Excerpt: “The Phoenix Challenge: Rising to Fulfillment” by Christina Pitts in Discover Your Inner Strength with contributors Steven Covey, Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy
Wright: Who is your audience?
Pitts: Everyone who’s been derailed by any change or crisis or confusing circumstance and who is willing to engage in self-discovery, study, and skills-building to attain the life they desire for themselves.
All of us achieve personal and professional success, and celebrating those successes comes easily. All of us endure personal and professional losses, and most of us struggle mightily trying to endure and overcome. With The Phoenix Challenge I hope to reframe the notion of “struggle,” shifting to a paradigm of “easy acceptance with grace.”
What I suggest isn’t new thinking. It’s a restatement of teachings that come to us from mythology, philosophy, and religion; from art, music, poetry; and from daily living and interaction.
I’m offering a synthesis of what I’ve learned from my own and others’ experiences, encountered throughout my professional and personal life.
Those who are self-aware will immediately understand The Phoenix Challenge. For these readers I’m affirming what they already know either directly or intuitively, and this chapter is a refresher. It’s a re-charge, with perhaps a slightly different image as they tweak the kaleidoscope.
For those who are not so self-aware, or those who reject the importance of self-awareness, the value proposition in reading on is this: if you commit to read with an open mind, I’m certain I can ignite a spark of realization (1) that the shoe fits: there is no challenge you’ve experienced that is unique to you; and (2) if you’re willing to sincerely accept The Phoenix Challenge, you will enrich your life experience and move closer to your sense of achievement, accomplishment, and fulfillment: closer to self-actualization.
Wright: So what exactly is The Phoenix Challenge?
Pitts: Simply this: willingly allow ourselves to “crash and burn” so that we can “rise again” in better, stronger form.
The Phoenix Challenge is about hunkering down in times of struggle and going through rather than avoiding the pain. It’s about accepting what is, seeking to understand the opportunities that lie within, around, and as a result. It’s about enduring chaos to understand what ultimately will bring enrichment. The Phoenix Challenge is about letting go in order to renew and transform.
When I agreed to this interview about discovering inner strength, the image that immediately came to mind was that of a stunning bird rising from ashes. I recalled a scene from the World War II film, Flight of the Phoenix. I pictured Yosemite’s flames; recollected clients’ circumstances. Without hesitation I connected Discover Your Inner Strength with the mythological phoenix, and knew that this would be an essential topic to explore with our readers.
In various mythologies, the phoenix is a sacred bird that at the end of life descends to build a nest of twigs that it ignites. Flames consume the phoenix, and in the throes of death the bird transforms into new life, a more powerful and more beautiful magnificence. In Chinese mythology the phoenix represents virtue, power, and prosperity. And in some myths, the firebird’s tears heal all wounds. “Universally, fire is regarded as a spiritual symbol of awakening….a purifying force that can be constructive or destructive, depending on how we use it.” Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life
The Phoenix Challenge invites us (individuals, teams, organizations) to be that mythological bird which uses the flames as a constructive force for transformation. At times of challenge, we must consciously and intentionally allow ourselves to descend to the depths, enduring the chaos, in order to ascend as someone stronger. The learning, while we’re descending to our inner selves, yields enlightenment, and that enlightenment produces our enrichment.
The myth plays out in all aspects of life. Siddhartha becomes the Buddha; Christ rises on the third day. In their symphonic music, Death and Transfiguration and Concerto Elegaic, Strauss and Rachmaninoff delicately render the descent and ascent. The Japanese poet, Masahide, declares: “The barn has burned to the ground. Now I can see the moon.
We see the myth in all of Nature. As with the fires of Yosemite, lightning ignites flames on African plains, scorching thousands of acres of earth, and the extreme heat germinates within hours new plant life. The emperor moth evolves over years, until in its final stage it dissolves completely, then flies from the cocoon as a creature of stunning beauty. In another context, Katrina offers lessons that we hope, someday, will save lives and cities. These represent immutable laws in nature that we can embrace and learn from, exemplifying the essence of The Phoenix Challenge.
Jane Hamilton’s A Map of the World can easily be your story or my story of mistake that leads to tragedy; guilt that begets depression and threatens loyalties; perseverance that generates ramrod strength and new-found marvels of relationship.
In my career and life experience; in conversations with family, friends and colleagues over the years; in my research, and my study, I know this to be true: meeting challenge head on, determining to accept with grace, and to understand and learn will yield great wisdom and a renewed sense of achievement and accomplishment—a new kind of pride in personal competence.
Deep in the wintry parts of our minds we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as work-free transformation. We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then site right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves
Wright: Please give us some examples of what The Phoenix Challenge looks like for us.
To learn more, contact us.