Written by: Kirsten Johansen, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Before we address your mindset, let’s cover these essential, loving health practices that keep you in “challenge-ready” shape. Get 5.5 hours of core sleep each night. Hydrate your body with water. Feed your body nutritious food when it is hungry and stop when it is satiated. Move your body daily in a way that you enjoy. Practice belly breathing. Meditate in any form.
1. Acceptance is vital
Human life is filled with challenges. They are the rule, not the exception. Accepting this is the first essential step. Accepting challenges as a regular part of your existence, they cease to be unpleasant surprises because you will expect their arrival, and with practice, you will know what to do with them.
When the challenge arrives, welcome it in. Yes, welcome it. It is natural to bemoan it and to say, “No! Not another one. Can’t I catch a break?” However, this reaction immediately creates an adversarial relationship with the challenge and puts you on the defensive. Defense tends to be more reactive than strategic. It activates your fight or flight response unnecessarily and can short-circuit your best thinking and intuition. You will need access to both to use the challenge as an opportunity.
3. Flip the script
Apply a lens of interest and curiosity. You are likely conditioned to label events and experiences as bad or good. This is conditioning, which is excellent news because you can practice something new and condition yourself differently. It is like going to the gym or starting a new exercise and working new muscles. Initially, it feels awkward and difficult, but it will become your new normal over time. Instead of saying, “Oh no!” you will find yourself saying, “Hm, interesting!”
4. Tell the truth
Use compassionate honesty throughout the challenge when speaking with yourself and others. Compassionate honesty uses a “just the facts” approach and leaves out hyperbole, adjectives, and emotionally charged labels such as “horrible, terrible, and awful.” These labels are not helpful and tend to spin up your emotions. For example, you might arrive home from work and, upon being asked about your day...
Option One: “I had a terrible day. I was given a massive new project. I don’t know how to do this with all my other work. I’m so tired of this! I need a break.”
Option Two: “I got a new assignment. I will schedule some time off to rest and clear my mind before I get started on it.”
5. Investigate how to transform challenges into opportunities
Use investigative honesty to have a conversation with yourself. It will be helpful to root out the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behavior patterns that might present themselves and to distinguish between what is supportive and helpful and what is coming from your inner critic or unhelpful conditioning. In the example below, perfectionism drives self-doubt, which uses fear to give it credibility. Food and alcohol serve as anesthesia to numb the pain. None of it helps you.
What thoughts am I having? “I can’t do this. I’m going to fail, and they will fire me.”
What emotions am I experiencing? Fear, insecurity, self-doubt
What beliefs are driving these thoughts and feelings? Only a perfect outcome is acceptable.
What do I have the urge to do? Eat and drink to escape.
6. Choose your true north
Now that you understand the patterns underlying your reaction to the challenge, you can choose a True North or guiding principle. When selecting your True North, GO BIG. That means choosing something that will anchor you when the challenge becomes unruly or formidable and will support a compassionate view of yourself. You might say to yourself, “You can trust me. I’ve got your back. I won’t abandon you.” This will keep fear at bay and remind you of your most important partnership, the one with yourself. It will allow you to ensure that aspects and developments of the challenge are given their rightful weight. Most things are much less important than we make them out to be. A self-imposed deadline, for instance, should be questioned before false urgency is applied to it. Imagine you are supporting someone you love. Now, treat yourself like that!
7. The next right step
You do not need to solve the entire challenge or try to control the outcome. By identifying the next right step from a place of love, compassion, and respect for yourself and having access to your best thinking and intuition, there will be no such thing as a mistake. There will be decisions, outcomes, iterations, lessons, surprises, realizations, and practice. By holding the result in an open hand and embracing that most of life is unknown to you, you make space for the journey of this challenge to take you on a new path. Practice makes practice makes practice. The practice is the destination.
Kirsten Johansen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
There is a path to freedom; a path to the life you deserve and desire. As a resilient survivor of many of life’s challenges, Kirsten Johansen is a creative, intuitive, seasoned guide. She teaches tools, strategies and practices that center your beliefs about yourself, and the development of unconditional positive regard, to get to the source of the stubborn thought, feeling, and behavior patterns that cause you suffering and keep you from living your happiest and most authentic life. Her writing, radio show and coaching practice reflect her passion for radically honest and vulnerable storytelling that builds a bridge of connection for humans to heal and be released into the freedom of unconditional self-acceptance.