I’ve reflected on what it means to live a warrior’s life for a long time. I’ve found many characteristics that are important, such as diminishing the ego, valuing the learning process, and using attention more effectively. There’s one clear act we can do, however, to live as warriors. It comes from Tales of Power where don Juan teaches Carlos about challenges. The location is Mexico City. Carlos laments that he would rather visit don Juan in the desert, their usual meeting place. Mexico City seemed like a bad place, whereas the desert seemed like a good place.
Don Juan emphasized to Carlos that a warrior is present for the challenge he’s in. A warrior can’t possibly wish he was somewhere else. Wanting to be elsewhere causes us to complain or regret where we are. Life is an endless challenge and challenges can’t possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges. Then he says one of the most profound statement that we can all use to live as warriors: “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or as a curse.”
How do we view challenges in our lives? Do we feel cursed when we’re stressed, thinking such events are bad? Do we feel blessed when we’re comfortable, thinking such events are good? Equating “bad” with “stress” and “good” with “comfort” devalues the learning process and unconsciously moves us away from it. Rather, move beyond good and bad, beyond blessed and cursed, and see events in our lives as simply challenges. Doing this allows us to be present for whatever is occurring so we can focus our attention effectively and take decisive action.
If we live our lives as ordinary people, then we feel like victims of the external situation. We could experience major stressors like divorce or the death of a loved one; or minor stressors, like a rainy day or an argument with our partner. Either way, we react to the external events, as victims to divorce, death, rain, or arguments.
Rather, when challenges occur, we take decisive action by stepping toward stress. We identify a small actionable step we can take to stay engaged with the challenge. Doing this shifts our attention internally, toward actions we have direct control over. We respond to external events, from an internal locus of control, as warriors.
Don’t expect to do this perfectly. The main point is to step forward, stay engaged, and focus our attention on actions to take in the present moment. We’ll get progressively better at responding to challenges by doing that. Stepping forward is the one clear act we can do to live as warriors.