Redirecting Our Problems Into Challenges

Typically, I have a lot of energy. I wake up in the morning and I’m ready to go! Literally, if I don’t wake up before my alarm goes off, I’m up as soon I hear the first bell. Out of bed, I make up my side of the bed, rub Prince and tell him lets go ‘potty’. Brush my teeth, wash my face, start my prayers/affirmations for the day, take Prince for his mile walk, workout, make breakfast, and get ready for work. On my drive to work I’m playing whatever music my spirit needs to feel, and sometimes I listen to the same song for the entire drive! But then there are moments when out of nowhere it’s as if my energy has been sucked away, and I just don’t ‘feel’ like doing anything. Now, at my lowest point in my life I would do the bare minimum to get through the moment, climb back in bed, and just try to sleep the day away. But what I know to be true is that if you stay in that dark place that it’ll take you forever to get out. 

Which brings me to today’s topic, ‘redirecting our problems into challenges’. Every depressive episode, period of low self-esteem, procrastination, or feelings of laziness… they all require some trigger. It could be as simple as sleeping in one morning, skipping one workout, deciding not to send out your typical good morning messages, or allowing that one scenario to consume to much of your mental energy.  When that trigger goes off your body senses this event as either a problem or a challenge. A significant amount of research has been done to try and determine what happens inside of our bodies when we are under negative forms of stress. 

The research shows that when we see something as a problem, internally, and I mean down to a cellular level, we begin to negative process the event. Our thoughts get dark, our mood shifts, our energy begins to lower, we begin to see the situation as the destination, and often we settle into the pace of the ‘problem’. How scary is it to see that the way we ‘perceive or think’ about something has so much control over how our body responds? The brain cannot tell the difference between an imagined scenario and a true event. Seriously, the brain sees that scenario that you dreamt up as a real thing, and the body goes into fight or flight mode all the same. 

On the other hand, research has shown that when we see something as a challenge our bodies begin to light up, we find purpose, meaning, enthusiasm, we start looking for solutions, we become creative. Why is that? Because people love to be challenged. When we get challenged and we ‘overcome’ the challenge we have this amazing story to tell. Think about some of your favorite movies, people, comics, shows, music, artist, etc. They all generally have some story of struggle and triumph that resonates with you. Their story is in alignment with the energy that you’re seeking. People love Sarah Jakes Roberts because she’s down to earth, relatable, and carry’s herself well. But it is her story that attracts people to those traits. She overcame teen pregnancy, being a high school dropout, and divorce! What a powerful story to not only tell, but to show the world how it has helped to shape her into the mighty woman that she is today. 


Before I understood what a problem was, I used to get really stressed when it came to money, time management, productivity, and meeting expectations. Everything I listed is something that as a functioning adult in society is something that we have to perform daily. When I changed my way of thinking and began to see these things as challenges that if I overcame them, they would help me get to the life I wanted to live, whew! My GOD the results. In high school I took pre-calculus in 9th grade. I did well, I think I made mostly B’s and C’s in that class. In 10th grade I took Algebra 2. I could follow the steps during the class, I took great notes, I could help my friends do their work, I could do my homework, but when it was time to take our tests, I would miss one step and that would throw off the entire problem. If you know anything about math you know that once you miss a step, it usually means that you’re not going to get the right answer. So, I began failing the test. After maybe the 3rd or 4th test, my self-esteem and confidence began to drop. I could not understand how I could do this work at home, help people around me get their work done, and then fail these freaking tests. 

In 11th grade I started taking College Algebra, and it went about the same. Several years later in undergrad, I had to take college algebra again to get though my studies. My professor’s name was Chad Money, he was a great guy, good teacher, and was patient. Listen, I still think I failed that class. Seriously, I believe he gave me a few extra points because I showed up early every day, I sat in the front of the room, I went to his office hours, and I came back after every test and asked where I went off track. I’m not a person that gets test anxiety. When I get ready to take a test I relax, answer what I know, go back and look at the things I skipped, and I don’t stress once I’ve finished the exam. So, it really had me baffled when I was failing these math test! What I know to be true now is that the reason I kept making mistakes is not because I couldn’t do the math, I had proven that I could do the math, I kept messing up because I defeated myself before I even started the test.

In high school I considered math to be a problem for me, and I really wish that I had never done that. Because from that moment forward, I wanted to stay away from math. Math detracted from my smarts, I was the guy with the answers, I had always been known as the sharp student, and math made me seem stupid. But in reality, math brought up an area for improvement, and if I had been able to look at it that way, I could have learned this life lesson a long time ago. Today, I don’t shy away from complicated math. I balance budgets, write and review contracts, handle consultations, and most of all I track and predict my paid time off.


My experience is relatable for a lot of people. Most of us have given up on something because of an experience we had as a child that left us scarred and embarrassed. But today we’re serving notice on our inner child, we’re letting that inner child know that we see them, we acknowledge them, but we can’t stay in that place. To stay in that place is to give up what your life could be. Some people had a bad experience and refuse to leave broken relationships, they don’t trust that if they leave that dead-end job that the next place they work will value them more, they never saw their parents apologize when they were wrong, so they don’t believe it’ll work with kids, and they were never taught how to speak up for themselves, so they don’t want to come off as offensive. 

