“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”Roger Crawford, U.S. motivational speaker, Hall of Fame athlete
Challenges come in all sizes and they don’t discriminate. They’re often, but not always, uninvited. I mean, people don’t accidentally run marathons, do they? They choose to do it.
All major challenges have one thing in common, though: they never leave us unchanged. Chances are, we’ve all faced and overcome numerous challenges. Here are a few of mine…
Challenge 1: the Bully
One of my most unpleasant experiences was being bullied by a co-worker. I went to work each morning filled with dread and anxiety. I never knew what misery the day would bring. At times, I felt like resigning on the spot, but it would mean that the bully had won, and I refused to let that happen.
That experience taught me to be more tuned-in to how people around me treat one another, because I remember that sometimes all I wanted was for someone to stand up for me. It also resulted in me becoming more assertive in the workplace, once the whole saga was behind me.
Challenge 2: Relationships
Some of my most challenging experiences have been, without a doubt, coping with the ends of relationships.
After a 20-year marriage ended in divorce, everything in my life changed. I moved to another house in another city, I had to leave behind two beloved dogs, and I lost friendships along the way.
Each in itself would have been hard to deal with. But to suffer them all at once was close to cataclysmic.
Even today, 11 years later and happily remarried, I can still feel the distress and uncertainty I felt then. But I also hold on to what that experience taught me: I was stronger than I thought.
Challenge 3: Transformation
Anybody who has ever tried to lose a substantial amount of weight will know how tough it is.
First, you have to change the way you see yourself. Then, you have to change the way you think about your body, about food, and about eating.
You have to be disciplined in working toward a goal, while fighting your brain’s and body’s cravings for the food you used to eat. You also have to learn to block out images and advertising of food and restaurants.
I successfully lost 88lbs (40kg) and managed to maintain my weight within 5kg of my ideal. It was a long and difficult process, but I learned to keep my eye on the goal.
I also learned not to let perceived pain (such as foregoing sugary, unhealthy food) dominate my choices. I learned that going to bed fat, dreaming I was thin, and waking up still fat was much harder than making healthy choices with long-term benefits.
Challenge 4: a Lesson in Discipline
One of my friends fasts a few times a year, for health reasons. He’s asked me before to fast with him, but I doubted that I had the discipline to do it.
Recently, I decided to join him on a fast. For six days I had nothing but water, and a limited amount of black coffee and tea. (This is not medical advice or an endorsement of any type of fast. Should you consider fasting, please talk to your doctor before doing so.)
The first day was fine. Day two was slightly harder. The third day was terrible. Thoughts of food and eating kept popping up all the time. I missed preparing food and I missed the ritual of my evening meal and how it signified the end of my working day. After the third day, it got easier, even though I had to manage my thinking.
During my fast, I realized that while I was choosing not to eat, many people’s daily challenge is hunger due to a lack of food security.
If they eat today, it doesn’t mean that they’ll eat tomorrow. And if they don’t eat today, they have no idea how they’ll come by their next meal. It’s a challenge that will make a huge physical and mental impact on people – and it’s not one that they choose.
Challenge 5: Pandemic Pandemonium
I never thought that a deadly pandemic would strike the world in my lifetime. That’s something that had happened to my grandma, and might happen to my great-grandchildren. But in my lifetime? Never!
Yet, here we are – you and I – and it has happened to us. Many of us faced the challenge of a lockdown, many people lost their jobs. For others, a trip between the bedroom and the kitchen table replaced their daily commutes.
And, apart from still performing job functions, plus cooking and cleaning, many parents also had to homeschool their children.
Maybe more challenging than most other things was the lack of social contact. Going out for a coffee date with friends was out of the question, and so was a visit to grandpa and grandma. You had to make do with what technology had to offer.
Now that countries are starting to ease their lockdowns, there’s a new challenge on the horizon: living in a world where you don’t feel as safe as you used to.
