When Does A Challenge Become A Problem?

A small child stands at the bottom of a staircase

We all know that in order to grow, we need to do things we haven’t done before, or that we’re not entirely comfortable with.  But when does a challenge become a problem? And what’s the difference between the two?

Often when we’re faced with a challenge, we see it as a barrier or a problem which is going to stop us moving forwards.  If we’re setting out to achieve a goal, then we’ve usually planned our route and have an idea of where we want to be to, and how we’re going to get there.

But things are rarely that straightforward.  Life happens, and other things get in the way. We might need to make a detour, or rethink our plans.

This much is fairly inevitable.  Think about some of the biggest achievements that you’ve experienced.  Would to say it was an easy and effortless journey?  Or did you need to make some adjustments?

And when you think about that achievement, would it have still felt as special if you hadn’t been tested, or overcome things that you encountered on the way?  I’m guessing not.

And if you have had an experience like this, then it may well have changed your opinion about how you feel about challenges.  Because the more challenges we experience and overcome, the more confident we feel about starting new things.

And we are far more likely to appreciate those things we had to work for, than those which didn’t take as much effort.

But what about problems?  A problem is also something that can cause a barrier or blockage in our progress.  But the real difference between a challenge and a problem is our mindset towards it.

Often when we’re faced with something we perceive to be a problem, we become far more despondent about it.  A problem can involve situations or issues which are outside of our control, as opposed to a challenge which might be calling on us to stretch our own abilities.

Or perhaps we have become so rigid in our thinking that we struggle to see a way around the problem, because we’re lacking in the creativity we need to change course.

When we are active participants in our self development, then challenges are vital in providing us with opportunities to develop new skills and build our inner strength.  It also helps us to be a more open thinker, and helps us to consider the various routes to meeting an outcome, rather than focusing on one sole possibility.

If you find that you get easily put off when things don’t go to plan, or you find it difficult to see how you can overcome issues, then taking some steps introduce challenges into your life can help you to work on growing your confidence.

The more we seek to actively welcome challenges, the more used to them we become.  And we become more aware of our limitations and our potential.

Be willing to take that first step and embrace challenge, and you’ll gain far more than you could by staying where you are.

Photo credit: Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Why not have a go this month?

Motorcycles with learner plates

Did you know that September is the Festival of Learning’s ‘Have A Go’ month?  In celebration of lifelong learning and self development, it’s encouraging people to try new things.

I have long been an advocate for lifelong learning and I believe that our education shouldn’t stop when we leave school.

And whether you consider learning to be education in the formal sense, such as gaining qualifications etc., or whether you are interested in learning more about yourself and how you can get the best out of life, education and evolving is key.

Just as the world around us evolves, so do we. So should we.  We’re not the same people we were when we were younger.   Situations and experiences shape us.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

We are constantly evolving.

The positive side of that is that we have the opportunity to choose what we become.  Our resources may be limited at times and we may need support to do it, but ultimately, we have the power to change our experience.

And without learning, we stagnate.  Physically and mentally.  We lose motivation and desire quickly if we’re not stimulated and engaged with the world or the people around us.  And it can be difficult to get it back.

Trying new things brings novelty, and our brains love novelty.

Research has shown that we are much more likely to stick at a new habit or skill if it involves something new.

During lockdown, many people have struggled with motivation, and after months of being stuck at home without routine or structure, it can be hard to get yourself back out there again.  So trying something new could be one way to take small steps.

Whether it’s a new activity we’ve never tried before, or perhaps doing something familiar in a different way, we can build our interest back up.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to have a go at?  Perhaps a new skill or ambition, or just greater awareness of self?  Something to improve your health or wellbeing, or open doors to new opportunities?

Sign up for a class, join a group, try a taster event…you never know where it might lead!

Photo by The Ride Academy on Unsplash

Energy zappers – and how to deal with them

Image of an overwhelmed person

Energy zappers.  We’ve all experienced them, but how can we deal with them?