The good thing about this meeting space is that we are not meeting in our shared trauma. I refuse to let you sit and sulk in that space, you’ve given too much energy and time to a dead space. 

Let me help you understand what a problem can be:

  1. A natural disaster has occurred, and my home was destroyed. 
  2. I was just diagnosed with a terminal illness. 
  3. I had a bad accident, and I lost a limb. 

A challenge can be:

  1. I’m rebuilding my life after a natural disaster.
  2. I have stage 1 cancer and I’m beginning treatment. 
  3. I started physical therapy to learn to walk again. I want to get ready for a marathon. 

When people experience a problem and they become consumed by it they become powerless, they stop believing in possibility, they start turning on people, they become bitter. We’ve seen it time and time again. Especially if you’ve ever been in the workforce. When someone is dead set to be solely focused on the problem, they lack any desire to see any other outcome. Personally, I hate being around people who only see and focus on problems. I’m the kind of person that enjoys a good challenge. Before, I wanted a challenge that was hard enough to make me work, but still doable. I didn’t want to do something that had too high of a probability of failure. Going back to doing higher levels of math, I could get it done through the first half of the textbook, now the second half of the textbook…. Hmmmm. But what I’ve learned is that math/life is not the problem, it is the way that I think about myself and how choose to expand my belief in myself. I have to support me first. 

When I first started telling people I was gonna do an IRONMAN, people who didn’t know me well questioned if “I” believed that I could do it. I honestly believed that I could do it. Tired, dogged, grim, beat down, limping, I always believed that I could do it. Now, during the event I told you that I had a dark moment, in that moment I saw the IRONMAN as a problem! As I began to see the marathon portion as a problem, it got harder and harder. After meeting Jon, and him reminding me that this event was a challenge, that helped me to get back into an objective mindset. From there I was able to visualize myself once again crossing the finish line. Just like with math, I began visualizing myself failing those tests and guess what, I continued failing those tests. When I began training for the IRONMAN, when I joined the police department, when I started college, when I competed in karate tournaments, when I have speaking engagements, when I started coaching, I always visualized myself as a successful person! Why? Because you have to see it for it to become a reality. 

I share these stories with you because I want you to be able to learn faster. To see things quicker. To see that everything that has come into my life, the things that held me back, the things that moved me forward, it was all for my highest good. That the important thing is that I was not afraid to pivot, to see myself as a success, to fail, to have some down days, to speak words of encouragement to myself. I was never afraid to believe that it was possible. When the doors kept closing around me, when the lights kept going off around me, and in my head all I saw was this timid little boy wandering by himself, do you know that I reached into the depths of my mind, and I snatched him out of there. I replaced that timid little boy with a proficient, smart, and adaptable man. You have to do the same! If you continue to perceive things in your life as a problem, you are weakening your body. You have to see these things happening in your life as a challenge to jumpstart your creativity and get your body back into alignment. 

Tips for transforming: 

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Think about the intended result and that will help guide your actions. 
  2. Your habits need to be in alignment with the outcome you’re looking for. You cannot want to become wealthy and still be wasteful. You cannot want to be the best in your field but never make time to study, to rehearse, to define your craft. 
  3. You have to go through the process of trial and error. This process is what helps to expand your creativity, to expand your knowledge base, to harden your resolve. 
  4. You have to grind on the days you don’t feel like it. Especially on the days you don’t feel like it! It is easy to be disciplined, to be motivated, to be ambitious on the days that you feel good. When you are having a down day, get the hell up and go after it!!! 
  5. Stop referring to yourself with negative words: procrastinator, lazy, weak, easily angered. Success is available to you! I need you to be ready to wow yourself. I need you to be expecting this transformation to be amazing! Release that sense of disbelief and allow all of these great and exceptional things to flow into your life. 
  6. You are in charge of the pace of your life. Focus on your mindset and you will whip everything else into shape. Strive for progress not perfection.
  7. HAVE A VALUED GOAL. When you have a goal that you value and it’s attached to your life, you feel better as you continue to see change occurring in your life. 

I hope that this episode today has helped you to understand something, to be validated that you are not alone in your way of thinking, to see that you have the control to change the direction and the pace of your life. January is about balancing our mind, and today’s episode really focused on the way that how we think and feel broadcast energy into our life. Until we change the energy we are circulating in our life, we do not change. 


Hello, My name is Demetrius Latham, Jr. I am a life coach, college lecturer, police officer, martial artist, and IRONMAN Finisher. I strive every day to make decisions that will improve my life and the lives of those around me. I have a B.S. in Justice Administration from the Univ. of Louisville, a M.S. in Justice Administration from Cumberland Univ., and a Ph.D. in Justice Administration from Walden Univ.

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