You have to learn how to navigate this “new” world by changing your behavior. You now have to think about the physical distance between you and the next person.
Being the social creatures that we are, we are always scanning people’s faces – it’s instinct. But it’s difficult (if not impossible) to read people’s facial expressions when they’re wearing protective masks.
I think every person learned something about themselves during the pandemic. We’ve also learned that we sometimes need to change our behavior – not necessarily for our own good, but to protect people more vulnerable than ourselves.
Your Biggest Challenge
During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed our biggest challenges and how they changed us. Here are the questions we asked, and some of your most insightful responses:
Q1. What makes a challenge… a challenge?
@J_Stephens_CPA An unexpected challenge is usually something you don’t want to do/deal with and makes you uncomfortable.
@WyleWrites Challenge is when one hits the wall, and the struggles involved in the process of searching for plan B.
Q2. How do challenges change us?
@aamir9769 Challenges make us learn and develop. If a person takes it positively, he/she wins; if negatively, it ruins a career. When you start with “yes I can” you’ve won half the battle of challenge.
@YEPBusiness I love how a challenge is proof of positive achievement. Hard to have low self-esteem about facts.
Q3. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
@MicheleDD_MT So many to choose from! Overcoming chronic anxiety is the biggest challenge for me. It has taken a lifetime to slay the dragon of fear.
@DrRossEspinoza Relocating to the UK, completing my PhD, every time I’ve moved houses or sought and started a new job, leading the #coachingHE chat, and chairing the SDF. My PhD was the toughest though.
Q4. What did you find most difficult to deal with during this challenge?
@PmTwee Not [being] able to do anything is the most difficult part when you face any challenge. Sometimes situations make us silent watchers.
Q5. What mental strategies do you use to get through challenges? Did it work for this challenge?
@BRAVOMedia1 Remembering that “this too shall pass.”
@ThiruHR Value yourself: treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism.
Q6. What practical adjustments/allowances did you need to make while going through this challenge?
@MaryEllenGrom I try to see the opportunity in all challenges. I’m the eternal optimist and [the] glass is always half full. A challenge is a chance to grow, learn and push yourself to be creative and innovative.
@Midgie_MT Tried to give myself more ‘breathing space’ in-between things, so lightened my load of things to do. Tried to be gentler with myself by remembering that I am doing the best that I can.
Q7. How did others help you to get through the challenge?
@lsmurthy99 Simple words like “we are with you” makes one get through challenges, because it gives you immense confidence and faith in oneself.
@Yolande_MT Friends were my voice of reason when I couldn’t be my own. They gave me space (physical and mental) to just be. They covered me with a blanket of care.
Q8. What did your biggest challenge reveal to you about yourself?
@llake I’m less tolerant of some things than l want to admit. On the other hand, l am more compassionate & tolerant than I give myself credit.
@SizweMoyo Being human can be difficult, and I’m strong enough to be a strong human.
Q9. Looking back now, what could you have done differently?
@ZalkaB Nothing. It’s easy to stand here now, with all the learning and experience and ponder changes. The only thing I would change is my self-care and health management – this IS, and needs to be a priority, always.
@MicheleDD_MT I would have done the self-work earlier in my life. I had a few opportunities when this could have happened, but chose to bury myself in being insanely busy instead.
Q10. What is the one thing you’ll do next time you face a major challenge?
@ThiruHR Mastering your mind is one of the greatest life challenges of all. The key is to create space for you to be with yourself in a healthy way that promotes growth. Ultimately, the goal is to use what you learn as you grow to become the best version of yourself.
@Yolande_MT I’ve grown to be a different version of me than I was then. I’ll handle ME differently, manage my own emotions differently.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Coping with challenges can be difficult. But trying to cope with a challenge, and being criticized for how you’re doing it, is even more difficult.
In our next #MTtalk we’re going to discuss criticism, and in our poll this week we’d like to know how being criticized makes you feel. To see the poll and cast your vote, please click here.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to the topic we discussed on Friday: