The stressors of life – money, romance (or lack thereof), family, friends, work, and the economy – they can press in and discourage people in the place where it counts the most. Print this out and take it with you for when you need a moment of encouragement in the most important place you will ever seek to understand…..
So, when your mind has come up against a proverbial wall how can your choice, your free will, help to keep you in a sane place? Try these five internal, balancing questions.
1) What can I learn from this? What else can this mean?
So it’s 8:05 on Monday, and the week is off to a start – an awful start. What is your challenge that has you gripping your coffee cup just a little too tight? What is it’s root, what does it mean? For me, it could be stress that my seven year old may actually be the world’s most pokey child, and it’s time to take her to school. Her uniform is half buttoned, and it’s taken her thirty minutes to eat half a pop-tart. Maybe you have a paper or a presentation. Maybe it’s job search day. What is your challenge? We often see challenges as irritating annoyances. Reframe: ask if this challenge holds a great opportunity to learn and grow! If I start by not getting tense, but instead asking myself, “What can I learn from this experience?” then I stand the chance that life may actually improve. Reframing the situation immediately puts a more positive light on your life. Changing the questions you ask allows us to discover something worth appreciating about this experience, which is already part of our reality. Find the true value that might have gone unnoticed.
2) Recognize that the stressor is burning your energy. Ask “how can this strengthen me instead?”
Is your problem bigger than your human imprint on the world? If so, your challenge is going to feel intimidating, larger than you can control or get your mind around. Perhaps you are stressed because you don’t feel capable of handling “that thing” on this day. Take a step back and breathe deep. D you have a limited perception of your own abilities? Do you have an attitude of failure because you perceive that this challenge will overcome you? I learn a lot from the climbing wall that you’ll find me on week in and week out. When I first returned to exercise and rock wall climbing after almost five months of steroid/inflammatory treatments, my muscle tone and upper body strength was shot, along with my balance. I can look at the tough side of the wall and feel that it’s insurmountable.
Or, I can look at this as an opportunity. My best is ahead of me, the challenge is encouraging me…and in my determination, I find strength, faith, community, support.
I see it as a change to become stronger and more capable; not a result of a prolonged illness that my anxiety shoved into overdrive. I have no victim mentality. I use challenges to really bring out my best, to unlock those unused abilities, strengths and gifts. Every time that you see a challenge as an opportunity, you’re going to find your attitude and altitude headed upward. Increase your own confidence in your abilities by trying, learning from mistakes and moving constantly forward to the goal. On the days when I am deep in the blues and can’t function well? Then it is time to ask for help. I am a strong believer in talk therapy, and chose to engage in mental wellness through counseling, diet and being really open with my family. Am I strong all the time? Nope. I had a really, really tough year. My heart has more tape holding it together than one might imagine. But I am getting better, stronger, more whole everyday. I use my experience to help other people. What can you do to validate your pain and make it worthwhile?
3) Challenges and Opportunities walk together. How can you use this to your advantage?
You will have to learn in time that it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full, half empty or even marginally on your horizon. What is in the glass and what you do with it – that is what matters. Brian and I confronted a challenge together at the first of the year, and it began a much deeper, though provoking conversation. What was a great challenge turned into the opportunity to become reconnected to each other, to walk through a tough time as a team, and to emerge on the other side stronger than ever. A man more faint of heart would have run. When you look at the disadvantages of a challenge, are you also seeing the potential for new growth? Are you encouraged by the possibilities that may be brought to you over your challenge and it’s presence in the world? How can confront this challenge so that it’s results become a cornerstone of positive change in your life?
4) I do not live in isolation, and my problems are not only mine. How can I use this challenge to help others?
You are part of a family unit, a social strata that is the fabric of your life. Every decision that you make impacts the world around you – for every action, there is a reaction. Maybe you feel like your goals only affect you personally; even if they are internal by nature , like losing weight, your change will still impact the world around you. What we do, how we think and feel, what we choose and how we choose to execute our goals, our morals, attitudes and values – all of it has an impact on the people around us.
“Not only do other people watch the things we do and how we live our life – they often model their own behavior after ours. If you refuse to let challenges intimidate you or slow you down, you just might inspire and motivate others to do the same when they face obstacles of their own. Anytime you experience personal growth, you help the people around you in some way.” – source unknown
5) How can you make this time worthwhile for you? This is your story, your narrative, your life. You matter.
Challenges can bring two real assets to your forefront. Once you form a plan of action, you’re going to feel more capable and content. Once you see the individual steps, your sense of stress will calm and you will find yourself taking on one minor part at a time until the whole has been addressed. It’s like writing a thesis – you work large issues in stages. Second, you’re going to have a more clear view of who you are, and why you’re here. What is your purpose, and how does it relate to a larger society? How does your faith figure into that? Where are you likely to find people who are mentally and physically healthy to invest in your life – and are you able to be/do the same? If your challenge is a result of a mistake that you’ve made, the first thing to do is just accept responsibility. Persecution ends where confession begins, they say. That is the birthplace of redemption. Yes, consequences are a definite challenge – you know that the knucklehead behind the pain is you. For me, I see my redemption time as the opportunity to lay a firm foundation of trust and communication with my family, to be held accountable by my mentor and by my husband, and to really follow through with the things I have been gifted to do in my life. I look to see how that might strengthen my marriage, my children, my community.
Finally, the most important thing that you can do to refresh, encourage and renew your mind is to take god care of yourself. Out with the toxic and in with the holistic. That includes people, places, jobs, education, family, food, beverages, drugs, etc. You best state is where your best work and life will flourish. To get to your best state? Choose life. Choose to love the life that you’re in, to embrace it fully and not to let the strata of troubles get you down – there is always a rainbow, but there is also a life giving rain.
Deep breath, repeat after me. “I am able, blessed and full of hope. Today is a great day, and I am going to be happy in it.” Fan the flames of your faith and speak positively over your life, your family, your challenge.
It can’t rain all the time.