I’ve had a challenging year. And that’s an understatement. Most people who know me would be surprised to hear that. And there’s a reason for that. I have a choice in how I can handle my challenges and I can choose my attitude. However, one of the most important realizations that I’ve had during my challenging time is that everyone is having a challenging time – I’m in great company! Right now, in our community, our state, our nation and our world, we are seeing and experiencing more turmoil, challenges and distress than I’ve seen in my lifetime. And we’re also seeing the biggest gifts in the opportunity for growth that’s commensurate to the challenges. We often forget about the gift as we are bogged down in the quagmire of whatever is happening in our life that we are allowing to hold us down and hold us back from rising above the challenges – from living our best life.
As I’ve reflected on this, part of my healing and rising above the challenges is my desire to help others rise above their afflictions so we can start healing our community, our state, our nation and our world. In this article, I’ll share with you some of the steps I chose to take to help deal with my challenges – steps that have allowed me to grow more powerfully and create a better life to enjoy and savor while releasing all that was holding me back. I hope you can use some of these steps to help with your challenges, to find the tools and to make the decision to create a life that supports you and release everything that is holding you back.
Honor your feelings. First, it’s important to recognize and honor what you feel. If you stuff your feelings away, they’ll just operate in your subconscious and eventually rear their ugly head for you to deal with, generally at the least opportune time, so you might as well address them up front. If you’re angry, acknowledge you’re angry. If you feel despair, acknowledge the despair. Give your feelings appropriate titles and give yourself permission to feel them. When you acknowledge them, you take away some of their power. Acknowledging them is not the same thing as DWELLING in them and giving them permission to run roughshod on your life.
Monitor your mind. Next, start to pay attention to what is running through your mind. Most people allow their minds to run on automatic pilot and don’t even realize the negativity that can be playing in the background. Start to catch yourself and see if your thoughts are empowering you or disempowering you. Most people find themselves dwelling on an issue that is from the past or a fear of what could happen in the future – both of which take you out of the power of the present moment.
Try this exercise. For an entire day, pay close attention to what you are thinking throughout the day and hear what’s playing in the background – you may be surprised to hear that your inner voice is not your best friend. Your next step is catching any thought that is negative or disempowering and immediately stopping the thought midstream and replacing it with an empowering thought. For instance, if you catch your mind telling you – “You can’t do that, you don’t have the skills and you will fail miserably.” Your goal is to shut it down and replace it with an empowering thought – “This is a perfect opportunity to use my skills and further develop them while I enjoy the excitement of learning something new!” It is imperative to catch and stop the negative thought immediately. I’ve worn a rubber band that I can snap as soon as I catch the thought and immediately replace the negative thought with an empowering thought. I’ve had a dialogue with my inner voice – “Thank you for sharing, however your viewpoint wasn’t requested so why don’t you go bug someone else?” With time, you can train your mind to be your ally, not your enemy.
Important Note – your mind is like a muscle, it takes repeated and ongoing training to build it to support you and it takes time. You wouldn’t run a triathlon tomorrow if you don’t run, bike or swim – it takes months to train. Your mind is the same – commit to taking steps to train your mind to support you, recognize there will be set backs and remember that you always have the choice of what you allow to run in and through your mind – choose supportive thoughts. Our choice of thoughts provides the vehicle that will keep us in the rut or empower us to climb out. If you want more assistance in this area, I highly recommend the teachings of John Kehoe. He helped me transform my life by understanding the power of my mind, which puts the control and responsibility for your circumstances squarely in your grasp. For more information, check out his website at www.learnmindpower.com.
Honestly and objectively look at your challenges. We tend to look at our challenges through eyes of emotion which magnifies the challenges and inhibits our options for resolution. If you can’t see through your emotion to get a clear direction, solicit assistance from other people you know and trust – coaches, mentors, counselors, friends or associates. I have an amazing mastermind group of women business owners and we’ve been meeting weekly for more than 5 years. I count on them to honestly help me work through any issue and hold me accountable in the process. They can help me see possibilities that I can’t see through my emotion-clouded glasses. They give me a safe space to lay the cards on the table, discuss the issues, and create resolutions.
Surround yourself with supportive, motivating and inspiring friends. Friends who will be there for you, will commit to being honest with you and will help keep you on purpose. They’ll lend a shoulder when needed, and they know when to give you a kick in the pants. If it’s time to upgrade your friends, (outgrowing friends is ok, albeit painful, because sometimes we outgrow them when we choose to grow and they don’t), get involved in an inspiring organization to meet new people, like Chat Chew and Chocolate. Their tagline is “Fun, Friendship & Inspiration for Busy Women. Check them out at www.chatchewandchocolate.com. If friends aren’t available, listen to inspiring cd’s. I bought a series of Tony Robbins cd’s many years ago and recently pulled them out to start listening to one a day and enjoy the fresh, inspiring perspective.
Engage in activities. Sometimes when we are challenged, we hide out and withdraw from people and life. While this may be good in productive doses to find quiet spaces to reflect, when it becomes hiding out, it’s time to reach for the bootstraps and force yourself to get active. It can be an activity that you love or it can be a new activity that you’ve never done before. I’m a huge fan of exercise because when I feel healthy and strong, my life flows with ease, grace, joy, power, passion and purpose. Here are some activity suggestions in addition to exercise: take a yoga class, a cooking class, a wine tasting class; enjoy a dance lesson; join a club of an activity that you love (running, biking, book club, chess, etc); learn a language; visit a museum; volunteer (volunteering is awesome because you help other people in need, it takes the focus off your challenges and gives you the gift to see that your challenges aren’t as bad as you thought); organize your friends and create a fun event to enjoy (I recently contacted a group of girl friends and invited them out to an evening of jazz to enjoy their exquisite company while listening to fabulous music) – you are only limited by your imagination.
Get out of your comfort zone. If you continue to do the same things the same way you’ve always done them, you’ll get the same results. Read that sentence again. If you want to do things differently, you have to think different thoughts. You have to look at life differently. And that means you have to start doing things and looking at things in a way that you haven’t in the past. Consider this, “worry” is merely negative imagination. Substitute positive imagination and scenarios whenever “worry” presents itself. Drive home a different way. Subscribe to www.tut.com and receive daily inspirational messages – here’s an example: “Thinking brand new thoughts that you’ve never thought before is wildly more conducive to creating big life changes than just thinking different varieties of the same old thoughts.” I’ve been so inspired by Mike Dooley, the creator of Tut, that I have a Daily Dose of Inspiration on my website home page that we update daily: www.azbusinessresource.com.
Choose Powerfully. Remember, when you think you have the least power, you have the most power because you always have a choice. You have a choice of what and how to think; a choice of how to view your circumstances and the choice to change your perspective. If you don’t want to believe me, look at the powerful examples who live it, such as Nelson Mandela and Viktor Frankl. Victor Frankl wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning that describes his experiences in a concentration camp and his insight into finding a reason to live under horrific conditions. He concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. If a survivor of a concentration camp can find meaning in life, if Mandela can survive 27 years in prison and lead through reconciliation to become President of South Africa, I can find perspective on my life’s challenges to choose powerfully and encourage all of you to do the same. You can choose to think your life sucks or you can choose that this is a fabulous time to recreate it with joy, passion, purpose and fun – which one will you choose?
Closing Thought. I’ll leave you with this quote that I love from Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.: “Please don’t give up hope on yourself or other people. Keep the candle of faith burning within your soul, as that one small inkling of hope can eradicate the darkness of despair. Be the light that eliminates someone else’s gloomy hopelessness as well. For as you make others stronger, it strengthens not only yourself, but the entire world.”