybe you hear even today – are silenced. That you will face down your challenges, and rise to the occasion. That you will be bold. That you will be your personal best. That you will follow your own callings and tackle your own demons.
May this be the year that despite our fear we move ahead.
May this be the year we conquer the negative thoughts and defeatist attitudes.
May this be the year we look life squarely in the eyes and loudly proclaim “Challenge Accepted!”
A Ship is always safe at shore, but that’s not what it’s built for.