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Overcoming Conflict: How to Identify the Source of Your Setbacks

Written by Stephen Scoggins

July 27, 2020

overcoming conflict, journey principles

At the Journey Principles Institute, we define conflict as anything standing in the way of your success. Conflict is when reality doesn’t meet your expectations. It can be setbacks, trials, or any form of resistance. Often it’s within you, and that’s when overcoming conflict is more important than ever.

Overcoming Conflict

Believe it or not, there are people who win in life no matter what adversities they face. Overcoming conflict is a skill, and you can learn it. Within this skill is the ability to identify the source of conflict and simplify it so that it’s not as overwhelming. This is where assigning it to a specific area of life comes in handy.  Here we’ll discuss the 4 main areas of conflict and what they can look like so that you can learn to do this naturally.

A note before we continue: there is no final destination in overcoming conflict, at least not in this life.  Rather, we overcome conflict when we accept that life is a journey of growth and that growth in and of itself is the real victory we’re seeking.  Ironically, we can overcome conflict more easily when we stop defining success through the lens of outcomes and start celebrating transformation instead.

Inner Conflict vs External Conflict

External conflict includes struggles in material issues, namely physical security and finances. Internal conflict is about immaterial issues, the emotional and spiritual quadrants of life.

Overcoming conflict diagram, journey principles institute, transform u

I’d encourage you to rate each of the quadrants shown above in your own life on a scale of 1-10 before you continue reading. A rating of 0 or 1 would mean that your life is in the toilet in that region, while 9 or 10 would mean it’s superb.

Physical Conflict

The Physical quadrant of conflict centers around two areas: physical safety and health. Both areas affect our ability to feel safe, to plan, and to maintain a fruitful lifestyle.

Symptoms of Physical Conflict

  • Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise – You cannot eat whatever you want without it catching up with you, nor can you operate at your best without exercise. Even if you don’t look malnourished, you probably are if you’re not eating well. For instance, I used to drink a ton of caffeine to stay engaged and motivated. I looked fine, so I didn’t think it was an issue. Then I discovered I was deficient in vitamins. Go figure.
  • Unsafe Relationships and Environments –  Toxic relationships are no joke. They will literally drain your physical health and can become abusive. Identify any relationships in your life that are sucking your energy. Then either eliminate them or minimize your time with these people.

Financial Conflict

In western society, most people focus on this quadrant before any other, even when they’re well above the poverty line. However, money is important, and I’m all about helping people thrive in this area. We should all aim to be prosperous and get to the point where our money goes to work for us rather than the other way around.

Symptoms of Financial Conflict

  • No Financial Planning – Planning is essential to creating a roadmap for financial success.  Anyone can break free of financial hardship with a plan and discipline. In contrast, if you aren’t intentional with your money, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
  • Little or No Savings – Saving is a process that seems impossible when you’re struggling to make ends meet.  At the same time, even saving a little teaches us to walk out discipline and gives us muscle memory that will help us become wealthy.
  • High Spending on Unnecessary Things – Spending on impulse used to get me in a lot of trouble; as we overspend we tear our planning apart, removing the opportunity to practice discipline and create stability. 

Emotional Conflict

Emotional conflict covers more than our emotions. It covers our attitude toward people, events and situations. Our attitude often determines our outcomes before we even get started. 

For example, an abusive parent will instill low self esteem in their child. If unaddressed, the child will grow increasingly deficient in relationships. He or she will sabotage their relationships because they feel like they aren’t worthy of them, or they may avoid them altogether. The consequences of these actions will reinforce this person’s feelings of being abandoned, unwanted, or victimized, and a vicious cycle will ensue. 

We can easily get stuck in a perpetuating memory of emotional conflict from our past and thus hinder our future. That’s why overcoming emotional conflict within yourself is so important. It takes developing personal awareness and intentionally creating healthier attitudes for life to be experienced to the fullest.

