Life can be hard sometimes.. like really, really hard.

Some believe that it’s because of bad luck or just a rotten hand dealt to them. Life is just hard and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But then, some say that our soul chooses our journey before we come in. We choose our parents (even if they are abusive), we choose our circumstances and everything about who we are here. (This is obviously a really tough philosophy to swallow in many situations.)

Personally, I don’t know how it works. In fact, I don’t even think we are capable of understanding how it works. We can hear ideas that sound like truth to us. Or they make sense. But in truth, we don’t know how it works.

The question is, how does the philosophy we believe in change how we live? How does it change how much hope we have? The choices we make? How does it affect how much joy we have in the process?

And so, I would like to look at the possibility that the truth is closer to the second option… That we somehow, divinely choose this life and all of it’s challenges, pain, happiness and growth… Just for the sake of a discussion, let’s assume this.

Signing up for a Tough Mudder Obstacle Course

A few years ago, I felt called to sign up for an INSANE obstacle course/race called “Tough Mudder”.

You have to know that I am not a natural athlete. In high school, I was definitely one of the “brainy kids” hanging out in the library and was the absolutely slowest runner in every gym class I ever attended. So, I definitely did not sign up because it was”my thing”. (In fact, on the day of the race, my husband drove up with my sisters so that they could all watch me do it and he spent the whole trip watching for signs to where the nearest hospitals were because he was SURE that I would end up there by the end of the race!)

What does a Tough Mudder Race have to do with understanding why we are here?

1) We Choose to Sign up

In no way did I have to do the Tough Mudder. In fact, most of my closest friends and family asked me many times… “Are you sure you want to do this?” I had nothing to prove. I didn’t have to do it. But somewhere, deep inside of me, I knew that there was something important that I would gain from it. I actually did have to do it – for ME.

Simply being aware that I chose to sign up changed my whole outlook. I trained because I wanted to. I got up early and ran in snowstorms because I wanted to, not because I had to. I chose to show up on race day because I was excited to see what this was all about. The whole experience was completely internally driven.

Just imagine how this outlook would change how we look at everything in our lives – the gifts, the challenges, all of it.

Katrina Bos - Tough Mudder

2) Getting Over Our Fears

I only had two real goals: to finish uninjured and to walk up to each obstacle and FEARLESSLY just do it!!

This course is designed to test many things: endurance, camaraderie, and strength. But also it is meant to trigger all of your fears – crawling in tunnels underground, jumping from high heights, crawling under electrified barbed-wire and even running through a “forest” of electrified wires – where you DEFINITELY get shocked all the way through!

But the scariest obstacle for me was called “The Arctic Enema”. You stand on the edge of a huge garbage dumpster that is filled with ice-water and a foot of crushed ice floating on top. You not only have to jump into it, you have to then swim under a ledge and then come out on the other side. The important thing to know is that I am “that” person that stands on the edge of a warm lake in the summer trying to get up the nerve to jump in. My kids were always in the water for half an hour saying to me, “Come on MOM!! Get IIIINNNNNN!!!”

So the idea of me voluntarily jumping into ice-water was absolutely terrifying to me!! (But I did it!.. And yes.. my heart stopped and I thought I was going to die… But I did it! The picture below isn’t me.)

3) The point of the Obstacles Is to Overcome them

People would often say to me, “Well at least you always have the option to go around the obstacles! You don’t have to do them all.”

I’d always look at them funny and think “Why would I sign up if I wasn’t going to do ALL the obstacles?”

Similarly, in life, when something hard comes up and it seems impossible and too painful, it makes a HUGE difference how we look at it. If we look at it as simply something that we are meant to go through and that we DO have the skills to do it (even if we don’t consciously know it), then we will at least have a glimmer of hope that we will get through.

4) Getting a Little Help From Our Friends

One of my favourite things about the Tough Mudder Course is that you MUST help others! It is a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project – a charity that helps rehabilitate wounded veterans. So, one of the main themes of the whole thing is “You don’t leave anyone in the field”. And this totally is true in the race.

At each obstacle, the people who just finished it stick around to help the next ones through. When I jumped into the ice-water, my heart stopped, “something” made me swim under the ledge and as soon as I emerged on the other side, a huge arm reached down and pulled me out and lay me on the other side… I was soooo thankful!

At another point, I was stuck in a huge field of mud. I was a few hours into the race. I had run about 14 kilometers and completed about 16 obstacles. I was cold, and completely exhausted. And here I found myself stuck in the middle of this muddy path and my shoes kept getting sucked off of my feet. There was nothing to hold on to. I was just stuck there.

Well, truthfully, I started swearing like a sailor. I was so emotional and frustrated! Then all of a sudden, two angels appeared from behind me. They locked their arms in mine and said “Come on darlin… We can’t leave you here.” And they practically carried me to the next patch of solid ground.

In life, in my darkest times, yes, I pray a lot. I have a hard time moving forward without listening inside for guidance.

But when I remember that I have good friends who love me and I actually reach out for help, incredible miracles happen. Maybe they come over and chat. Maybe they take me for a walk. But they always seem to say just the right thing at just the right time.

We are not supposed to get through our struggles together. We are supposed to ask for help. These are the times that we create the deepest bonds. We are meant to connect deeply with each other. It’s a win/win/win situation when they can help us through our most difficult times.

The goal is never the point. It’s who we must become to achieve the goal.

I believe this.

I’ve changed so much in my life. And truly, it was the incredible challenges that caused me the most growth: illness, raising children, relationships, business, teaching, and even Tough Mudder Obstacle Races.  It’s amazing where the strength and guidance comes for us to complete what’s before us.

What gives me the most hope? Knowing that there is purpose for everything. Knowing that somehow I have the strength to face my fears. Knowing the journey is always through the challenge and that I will be so much happier and stronger on the other side.

And knowing that we are not alone. We have friends and family. But there are also another 7 billion people out there. There is guidance, support and help all around us, all of the time.

I still don’t know why we are here, or whether we choose this life or not. But I do know that when I look at the hard times in my life, when I felt like they had purpose, I had so much more courage to dig deep. I prayed more listening for guidance. I believed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel so I could always just put one step in front of the other.

And today, I am truly thankful for all the struggles, tears, hardships, sacrifices and hard times in my life. They created the most incredible foundation within me so that I can be fully grateful for every morning I wake up, every conversation with a friend, every opportunity and every gift that comes my way.

And of course, whatever “obstacle course” in life I choose to sign up for next. 🙂

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