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How To Best Leverage Challenging Situations For Self-Empowerment

Written by: Tanja Bogataj, M.Sc., 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.


When we are facing challenging situations, we might quite easily fall into “I don’t know…”, “I can’t …”, “If only,…”, “Why…”. We might feel uncertain, uncomfortable, even afraid at those moments. We might get stuck in thinking and believing that we are powerless and limited. However, these are also moments, when we have the opportunity to choose to tap into our endless resourceful and creative potential to find or create the solution we need. In this article, I’m sharing with you how to best leverage challenging situations for your empowerment and benefit.

Dealing with problems, it’s great to remind yourself, as John C. Maxwell suggests, to “not underestimate the problem, not overestimate the problem, not wait for the problem to resolve itself, and if possible, not aggravate the problem with your activities.”

When facing challenges, and searching or creating solutions, I suggest to follow 3 principles:

1. Curiosity: If we want to change anything, something needs to change, and it starts with us. If we are curious about what is still available and possible, how something could be solved, created, and achieved, how we can collaborate for success etc., we open the opportunity to learn and create something new, to find or create a better way, to find a way to succeed.

2. Clarity: What we are aware of, we can change. The more accurate we are with where we are, where we are going, and the gap in between, the better we can address our challenge and find a better solution.

3. Simplicity: Changes are challenging, and we need to help ourselves to make a change, especially if we want to make a change in an empowering and fulfilling way. One way to help ourselves is to make it simple, to choose simple action steps so we can easily apply, practice, and improve them.

Navigating through fears

Renowned vulnerability and guilt expert Brené Brown in her book Dare to lead (2018) states that all the leaders included in the survey stated that they regularly experience different types of fears, leading her to conclude that fear in itself is not an obstacle, it is an obstacle to how we respond to fear. In my work, I like to use the definition of fear as defined by Susan Jeffers in her worldwide hit Feel the fear and do it anyway (2012).

Susan Jeffers says that when we take a risk and enter unfamiliar terrain or expose ourselves in a new way, we experience fear. This fear often hinders us in our path, sometimes even stopping us. The first step we can do is to be as accurate as possible about our challenges and fears. From my experiences it’s a very useful self-reflective exercise when we follow these three levels, suggested by Susan Jeffers:

  • First level ‒ Surface story, which has two types, namely fears that ‘happen’ (such as ageing, being left alone, retirement, children leaving home, death, illness, accidents, loss of a loved one, violence, natural disasters, etc.), and fears that require action (going back to school, making decisions, changing careers, ending or starting a relationship, having a child, losing weight, public appearances, mistakes, intimacy, etc.)

  • Second level ‒The part that refers to our inner mental state (rejection, success, failure, being vulnerable, being deceived, powerlessness, disapproval, loss of reputation, etc.)

  • Third level ‒ Fear after fear: because we are afraid of this and that, we will not be able to do this and that.

The obstacle in facing the new and the unknown is often our “black and white” thinking that change means going from ‘safe’ to ‘dangerous’. In reality, we only go from one zone of the known and comfortable to the transitional zone of the unknown and uncomfortable. We tend to forget that the later also carries the potential for our learning and growing into the next zone of the known and comfortable (check the article Navigating between FearFul and FearLess, 2 min read).

From feeling powerless and limited to taking an empowered action

To help leaders, coaches, entrepreneurs, and teams successfully face their challenges and fears, I’ve designed a coaching exercise called “Driving with fears”, using the Socrates test of the triple filter and my signature be powerful and free® approach. Check the video (6:49) and learn how to do the simplified version of this exercise on your own.

This exercise helps us become more aware and accurate about our challenges and fears. It helps us get as specific as possible in defining what is actually the real challenge and the desired end result. This allows us to choose the most appropriate way and activity to eliminate or reshape the fear to achieve the desired result. Such a systematic way guides us to tap into our endless resourceful and creative potential and to make our decisions from an empowered state, and not out of fear. The be powerful and free® approach helps us through “feel the fear and do it anyway (by Susan Jeffers)” into “feel the love and do it anyway”.

Are you ready to drive? Let’s go.

Step 1 ‒ Select the challenge. Identify fears that might be behind the challenge.

Step 2 ‒ Sit behind the wheel and invite your fears to occupy remaining vacant seats.

Step 3 ‒ Imagine driving with your fears on your way.

Step 4 Select 1 fear and apply 3 filters:

  • Truth: Is what your fear says true / nil? What is true for you?

  • Positive attitude: Is what your fear says good or bad?

  • Usefulness: Is what your fear says helpful?

Step 5 ‒ Redefine your fear. Write down: What the real issue? What do you want/don’t want to do about it?

Step 6 ‒ Tap into your be powerful and free potential, what is the first next step towards your desired result?

I wish you to choose daily to be powerful and free while making a difference and inspire and empower others to do the same. For successful self-empowerment, I encourage you to use an approach of constant learning and practicing for improvement. In Maya Angelou’s words,

Today do as best as you know how to, and when you know better, do better.”.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Tanja Bogataj, M.Sc., Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Tanja Bogataj is a Leaders' Consultant, Empowerment & (Self)Leadership Coach, Founder of be powerful and free® approach, based in Slovenia, working internationally. She's a lawyer from a background with two Master's degrees from Political sciences, and from Leadership and Management. In her work, she’s combining 20y rich experience working within the Government of Slovenia (of which 14y on leadership positions, covering portfolios like urban development, environment, green & circular economy) and 10+y experiences of coaching and leadership with coaching. Last 5 years she's helping leaders, coaches, entrepreneurs, and teams to free their power to expand impact while making a difference they are here to be and do.


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