My father once asked my grandfather, "What is the single biggest challenge facing the Jewish people?"

He replied, “The struggle to get up in the morning.”

What was I to make of this?

After much thought I realized something so profound and life-changing.

Our only real challenges are our internal ones.

When we think about our biggest challenges, adversaries or enemies, we’re often focused on things outside of ourselves: Our boss, a difficult circumstance, our competitors…

The truth is that these aren’t our real adversaries.

A number of years ago, I experienced some competition. Someone well-liked and talented entered my arena and, I’m not going to lie, I felt threatened. I had been used to a certain status within my peer group and this person threatened that entire dynamic. My first reaction was to view that person as the enemy – my competition – someone I had to beat. He was my biggest challenge…

Then I realized that I was just being jealous. He’s a nice guy, so what if he’s popular and talented? He wasn’t my challenge, my jealousy was! If not for my own feeling of envy, he’d be great!

I realized that every external challenge can be reframed as an internal one.

The circumstances that lead to our anxiety, stress, envy, hurt, pain etc. aren’t the problem; the feelings themselves are.

Say, for example, you’re in a relationship with someone who’s close-minded and it eats away at you. You can view that person as the problem and seek to have them removed from your life, or you can learn to accept everyone, even those that are close-minded. Reframe the problem; it’s not him, it’s me! (Of course that doesn't remove the responsibility from the other person to correct his mistakes, nor is this any reason to tolerate any abuse whatsoever.)

The implications of viewing all of our challenges as internal are two-fold:

  1. Since it's within your free will to overcome the internal challenge, you have the power to do it!
  2. You are not a victim; you're responsible. While we may be powerless against our external circumstances, we can never be a victim to ourselves.

People are often told you are who you are. You’re a victim to the world around you. The only way to survive is for the world to remove the external challenges out of your way as you are powerless to change them. This leads to a generation of helpless and flawed people. Instead we should view the external world as an arena to face our own internal challenges and change.

Life doesn’t get easier but you get stronger.

You are your own worst enemy. Our primary struggles are internal, not external. The battle for growth begins the second we wake up in the morning and struggle to get out of bed. Win that fight and let your soul show your body who is really the boss.