The weather in Austin has been crazy the last week! We went from 103 degrees to a torrential downpour in just days. In fact, I was driving home last Tuesday night from a presentation in Dallas and could barely see the road! The U.S. Open faced similar challenges. A few nights ago, there were 30mph gusts of wind on the main tennis court. Many thought they would cancel, but right before the match, they interviewed the challenger who said he was just going to do the best he could. Then they interviewed Roger Federer, whom many people consider the greatest tennis champion ever. He said he thought he could use the wind to his advantage. See the difference?
All of us wake up each day and face a variety of circumstances, some good…some bad. The difference in our experience is how we choose to view the situation. Some people choose to complain and be a victim. We can get frustrated with them, but in reality, they don’t know any other approach. If they did, they would use it. Others say they will do the best they can and give it a legitimate shot. But then there are the people who become truly successful. Not only do they give it a shot without complaining, but they view it as an opportunity to excel and use the situation to their advantage.
Viewing challenges as opportunities is not an inherent trait for most of us. It is a learned skill, behavior, and way of thinking. Anyone can learn to think and behave this way.
So if you’re not a natural at finding opportunity in adversity, how do you do it? You habituate the behavior. The way we think and behave is nothing more than a habit. Just like eating, smoking, or gambling, habits can be changed. While it is certainly not easy, it is doable. Here are a five ways to start:
1. Get really uncomfortable where you are. Unfortunately, unless we are in enough discomfort with our current set of circumstances, we would rather stay comfortable with old problems than new solutions. The pain has to be great enough to propel you to change.
2. Want the change bad enough. While the pain must be enough to make us move, the place we are going to has to be so compelling, we’re willing to be uncomfortable while we’re getting there. In order to make it compelling enough, you must be able to answer the question, “What benefit am I trying to gain, or what loss am I trying to avoid?”
3. Create a trigger word or picture. Sometimes the easiest way to change a mental habit is to have a particular word that you say to yourself, or a particular picture you see in your mind when you find yourself exhibiting the old behavior. For example, if every time your mind slips into old patterns of thought, try envisioning a huge red stop sign. I’ve even had clients tape a picture of a stop sign to their computer or mirror.
4. Practice. When you are presented with a situation where you have a choice of just getting by or using the experience as an opportunity, FORCE yourself to choose opportunity. If you wait for Divine inspiration to motivate you to get started, you’ll miss opportunities to practice!
5. Don’t give up! Habits take time to form, and they take time to break. Just as training for a marathon takes practice and commitment, so does changing the way we think. Your brain is just like a muscle; you have to exercise it to grow it. If you give up, you’ve already lost. Progress requires strength, commitment, and stictoativeness.
I hadn’t driven before in rain like this. It was actually pretty scary. I just wanted to get home. Thoughts of seeing my husband and kids kept going through my mind. Suddenly, the miles were taking forever, and minutes dragged. I finally got home and my family was standing in the garage waiting for me as I pulled up. I got the best hugs ever! I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed or been as grateful for those hugs if it weren’t for the rain.
On a side note….Please join me in raising awareness for mental illness and walk with NAMI on October 2nd. You can make a donation or join my walk team here. Thank you!
Talk about turning challenges into opportunities…