Energy is expressed and felt through our emotions and our choices, and it is affected by how we fuel ourselves – physically and mentally.  And so, the way in which we fuel ourselves will affect the energy that we feel.

Fuel goes in, energy comes out.

If we don’t have enough fuel, or when don’t have the right kind of fuel – e.g., its toxic, unfulfilling, harmful even, then obviously our energy is going to be negatively affected by that.

There are a number of things which can influence our energy, and generally these can be broken down into internal and external factors.

We are probably all well aware of the effect that too much low-nutrient foods or alcohol or late nights have on us. We feel sluggish and dull afterwards.

But there are also some less obvious influences that we might not be giving a lot of thought to.

Outside influences

One of the most important influences on our energy is the environment we spend our time in. 

This includes how we live, who we live with, where we spend most of our time and who we spend the most time with.  And if this is an environment that isn’t supporting our wellbeing and growth, then our energy will suffer.

And we might not feel as though we have a great deal of choice – especially if we’re in a job or a family situation which is causing an imbalance.  We may well know that we’re in an unhappy or unfulfilling situation that we know isn’t helping us, but it’s not always as easy to get out of them.

But we can try and be more conscious of the effect the situation is having, and try and minimise how much we are affected by it.  You might want to ask yourself:  Are there situations in my life now where I feel ‘less than’, not good enough, or on edge?  Do you notice that you’re changing how you present yourself so that you fit in?  Do you feel that you can’t be yourself around certain people?

Noticing how our energy shifts, for better or worse, when we’re in situations and around particular people can be really telling.

Of course, every relationship that we have with another person will involve give and take.  There will be times when another person needs our support and their needs will take priority, and vice versa.   The whole point of inviting people into your life is to share experiences and support each other.

But when a relationship or friendship feels as though it’s only ever one-way traffic, or the conversation is often negative, then we need to ask ourselves whether this is the right fit for us.  If the other person is blinkered to what is going on with you, how you are feeling, what you’re excited/worried/nervous about, and the focus is only ever about them, then that’s a good indicator of where the energy isn’t balanced.

I’m sure we can all recognise times when we’ve felt like that, whether we’re experiencing it now or not, but when this type of situation goes on for some time, it is so draining.

And it will have a big impact on our confidence, our motivation and it will become really challenging to change, the longer it goes on.

But there are also things that we can do ourselves to make sure that we fuel our body and mind with enough of the good stuff, to counteract what comes at us from outside.

Healthy inside

We all know what energy feels like within our own bodies.  We know when we feel happy, excited, raring to go.  And we also know when we feel depleted, tired and lethargic.

Our bodies are finely tuned machines – and they have an in-built alarm system to tell us when something is out of whack.   Listen to your body and what it is telling you…if it needs rest, better nutrition, hydration, it will let you know.   And it will keep letting you know until you listen to it, usually!

It is really difficult to give our best efforts with something, or even just go about our daily tasks if we have consistently low energy.

But it’s not just about our physical wellbeing. We also need to be aware of our mental fuel.

One of the biggest energy drains on our mental health these days is social media.  Love it or hate it, the messages and energy we consume by watching other people living their lives is immense.

And it can affect even the most grounded of people.

We all have insecurities and self-doubt, but these can become magnified when we flood our brain with images of other people. We imagine other lives we could be living, or worry about things we ‘should’ be doing.  The comparison trap is one of the most harmful things to fall into – we compare how we look or what our life looks like, with images that are carefully curated and filtered and well, fake. We trick ourselves into believing they are real, and it’s so easy to start comparing ourselves against impossible perceived benchmarks.

If social media and FOMO is something that triggers you, then try and limit the amount of time you expose yourself to.  Have allocated time for a digital detox – set an alarm or limit on your app. Or switch your phone off completely, and put it in a drawer for a while.  (If this idea brings you out in a cold sweat, then it’s a good indication you might just benefit from it!).

And there are a range of other negative emotions that, if left unchecked, will drain our energy. There are the obvious ones such as anger, resentment, or regret, that may have stemmed from a specific experience, but there are also the more subconscious ones like fear, uncertainty, or jealousy.

Listen to what your emotions are telling you.  Where are they holding you back?  What are you missing out on or avoiding?  We may feel triggered in certain situations, or by people, without knowing why.

In summary, our energy isn’t just something that we need to function and progress, we can also influence how much of it we have.  By identifying such energy zappers and being aware of what we are consuming, physically and mentally, and when we are feeling triggered, we can start to bring more balance.

And in next week’s post, I’ll be switching the focus to looking at how we can bring better energy to our interactions, so stay tuned for more.

Photo credit: Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.com

How To Stay Focused

Arrow hitting a target

Rounding up this month’s theme by sharing a few ideas of how to stay focused.

Over the last month, I’ve also talked about things that can get in the way and what happens when we’re not focused, so check out the previous posts if you need some further tips too.

Remember Your Why

Having the end goal or outcome in mind is vital – if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, then you won’t achieve it. Seems obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted by shiny things on the way, so keep coming back to your ‘why’.

But Be Flexible

If your ‘why’ has changed or the goalposts have moved, be flexible enough to alter your course. Sticking to a plan that is no longer working or relevant will hold you back. If you need to change,  it will give you better momentum in the longer term.

Eliminate Distractions

Being aware of where your time and energy goes can help to get rid of things that will distract you. Whether it’s your own actions, such as scrolling social media or making unhealthy choices. Or external energy zappers, such as people who need your attention, but aren’t supportive in return.  Be aware of where you might need to set some boundaries around your time.  Be firm but fair to make sure that your needs are being met too.

Find Your Tribe

Connect with others who have similar goals. It’s difficult to keep motivated when no one else around you ‘gets it’.  If you can find people who have been where you are, or are on the same journey, it’s so helpful.

Stay In Balance

Keep a healthy balance of all the other things going on in your life too. When you take time away from goal-getting, you allow space for your brain to assimilate the learning you’ve been doing, and it creates space for creativity. The best ideas usually come when you’re at rest…for lots of people it’s in the shower or washing the dishes.

Accountability

Regular check ins are key. As with ‘remember your why’, being able to recognise if something’s not working, or other areas of your life are being neglected, can help you to make changes quicker.

Just some food for thought if you’re looking to stay focused.

Photo by Ricardo Arce on Unsplash

In Search Of Purpose

 

Purpose written on a wooden sign

The search for purpose is something that has been around for a very long time, and it exists in all cultures.

The Japanese have a practice known as ‘ikigai’, which roughly translates as ‘waking up to joy’.

The French call it ‘raison d’etre’, or reason for being.

The Ancient Greeks called it eudaimonia – the condition of “human flourishing”, or a life well lived.

These ideas suggest that to live a full and happy life, we must intentionally look for practices that create purpose.

Purpose, and the attainment of it, remains a central theme of positive psychology, because of how important it is in our overall wellbeing.  So, it’s not surprising that we hear a lot about it.

Having awareness of things which bring us enjoyment or a sense of mastery, and taking action to overcome things which stand in the way of our happiness, is central to most cognitive interventions.

Often, when we think about purpose, we think of it in terms of the work we do. We assume that if we find the right career, we’ll discover our passion.

But work can be where we feel a lack of passion, or joy, most strongly.  Especially if we worked hard to get there, only to find that the job isn’t all we’d hoped.  Or perhaps we have neglected other areas in achieving our successes.

If we put all our effort into cultivating our careers, we may find that other important areas of our life start to miss out.  Our relationships suffer, or we lose interest in hobbies or favourite activities.

And then we wonder why we feel so disconnected.

In order to find our true purpose, we have to look at our lives as a whole-rounded, interweaving, intermeshing thing.

How to find purpose

The most common diagram used to explain this, is used in the cultivation of ikigai.

Diagram to illustrate ikigai

 

 

 

 

 

(source:  Positive Psychology.com)

This process looks at different aspects of our lives and asks us to consider where these overlap.  It identifies things that we both enjoy doing, and which we are good at or have a certain level of skill or mastery over.

