How to Stop Running Away from Difficult Problems in Life

The world can certainly be a challenging place. Things are moving at a faster pace than ever before and problems seemingly arise from anywhere.

We fight a ton of battles every day, and it can be really easy to get overwhelmed. Those feelings can cause a person to run away from the problems they are facing.

Unfortunately, if you continually try to do this, you’ll waste your entire life running away from your problems. Eventually, they will catch up to you though.

So, how can we effectively confront our problems and move towards a life where we’re no longer scared of them? Here are ways on how to stop running away from your problems.

1. Embrace the Challenge

It might seem counter-intuitive, but embracing feelings like discomfort and suffering could be an important step to learning how to stop running away from problems.

The purpose of this is that most of the good things in life will inevitably cause us some suffering. We have to earn these things, and we need to push through the pain and suffering to achieve them.

Experiencing deep love and connection in relationships forces us to confront the problems and stresses that come before developing that connection.

Getting physically fit requires us to stick to a diet and exercise regularly.

Gaining a promotion forces us to work harder than the people we’re competing with to demonstrate that we are the right person for the position.

Most things gained come at the cost of some type of suffering. It’s going to take work. If we’re going to face the problems that confront us on our path to success, then we’re going to have to get comfortable with the discomfort and challenges that they cause us.

Almost any type of change will be associated with some type of challenge that we are going to have to overcome.

2. Use Social Support

This is an underutilized resource – our social network.

Do you feel alone right now? Do you feel like nobody cares and that there’s nobody around who would be willing to help you?

If you do, you should look around a bit. I guarantee that there is somebody who would be more than happy to help you through this challenge.

Remember, we face a lot of problems every day. There is no reason that you should feel that you need to solve all of them on your own. That can lead you to feel overwhelmed, which can lead you to start running away from your problems.

So, seek out support from family, friends, community resources, such as therapy, support groups, or even anonymous support groups online. Do whatever feels right to you so that you can get the support you need to confront this problem.

3. Make a Plan

If you’re asking yourself how to stop running away from problems, one thing to think about is whether or not you have a plan. Have you thought about how you’ll tackle the issue?

Often, we run from our problems because we don’t know how to solve them. However, just because we don’t know how to confront the issue right now and it seems overwhelming, doesn’t mean that we can’t spend some time to process it and come up with a solution.

Taking some time to learn about the problem and how others have overcome it in the past is a great way to start. Wherever you go for information, make sure that your sources are accurate.

Based on these sessions you can begin creating goals and piecing together your plan. You can create a series of steps you can take to develop a course of action that will help you to overcome the problem and eventually reach the success you’re looking for.

Don’t underestimate the role that goal setting can play here. It can keep you motivated and give you something to work towards at every stage of your journey.

If you would like to learn more about setting effective goals, check out this article.

4. Audit Your Friend Circle and Those Closest to You

Believe it or not, your social circle is a big factor. Thus, it’s important to consider this when you’re trying to learn how to stop running away from problems.

There are a lot of negative and toxic people out there. They may undermine the efforts of others to become successful, potentially because they want to keep everyone at their level. Their intent is really hard to say, but they’re out there.

This is why it’s so important to audit your social circle regularly, especially the people that you spend the most time with. When you’re trying to overcome some type of problem, it’s important to make sure that you surround yourself with the people who are going to support you and help you through that problem.

When you do this, it’s unfortunate but you may notice that a lot of your close friends don’t always have your best interests in mind. They may prioritize their desires continually over yours.

Maybe instead of encouraging you to study, they encourage you to party with them the week before an exam.

Maybe instead of sticking to your diet and exercise routine when you’re trying to lose weight, they’re more worried about getting you to join them for a Friday night of video games and pizza.

We have to recognize that self-improvement and overcoming challenges is always going to be difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If it were easy, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

The reality is that not everyone will support you through this journey and when you begin to let go or distance yourself from these relationships, the people you’re letting go of may feel as though you’re unfairly kicking them out of your life. They may get upset at you for this. But remember, you’re doing what’s best for your personal growth.

And this isn’t about throwing away friends or other people in your life just because their actions and goals no longer align with yours. It’s about distancing yourself from the people that may undermine your progress towards this goal. You’re reducing their ability to influence your progress along this path.

This is why we often end up outgrowing old relationships.

5. Prepare Yourself to Confront the Problem

Whenever you make a meaningful life change, it’s important to recognize that if you want to overcome the problem, you need to prepare appropriately. They need to commit to overcoming the challenge.

You need to be the one who decides to make this change as well. This is why trying to convince a family member to make a change, such as quitting smoking, rarely works. Because significant life changes like this, to occur effectively, need to be desired by the individual making the change. If they don’t truly want to quit smoking, chances are they won’t.

If you aren’t willing to commit yourself to confront the problem and eventually overcome it, chances are you won’t. You need to want to make this change in your life more than you want to continue running from the problem.

When you make that decision, recognize that you have the strength and resilience to overcome the problem.

6. Running Away Isn’t a Long-Term Solution

This is probably the most important part of learning how to stop running away from problems.

It’s recognizing that running away isn’t a long-term solution. And no matter how fast or how far you run, eventually, they will catch up to you and you will be forced to face them, whether you like it or not.

Running from your problems is often something that we do to try to escape them, it’s a protection mechanism. But running doesn’t truly protect us from anything.

Avoidance doesn’t solve any of our problems. It never has in the past, nor will it ever do so in the future. Our problems won’t just disappear on their own.

Running from our problems only provides temporary relief from the pressure that our problems provide. It doesn’t solve anything. It just allows you to back away from the issue, forcing you to confront it at a later date.

This is why it’s better to just learn how to develop the skills you need to confront your problems. You will feel a lot better about your life and your confidence will begin to sore when you begin doing this.

Until you gather the courage to face whatever it is you’re running from, your issues won’t just disappear. You’ll continually find yourself struggling through similar situations over and over again in a loop. Breaking free of this cycle requires conscious effort from you.

And it’s OK if you fail a few times throughout this process. You probably will. But with each attempt to address the problem, you will learn and grow stronger. Eventually, you’ll be bigger than your problems.

When you reach that point, you become truly free. You’re no longer forced to run and hide from your problems because you know you have the skills and abilities to overcome them.

If you would like to learn more about escapism and the negative impacts of running from your goals check this out.

Final Thoughts

So we’ve talked about a lot of different things today. I hope you got some real value from this topic.

If I was to leave you with one takeaway, it would be this:

Running away from your problems is never going to help you grow into the person that you want to become. So, learn what you need to do to become the type of person who confronts their problems so that they can eventually achieve their goals!

More Tips For Overcoming Problems in Life

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money.

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation.

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point.

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do.

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills.

Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

“I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

Inspirational, isn’t it?

Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

3. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism.

When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically.

The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

Final Thoughts

Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:

“If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

More Tips to Boost Motivation

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