Symptoms of Emotional Conflict

  • Conflict or disconnectedness with others –  If there’s a strained relationship in your life, there’s likely conflict in yourself that needs to be addressed. It’s certainly possible that you haven’t done anything wrong, but it’s more likely that an insecurity in you has contributed to the problem. Likewise, if you find yourself isolated from other people, there could be fear of intimacy in your life. 
  • Lack of Awareness Around Your Thoughts – There is such a thing as too much introspection, but most people fall on the opposite end of the spectrum and don’t pay enough attention to their thoughts. Usually it’s because they’re afraid to face what they find. Courageous people take ownership of their inner world, so be honest with yourself and open with trusted friends about what you discover under your surface.
  • Defensiveness – When you’re defensive around a topic, it’s because you’re trying to justify yourself. If you’re trying to justify yourself, you’re probably operating out of fear. Defensiveness arises in front of the very things we most need to confront in ourselves, and if you’re protesting that statement, you’re only proving my point.
  • Addictions and Distractions – We distract ourselves when there is pain that we are trying to avoid. Addictions are distractions that have taken on a life of their own. They cannot be tolerated and you must replace them with healthy habits, or they will destroy you.

True emotional wellness involves being attentive to our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We must be aware of our feelings and accept them. Remember, emotional health isn’t something you arrive at. Rather it is a continual growth process. Learning to overcome emotional challenges enables us to maintain satisfying relationships, deal with future conflict and remain rooted in stormy times. 

Spiritual Conflict

In my experience, spiritual conflict is the most overlooked quadrant. It’s also the most important. Believe it or not, we are spiritual creatures. We’re more than just matter – we have destinies, intrinsic worth, and connection to one another beyond time and space. This is why spiritual struggles are marked by a lack of connection to your identity and the immaterial purpose that exists and operates beyond yourself.

Please note that I’m not specifically talking about religion when I’m talking about the connection to something greater than yourself. Rather I’m referring to the true things you must be willing to sacrifice yourself for in order to live a life of meaning. Our value and identity must be rooted beyond stuff that will pass away, including your own accomplishments and skills. Tying our worth to something bigger than ourselves, our possessions, and even our relationships with other human beings allows us to overcome tremendous challenges. It anchors us to a foundation that cannot be shaken and makes us consistent and stable as a result.

Symptoms of Spiritual Conflict

  • Difficulty Replenishing – Replenishment is the ability to get proper rest. Some people rest by working in a garden. Other people spend time in solitude reading or meditating. Rest can even be getting out of the house and interacting with others with no agenda. Regardless, it’s important that you find at least one activity that grounds you and makes you feel connected to others and the divine.  
  • Instability – Being rooted in the right source makes us tough and difficult to fluster. If you find yourself dependent on someone or something in order to feel peace, then you probably need to uncover the fear that’s making you feel that way and replace it with healthier beliefs.
  • Lack of Principles – If you don’t have moral principles that you’re willing to sacrifice for, you probably lack spiritual strength. Like it or not, there is objective right and wrong, and you need to surrender to this truth in order to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Spiritual conflict arises when we haven’t tied our value and identity to something beyond ourselves. When I’m working with someone dealing with extreme conflict, depression, or mental blocks, there is almost always spiritual conflict involved. Prayer, meditation, and the diligent search for truth are pivotal in resolving conflict in this area.

How Good Are You at Overcoming Conflict?

Let’s return to your assessment of your overall health in the 4 quadrants of conflict. Have your scores changed at all after looking at them more closely?

If you rated your areas of Inner Conflict higher than your External areas, be careful. Most people tend to focus on External conflict at the expense of Internal conflict because external conflict is easier to understand and therefore perceived as easier to control. It also allows a person to avoid confronting the things in them that have contributed to problems in their relationships and careers. So if you rated your emotional and spiritual quadrants higher than your physical and financial ones, there’s a strong chance you’re not doing as well in your Internal life as you think. 

The Next Stop to Becoming Unstoppable

Overcoming conflict is an essential part of life. If you’re going to be successful, you need to be adept at identifying the source of your struggles so that you can rise above them. If you agree and want to take the next step in becoming unstoppable, check out our free resources.

Yes, I Want to Change My Life

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