Fifteen different schools before reaching college. This was one of many of my life’s challenges. How did I approach it? Usually with an open mind and an innate belief that I could adapt to whatever came my way. Did it work? Yes, and no! At many schools I was popular, yet, at a couple of others I was harassed or bullied. You see, whenever you change environments or move to new places, there is a multitude of challenges at play. We may cope very well with some and not cope well with others. What did I learn? I learned that there will be people with whom you naturally resonate and others whom you don’t “get” and they just don’t “get” you. It’s best not to waste time on those people or try hard to get them to like you. Don’t compromise who you are because you might be a square peg in a round hole (just needing to find a square hole!). There are other wonderful people just waiting to be your friends! Seek them out.
I also learned that it’s important to do what you enjoy and to stand up for yourself and your ideals. At the end of the day, you face yourself, live with yourself and need to love yourself for who you are. However, sometimes, if things are so tough and you find yourself really unhappy: change schools (or jobs, or environment). This isn’t running away, it’s self-preservation. (And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t choose to change schools 15 times, but that’s another story…)
Another lesson I learned was that whatever energy and mindset you bring to a new environment sets the tone for your experience. As a child, I didn’t think of it in those terms, but what I noticed was that if I consciously went to a school full of confidence (even faking it) and had the mindset that people are going to think I’m awesome – it really did have that result. If I went in unsure and not really happy to be there, I didn’t have a good result. Our energy is tangible, and like wild animals, strangers sniff out our fear!
What if you can’t help being shy or fearful? Try building up your self-confidence and self-esteem beforehand. Then, narrow your focus so that your thoughts are on things that you’re good at, what’s good about the new situation you’re about to go into and join a group or club that practices your hobby or interest. If you don’t have a hobby, find one! It will provide you with opportunities for fun and a non-work-related connection with others.
Your Mind – The Creator and Director
How do you see yourself and your circumstances in the big scheme of life. Do you get a feeling of smallness, hopelessness or inferiority and think that life, other people or the world in general is sometimes working against you? Without realizing it, you might have an external locus of control issue. ( Click here for a quiz and explanation.) The truth is, you are far more powerful than you know.
What your mind focuses on, you strengthen.
This is illustrated very effectively in sports.
As an athlete I noticed that if I thought about what I didn’t want to do, sure enough, that’s exactly what I would do! Have you noticed that? Or maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re fearful of something happening – it happens. Many people know about postiive thinking, but are we really aware of those sneaky thoughts that aren’t negative per se, but they are our minds toying with possiblities, the seemingly innocent “What if…?”
Another sabotaging mind trick is the one that seems to be positive or is simply preparing us for a possibility when actually it is making the mind focus on the negative. For example, if I had the thought that I didn’t want my javelin to land flat – it was likely that it would land flat. If I was putting my golf ball and thought about whether it could miss the hole – it usually missed the hole. The great thing is that the reverse is true too. If I simply “saw” in my mind the ball going into the hole and then putted – it would go into the hole! The thought had been “pure” and free from doubts or any tension. It would feel as if it were a done deal, a “fait accompli”.
Now, how does this work with other life challenges? It works with amazing power! Visualize the positive, happy outcome you’re seeking and focus on it with the wholehearted feeling that you know it’s going to happen. As a result, you both unconsciously and consciously start to take positive action to bring it about. Others are responsive to your positive energy and adjust their own behavior which in turn affects you back. The cycle of positive reinforcement continues and gathers strength.
Look at your challenge. Be clear on the result you’d like to see. At the same time, reflect on where you may have gone in the opposite direction too! Losing sight of the outcome we intend, can mean that we take actions that are not moving in the positive direction we want.
For example: Your relationship has become a challenge but you want to create more harmony and love. Then there’s this: You know when you’re just on the verge of having an argument and there is that split second when you know that you could either prevent it or inflame it with your very next comment or action? That’s when you should be clear on the outcome you want. In that second you have the power to change things. How? By taking a breath and thinking “I want love in my life, not war”, and asking yourself what you can do to prevent “war” (the argument).
What about other challenges? Again, what you focus on, you give energy to. If you want to sell your house and all that you focus on is “How can I get this house ready for sale? It’s so difficult!” Then you will continue to feel stressed and may not organize things well, if at all. Get off that hamster wheel! Instead try thinking this way, for example: “What resources (people/financial/physical/emotional/etc.) do I have right now that I can tap into to deal with this challenge?” See what comes to mind…
Resources for Facing a Challenge
- Friends – those you’re close to and those whom you didn’t realize would be there for you (I call these acquaintances “gends” – people that you don’t realize have your back but are waiting in the wings and reveal themselves to be genuine friends when you really need support
- Family members – even estranged or distantly related family could be a source of support if you just reached out for some advice or help
- Community Groups including churches or non-profits
- Professionals or experts in the field your challenge is in (including a life coach)
- Books and/or courses relating to your challenge: Learning everything you can will help more than you may realize…
- Meditation and relaxation helps with centering your mental energy and calming your nervous system which in turn gives you more focus and energy to face your challenge
- A mentor who “gets” you and has been where you are before (Don’t be shy about inviting someone you admire to be your mentor – the worst thing that could happen is that they say “No”. Most people would be flattered to be asked)
Surrender to win
Sometimes as you’re working on a goal or overcoming a challenge, delays come, there are road blocks that require detours or things are simply not going to plan. Surrendering to these doesn’t mean giving up. You may need to occupy yourself with some other important matter or hobby or just take time out, relax and have a laugh. We can get so wound up and stressed as we try hard to overcome obstacles and achieve our desires that it actually becomes counterproductive to our “higher goal”. For example, you argue with your partner or loved one over a pile of laundry not done as you’re tired from cleaning up a messy house. So while your challenge may be to keep the house tidy, your stressed and strained relationship is now counterproductive to your higher goal (and perhaps the real reason you want your house clean) – which is to have a family that feels cared for and content. Instead, you may want to surrender to your challenge temporarily and have a laugh, toss the laundry in the air and call out “piggy pile!” or whatever cracks you up. In my experience, joking around with someone is more effective than scolding them to get their cooperation.
Look at the challenges you have. Are they something you feel you are struggling to overcome? But have you considered whether the challenge is worth it. Deserving of your time and effort to overcome it? Did you create it? Why?
An example might be someone struggling with medical school, but in their heart they really want to be a preschool teacher. Some challenges could be so distressing and seem so difficult precisely because they are wrong for us and we should be doing something else with our energy…
Also, timing is important. Sometimes a person tries hard but feels as if they’ve come up against a brick wall. The timing could just be wrong. You may not want to stop but you may wish to take a break, do something else constructive or creative that you enjoy and then try again later. The break may also bring you a fresh perspective with different ideas on how to tackle the challenge.
Ideas for a break:
Spa or retreat
Pick up new sport or hobby
Learn a fun skill
Read books that you’ve been putting off reading but that really interest you (Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk: all big readers)
Go for long hikes or go fishing, and enjoy some daydreaming (Einstein said that his imagination while daydreaming was where he got his “lightbulb” moments).
Good luck with your challenges!
If you have an comments or questions, don’t be shy – let me know below!