Some practices also ask what is useful to the wider community and what could we be paid for, by way of helping us to find a particular career path.

Often we put a lot of focus on only one area, e.g. in terms of work, we look at ‘what am I good at’, or ‘what do I enjoy’.  We don’t often put a lot of thought into examining how these things correlate.

If we feel unsatisfied, it’s usually because we are in a cycle of doing something purely because we’re good at it.  But we may not necessarily enjoy it as much any more.  Or we really enjoy something, but we aren’t able to progress any further than our current skill level allows.

If you’re struggling with your search for purpose, using a framework like this can be really helpful.  Especially if you have become used to doing things out of habit, as it may identify areas where you need a new challenge.

Or it could show you where you have an imbalance.  For example, if you’re putting a lot of work and energy into one area, which other bits are missing out?  And what effect is this having?

Our lives are not meant to be static and it’s easy to become over-comfortable, and we risk drifting.  As the world around us changes, we need to adapt too, otherwise it jars and we resist change.  And this can lead to feeling fearful, or frustrated and irritable, as we don’t see where we fit in any more.

To find out more about living with purpose, I’ve created a free mini guide with this months newsletter.  Sign up here to receive your free copy.

What Is It Costing You To Remain Where You Are?

Woman sat in contemplation what is it costing you to remain where you are

Do you need to consider what it’s costing you to remain where you are?

I’ve been looking at the theme of living with purpose this month, and for the May newsletter I’ve created a mini guide with hints and tips of how you can live life with more purpose (click on the link here if you haven’t signed up yet!)

This week, I’m looking at what it is costing us to remain where we are.

It’s very easy to get lost in the ‘day to day’, especially with everything that’s been going on during the past year, and we can drift or lose focus.

And as the weeks roll into months, and roll into years, the time always passes quicker when we are head down, getting on with it.

Perhaps after months of lockdown, you’ve had lots of time for reflection and questions – I know I certainly have. And I don’t want to go back to how life was before.

If you recognise that you are feeling unmotivated, or lack confidence or inspiration, you may well be feeling stuck.   And it’s likely that you may have lost, or outgrown, your purpose.

By not having a purpose to work towards, we can lose focus. But it doesn’t matter how big or small that purpose is.  Purpose doesn’t need to be this huge achievement or ambition…it can mean being better than we were yesterday, or last week, or last year.

It’s recognising that we want different.  We want better.  We deserve better.

Often we don’t notice until we hit that wall, asking ‘Is this it?’.

The very act of recognising means that we are intentionally noticing what’s going on. Maybe you haven’t done that for a while either?

The first step in getting unstuck is noticing that you are stuck.  Because then you can create the vision of where you want to be instead.

Photo credit: by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

 

Do You Live Life On Purpose?

A man holding a compass indicating living with purpose

Often we float throughout days without ever asking ourselves this question – do you live life on purpose?

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I asked myself that question.  I have certain goals and ambitions that I’m working towards, which gives me a framework of activity and tasks that I choose to do.

And then there’s the day to day mundane stuff that we ‘have to do’.

But what if we actively chose to live more purposefully.  Said yes to more of the things that we truly desire. And said no to the things that zap our energy.

Living with purpose is something you hear a lot about right now, and sometimes it can be framed as though having a ‘purpose’ is this elusive thing that we must strive for.  But what if it just meant living with a bit more clarity and direction?

To what extent can we really live with purpose?

And ultimately, how much freedom do we actually have in choosing how we spend our time, in reality.

Do we have total control over how we spend our time, or are there other factors, such as responsibility and duties, that other people rely on us for?

But there are lots of ways in which we can bring purpose, both in what we do and how we choose to do it.

Free resources

I’ll be exploring the theme of purpose this month, so stay tuned to the blog and podcast for more.

And for this month’s newsletter, I’ve created a free mini guide on ‘How To Live Life With Purpose’, if this is an area you’d like to explore more.  Sign up to the newsletter here to receive your copy by email.

 

Photo credit:  Jamie Street on Unsplash