We all have problems. Our problems seem unique, never-ending, insurmountable—as if Life had deliberately singled us out for special treatment. In a way, it has. Because that’s all Life is—problem-solving. Whatever Life puts in our way, the next step is always inconvenient.
That’s how Life works—by constantly testing us to see what we’re made of.
Why? Because Life is either moving forwards—evolving—or falling into stagnancy and decay. And that means we must either stagnate or evolve.
This basic fact of life—with its profound implications—has mostly eluded us. That’s because, for the past few thousand years, we’ve been stuck in a psychological paradigm that depends on emotional stagnation for its survival.
One of the effects of this is that we are, by default, stuck in relationships that are emotionally and sexually stagnant. I’m seeing a lot of people struggling with this dilemma. And, because they don’t understand that the root of the problem is a lack of awareness of the need to evolve, they ask the wrong questions and make the wrong decisions.
“Problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.”
— Albert Einstein
Mostly, they make decisions that are convenient—that follow the path of least resistance. Life doesn’t let us off that easily. Our next evolutionary step is always inconvenient.
To work with, not against evolution, we need to study evolution itself.
Imagine if the first single-celled organisms, like bacteria, hadn’t evolved. What if they had just fed and reproduced endlessly? Evolution would’ve stopped right there.
Instead, oxygen-generating organisms appeared, leading to photosynthesis and the development of multi-celled beings—like us.
The history of evolution suggests that all life possesses this same urge for development, for increased adaptability. In his ground-breaking 1859 book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin showed how evolution happens at the individual level. This means evolution is active in all life at all times—including you.
In the same way that bacteria evolved, the problems in our lives pressure us into developing and adapting. The urge to evolve that took us from bacteria to human beings beats and breathes inside each and every one of us.
You can consciously harness this power.
The next step is always inconvenient
Evolution has been solving problems for billions of years—and here’s how.
There’s a saying that “What is in the way is the way.” In other words, the obstacle in your path is the route to your greatest progress.
“The Way is really rather exasperating.”
— R H Blyth
Another way of phrasing this, which seems equally true, is that what you most desire lies beyond what you most fear.
Either way, these truisms reveal that our lives continually crash us headlong into our fears.
This is why your next evolutionary step is, and will always be, inconvenient.
That’s why every meaningful step forward we take in life is like this photo by Carlos Magno of a woman floundering through mud. Just as life floundered out of the oceans onto dry land, we must flounder towards the dry land of increased psychological capability.
We must stop thinking that if we could only fix the one problem in front of us our life will be problem-free. It won’t—because a life that’s problem-free is a life falling into stagnation and decline.
We need to reorient our thinking.
“Survival of the fittest”
Your purpose as a living being is to evolve. You’ve been given Life to see if you can solve problems. You’ve not been given Life to seek a life without challenges. The difficulties you face are your evolutionary stair-steps. They are the reason you’re alive.
Evolution is literally challenging you to see whether your DNA is worth persevering with.
That’s why every problem you resolve seems to lead to an even deeper, more intractable, more challenging problem.
That’s how Evolution rewards us.
Inspired by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, philosopher Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “The survival of the fittest” in 1864.
That describes the outcome of evolution, not its process.
You can’t avoid the fact that your next evolutionary step is inconvenient. But you can adopt a methodology that will consistently deliver results.