Prizing the Uphill Climb

Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • For Sunday, October 19, 2014

 

Prizing the Uphill Climb

David W. Hegg

 

Years ago I listened as a world-champion bicycle rider was being interviewed following one of the Tour de France stages. When asked his strategy he explained “I always try to make up time when going up hill. While most riders are just trying to keep their position, I really press to advance. Of course, it means I have to train extra hard to take advantage of the greatest challenges on the course.”

 

I’ll never forget that interview, or the principle I drew from it: Always see challenges as opportunities, and hit them head-on.

 

In this world where things break, people disappoint, germs rule, and problems are woven into the fabric of life, there is no such thing as challenge-free living. We all face the uphill climb at some point, and for some it is a long, hard pull. But, more important than the problem is our attitude toward it, and our determination to hit it head-on.

 

When some folks are faced with problems, trials, and the challenges of life, they become incensed. They live in the fantasy world of problem-free living as though they’ve been promised a life without difficulty. When something breaks, they get mad. When things don’t go as planned, they are shocked and frustrated. They never come to grips with the reality of a traffic-clogged morning commute, or that brakes wear out, dogs bark, waiters mess up orders, and teams lose. Where life’s obstacles are concerned, these folks under prepare and over react, and we have to put up with it.

 

On the other end of the spectrum are those who embrace their problems to the point  they become identified by them. Over time they have stopped being individuals with robust lives and dreams, and have become the sum total of all the bad things they have experienced. They don’t face their problems, they become them. And if you dare suggest remedies or strategies for overcoming their difficulties, they will immediately give you a hundred reasons why your ideas won’t work.

 

Another segment of our society thinks the best way to solve problems is to ignore them. As Linus, the great philosopher of Peanuts fame once said, “No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.” You might call this the “head in the sand” approach to difficulty. These are the folks that go for months ignoring their “check engine” light, that dripping faucet, and the difficult service question from their biggest customer. They hope problems will solve themselves, or simply be forgotten as new situations arise.

 

We all realize the folly of allowing the trials of life to rule over us, and yet it takes strength of character to recognize each situation for what it is and face it head-on. Procrastination is never the best plan, and neither is over-reaction. When problems arise, it will help if we’ve already decided to face them honestly, analyze them carefully, and pursue an ethical course in solving them. Sometimes the solution will be patient endurance, while at other times direct action is needed. Regardless, it will always be best to admit the reality of the situation, understand our responsibility in it, and try to turn the challenge into an opportunity for personal growth.

 

So, let’s be people who make up time on the uphill climb. After all, if there’s ever to be a time when we can coast, we’ll have to make it to the top of the mountain first.