Embracing challenge sounds like an oxymoron.  When challenging situations rear their heads, it can be easier to default to some of the following thinking styles:

Catastrophizing: “This is going to be a disaster!” Interestingly – if we look at the medical effects of catastrophizing– patients who catastrophize a higher pain expectation have worse pre-operative pain than non-catastrophizers.  However, after the procedure, pain for both is similar.  The implication here then is through magnification, rumination and a sense of helplessness, we can tend to make the situation worse for ourselves.

Rigidity: “I must do it this way, the outcome must be this.”  Rigid thinking is our way of protecting ourselves.  However, with more flexible thinking we are able to more easily accept setback, mistakes, and we are more able to be creative and adaptable.  Flexible thinking allows us to grow.

Worrying: with worrying our mind is crowded with unhelpful thoughts and images.  These are cumulative: the more we worry, the more worries breed and multiply.  Worry can also lead to physical symptoms such as colds, headaches, insomnia (Szymanska and Palmer, 2012).

So how can we approach challenge differently, and seek to embrace it?

Rather than catastrophize, what if we pause and take a breath? What if, instead of our mind galloping off to consider exactly how the disaster will play out, we outline what exactly we find difficult in this situation?  Then we can consider how we might manage these aspects.  Visualising our success, and how we will enact the necessary actions to cope with the situation, will also help us (Szymanska and Palmer, 2012).

Instead of thinking “I must do it this way,” what if we consider what the impact of this kind of thinking is?  It can be very difficult to extricate ourselves from fixed thinking, and this is where considering the impacts of this kind of thinking in the past can be helpful.  How could we think differently about the situation?  How can our strengths help us to navigate a difficult situation?  You can find a free strengths test here.

To embrace challenge it can also help to sort the things that you can control from the things you can’t. You can’t control what other people think of you. In fact are you ever really going to be able to know this anyway?  Does it help?  There are two layers here too of what you can potentially exert control over.  There’s the challenge itself, and what you can control about that.  Then there’s also your worry about the challenge.  Here planning out the actions you need and being proactive rather than stewing on things can help – both with the challenge and with the worry.  If you can’t do anything about the worry, ditch it (Szymanska and Palmer, 2012), it’s not helping you!  This gives you more space to concentrate on the challenge itself.

If you want to find out more about Embracing Challenge, come along to our workshop on 11 March 2022, 11.30-1.30 (GMT)!  Click here for further information and bookings.

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