What Are the Biggest Challenges in Life?
Despite all the positives in life, there are also plenty of drawbacks. Most of these challenges are inescapable, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successfully overcome. When we’re asked what we consider challenging or obstacles in our lives, most of us think of financial, professional, or romantic setbacks; sometimes we think of health or personal issues. But one thing that remains true for all of them: There are people to help you through them.
That said, what do people see as the biggest challenges in life?
Debt and Health
Perhaps the biggest hurdle is debt, both educational and medical. The debt for universities in this country is in the trillions. Medical debt remains significant for an estimated 23 million people in the United States. Many of us don’t incur debt just for the fun of it, of course: Educational and medical debt are taken on to help us live a better life, or in the pursuit of better things. We want to have better job prospects as a result of our education, and we want to live our best lives in our healthiest bodies.
But we often find our quality of life goes down the more we’re saddled with debt. Besides the financial repercussions, medical issues can be chronic and last for years, possibly our entire lives. The pain, setbacks, and challenges to everyday life can manifest in mental health symptoms, which can also significantly decrease our wellbeing. An estimated 43.8 million American adults live with a mental health challenge. Many others remain undiagnosed and thus untreated.
Similarly, many of us struggle with body image issues, exacerbated by what we see on social media, in movies, or on television and our favorite shows. Our self-esteem and sense of accomplishment can be radically diminished by our unjust comparisons with others, and our sense of success can be weighed down by the weight of expectations. Living our best lives means understanding what we’re responsible for and what is within our power to control and attempt to remedy.
It’s helpful to visualize medical and mental health challenges as a connected spectrum. It’s easy to think of major life challenges as existing independently, but the truth is a little more complicated and a lot more realistic. Challenges and struggles, like medicine and debt, feed into each other and often muddy our outlooks in ways we can’t easily identify. When debt causes our stress to spike, we might attribute the mental health toll to our physical wellbeing when in fact they work in tandem. Treating the whole person, and not just the challenge, remains the biggest benefit to a greatly increased quality of life not defined by the hardships of life.
Career Crisis and Social Troubles
For many of us, our sense of self-worth is inexorably tied to our careers and our life goals. When these life goals remain unmet, our feelings of self-worth can go down, as can our relationships with others, no matter how important they otherwise are to us.
If you’re unhappy in your job, feeling stuck, unmotivated, burned out, or are in the process of quiet quitting as a reprieve, this can tax you mentally and emotionally in ways you’re not always aware of. You might find job stress and life dissatisfaction preclude you from spending time with your friends or kids, your spouse, or your family. You might compare yourself constantly to others in seemingly more advantageous positions, professional and financial, and find your self-worth is soon no longer existent.
This is both natural and something that can be bettered with perspective and work. It’s largely possible to transition to a different job, or to advocate for the things you want at your current one. It’s hard for many of us to take a stand or speak up for what we want, but the rewards from the effort can be manifold. We might find our lives instantly bettered by simply vocalizing what it is we need and how we feel. We might see new challenges at work make us feel unstuck and decrease the growing burnout. A new job might give us a renewed sense of mission; greater pay might help us pay off debts faster, or take vacations, or start a business.
This feeling of liberation might enable us to spend more time with friends and family where before we were absent. It’s always surprising how much of our social interactions are determined by other life events. We want our friends and family to be happy, and happy with us; we don’t want to feel like we’re letting anyone down, perpetuating a cycle of disillusionment and guilt.
It’s also common to find challenges with friends can independently affect our quality of life. Friends going through divorce, problems with drugs and alcohol, their own mental health challenges, or growing distance as a result of simple time and aging can increase the disassociation we feel from the people who were once a core part of our lives. We can start to feel isolated from the lack of social outlets we once had.
If our personal or romantic life isn’t what we want, or if we’re going through a divorce or breakup, our self-worth can take a giant hit. We might feel we won’t ever find love, or we don’t deserve it, or that we can’t trust good things when we have them. Learning to cope with a breakup and move on is a struggle for many, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
It’s important to remember the adage that friends can be with us for a reason or a season. Consequently, it’s always possible, and often highly beneficial, to make new friends, or to let your relationships with others evolve to the point it’s something new and more fulfilling. We shouldn’t run from change just because it’s different and accepting what can (and possibly should) happen is a core part of navigating through uncertain life waters.
Filling the Emptiness
It might be, at the end of the day, that all our challenges in life can be overcome, but our mental health space is changing in ways we don’t like or find we can’t live with. We might be stuck in our lives, unable to see a better path forward or simply mulling the philosophical problem of What’s next? Finding what’s next for all of us is a personal, time-honored goal that often eludes easy answers.
- How do we determine the next stage and course of our lives?
- How do we know we’re on the right path?
- What will enable us to achieve the things we want, once we nail down what they are?
Counseling and therapy can help with all of us these questions if there remains uncertainty. Mental health treatment sometimes has a negative or easily boxed-in reputation. But nothing could be further from the truth. Mental health guidance can help provide a sounding board that points the way forward for us in ways we didn’t previously imagine. It can help us ask the right questions to get to the heart of the matter and see what we’ve been missing before. Mental health treatment and guidance are only as effective as you’ll let them be, much as you can only be what you strive for.
The true key to successfully navigating life’s challenges is to recognize what are challenges and to find ways to deal with and overcome them rather than running. A challenge is best met head-on, with honesty and determination. Though there are many avenues to navigating those challenges, it is ultimately you who will determine the final course. Take that as a challenge—and an opportunity.