How your definition of challenge will affect the way you take it onMar 07, 2022
Out of the mouth of babes
Back in September 2021, I wrote in the Mindset Blog about the fact I was struggling to build my self-belief for a big work project that was coming up for me in early 2022. Well, it got delayed due to the forecasted COVID wave, predicted for early this year, and said event is now taking place this coming week. This means, I have had even more time to reframe my mindset…
And reading through that September blog, I was reminded of what one of my daughters had said to me when I had confessed my nerves: “Do you remember when you were so scared about delivering your first TEDx Talk with Grandpa and Mia, but you felt so strongly that people needed to hear what you all had to say, and you got out there on that stage anyway, and did it. And afterwards, remember how relieved and happy you were that you’d done it? And then do you remember the fear you had before you did the TEDx Talk on your own – you wanted to get it right because you wanted everyone to know this mindset stuff, and you did it again, and you felt amazing. And the other week, you did that talk in London, and you wanted to make sure you got it right, and you did it again, and you were awesome! Well, this is like that, only each time you do it, the event gets bigger. You’re scared but you do it. After this one, there’ll be another one. But you’ll do it because you know deep down that you can. So do it.”
Her wise counsel reminded me that one of my values is personal growth- that I strive to be the best version of me, and I know that it’s a continual work in progress. There is always more to achieve, and I can always be a better version of me, that means facing the fear and doing it anyway.
As I said in that Mindset Blog, I had been allowing the fear monster to fill my head with extremely unhelpful thoughts and I needed reminding how important it is to be motivated by desire, rather than fear.
Walking The Plank
On The Winning Edge course, we offer a scenario to help explain the importance of being aware of the way you think about what you think about and thus what your dominant thought is. The scenario goes like this: Imagine two beer crates upside down and across them is a builder’s plank; so, it’s approximately 30cm wide, 4 cm thick and about three metres long. If I offer you £10 to walk from one side of the plank to the other, what might you say? The vast majority of people answer yes– it’s an easy tenner, almost a drink on a Saturday night! Let’s change the scenario a little… Imagine those beer crates are now 100 metres up, on the top of two multi-storey buildings, it’s a still day, not a breath of wind and I’m prepared to offer you the same £10 reward for doing the same job. So, what’s your answer now, in cleaned up language? Do I hear a chorus of ‘NO!’?! Why no? The risk is the same- the risk is you might fall. What has changed are the consequences of failure. When the beer crates are on the ground, if you fall off, it’s a possible sprained ankle but if you fall off when you’re up 100 metres, it’s certain you’ll be strawberry jam.
Here’s the thing, logically you have the same capability 100 metres up as you do down on the ground to complete the task and surely you have even more reason to stay on the plank when you’re so high! However, do you think you’re more likely to stay on or fall off at 100m versus ground level? Well, the answer my friend, is that you’re far more likely to fall off at 100 metres high up because your head is full of – well, falling off! Down on the ground, your head is focused on the £10 and what you’ll do with it… It’s the way you’re thinking about the challenge because at ground level, you think about the treat but up high, you think about the problems.
The plank is a metaphor for any challenge you face in life– an important presentation to a potential client, a job interview, whether to strike out and start up your own business or maybe whether to declare your undying love to someone. If you fear failure and your dominant thought is failure, what’s more than likely to happen…
We move towards our dominant thought, so the key is to focus on what we want rather than what we don’t want.
It's the way you think about what you think about
If you’ve a challenge on the horizon, are you focusing on the end result or the problems? Are you imagining and expecting success or failure? And which would you rather be led by: fear or desire? What’s on the other side of the plank for you and what will get you across? If you expect success, it isn’t guaranteed but the cards are far more likely to be stacked in your favour if you have a can-do attitude. Because what you concentrate on, you bring into your life.
If you’re stretching yourself and moving out of your comfort zone, yes you might feel vulnerable but that’s where the growth takes place.
And it’s interesting to ask yourself how you think about the word ‘challenge’: does this word prompt thoughts of fear and anxiety or are you thinking 'BRING. IT. ON!'?!
So, here are my steps for when facing a challenge– to employ your MINDSET VITALS™ to help you to navigate your thinking, to ensure you’re mindset ready:
V – Visualise
Visualise the version of you that is calm, confident and in control. Visualisation is a powerful technique using your imagination to create positive outcomes. Make a mental movie of you in the scenario feeling in control. Use all five senses to ground this visualisation and replay it every night before you go to sleep. The brain can’t tell the difference between a real and vividly imagined event so when you are working through the challenge, you’ll already be feeling calm, confident and in control because you’ve imagined it so many times.
I – Intentional
Be intentional about the nature of your thoughts– that they’re supporting you to feel calm, confident and in control. If you are feeling anxious with a head full of negative thoughts, slow down your busy head and question yourself why you feel like you do. Then think what you can do to reframe your thoughts so that you can feel more confident. This might be calmly thinking through the situation, maybe talking to someone; maybe exercise helps you, listening to some music or a podcast, or journaling can help to shift the type of thoughts you are thinking. Nothing changes if nothing changes so to change the way you are feeling, change the nature of your thoughts.
T – Take Responsibility
You are entirely up to you. Only you can decide how you work your way through the thoughts which are holding you back- keeping yourself small when you could in fact grow so much more. You get to run your brain rather than to allow it to run you. You get to manage your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. Easy? Not always, but it is do-able, and it is down to you. No amount of support from anyone else can give you self-confidence and whilst cheerleading from others is so important, the self-confidence has to come from you.
A – Assumptive Affirmations
To intercept the loop whereby you might be feeling anxious about the challenge that lies ahead, write some positive affirmations, so you can reset your brain and end negative thought patterns. Positive affirmations are a deliberately constructed sentence, which, when repeated, realign neural networks and patterns in the brain, creating and sustaining a positive self-belief. Repeat at least twice daily- after cleaning your teeth is a good time. You could dovetail with your visualisation and say: “I feel calm, confident and in control.” Repeating positive affirmations will help to bolster your confidence and belief in you, enabling you to keep moving forward and face the challenge.
L – Let go
Let go of any previous thoughts about your ability to take on a challenge. Maybe in the past you might have shied away from opportunities to learn, grow and develop. Possibly you’ve tried something new and it didn’t work out, so you’ve held on to that and perpetuated a narrative that you’re a failure and should ‘stay in your lane’ doing what you do and not changing anything up. Holding on to the coulda, would, shoulda, or regret or hurt pride about the past, only keeps you in one place– the past. If you process and let go, you can create a new path.
S - Self-talk
Your self-talk is that voice in your head which can either hinder your progress or propel you forward. It’s that inner critic, the incessant chatter you allow to run you down. If you find you are saying: ‘This is all so scary. I don’t think I can take on this challenge. I don’t want to get it wrong but I’m not sure I have it in me to do this,’ instead change up the way you’re talking about it to align with your affirmations and visualisation. When talking about it – both to yourself and to others, say: ‘This is an exciting opportunity for me. It’s stretching me and I’m growing as a person; I’m looking forward to that huge sense of achievement.’ You are bolstering a mindset of positivity and looking forwards.
Emerging from the chrysalis
Ensure you are in control of your thoughts, that they are supporting you to move forward, rather than to stagnate and stand still. With your Mindset VITALS in check, you will be giving yourself a check-up from the neck-up daily.
On a final note, here's something to think about- your definition of the word challenge:
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When faced with a challenge, do you find it difficult to feel resilient, resourceful and to have the self-belief that you can take it on and be the best you can be? Do you shy away from challenge and change, because of the misguided belief you don't have it in you to achieve?
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