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Coping strategies to overcome personal and professional challenges

What you can do to help you move forward

Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

■ ​​​​Recognising which struggles are worth working through and which ones we should walk away from.

The list of professional struggles that any individual may face is quite long and isn’t limited to the following

1. A demanding boss,

2. A colleague who doesn’t have the best communication skills,

3. Being passed over for a promotion,

4. Struggling with industry changes

5. Being a jack of all trades and master of none.

All of these struggles can be overcome with the right attitude, adjusting your perception and taking the right actions but all of this depends on how happy you truly are where you work and how much you love what you do. The struggle becomes so much harder if we don’t love what we do and we end up looking for a way out. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

For example, years ago, I worked in a company where I had a nice, gentle boss, he was kind and respectful of me which I really valued and appreciated. When he left, his former boss took over and I really didn’t like how brash he was, I felt very uncomfortable around him. But you know what? I learnt so much more working with my new boss in just 4 months which I didn’t learn working with my former boss in a year. Sometimes, we need to overlook what makes us uncomfortable in order to grow, as long as there is no abuse involved, in what makes us uncomfortable.

To give you another example – my husband had a boss who really slave drove him, made him work from 8am until 11pm, sometimes even until midnight and weekends too, with no overtime pay. He would end up skipping meals and had to travel all over the country. It was really hard but he tells me that he is extremely grateful to that particular boss because he through it all, he learnt so much from him.

These are struggles that you can work through and we will talk about actions you can take to work through these struggles a little later.

Struggles you need to walk away from and ensure proper legal procedures are followed: abuse and harassment of any kind.

Personal struggles are far too many to name in one blog post but again, most can be handled with the right attitude, perception and action which we will talk about in a bit. Once again, abuse and harassment are struggles that have to be addressed using the correct legal route – one shouldn’t try to overcome this struggle.

■ Understanding the nature of struggles – why is it that we struggle?

The part people fail to acknowledge and accept is that it is our very struggles which lead to our ultimate growth. Each struggle is teaching us something new about ourselves or helping us develop a skill which will be the very tool enabling us to overcome the very thing we are struggling with.

The reason many don’t recognise this is because they are so focused on the discomfort and the pain of the struggle, all they see is the agony without trying to seek out what lesson is in it for them, what is it that they are supposed to learn and empower themselves with. Your suffering won’t end If you focus on the struggle, but if you focus on the lesson, you will enable yourself to grow. And what you focus on, grows. So you might end up looking at a struggle and creating a HUGE barrier in your mind by just focusing on the stumbling block. I don’t know about you but I know there are times when I am so focused on the problem that, in my mind, I end up blowing it way out of proportion – we add so many unnecessary details and what-ifs which then sends us into a tailspin and brings about an incredible amount of stress – all of which can be avoided.

Struggles come into our lives to show us where our strengths lie, to enable us to turn our weaknesses into strengths. One of my own personal experiences has been this – I end up facing similar problems in different situations which will keep resurfacing until I actually learn the lesson in it for me, develop the tools/personality traits I need to overcome these problems and I grow from those lessons. There is always a lesson in almost every struggle.

To give you an example from my own experience, for years, I truly believed that my self-worth and self value was connected to the work I did so when I quit my career 8 years ago to raise my two young children, I constantly battled self-worth problems. I tried to find work from home opportunities, I didn’t find anything. I joined a MLM and didn’t see the kind of success I wished to see, I started my own business which I ended up closing down a year ago. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t see the kind of success I wanted to, that too after working tirelessly and I wrote it off to being “not worthy, not good enough” etc. But I kept missing the lesson until I finally understood it a few months ago. My lesson was very simple, “I am valuable and worthy just as I am, just because I exist. I don’t need to do or achieve anything to prove my worth or value to anyone, not even to myself”. My lesson was self-love and ever since I embraced this lesson, developed the “tools” for it (for example, saying no to opportunities which aren’t in alignment with who I am and what I stand for), I have had many opportunities come my way but my focus has never veered from self-love.

■ Recognizing what is within our control vs. what is not

We are not a product of our circumstances, we are a product of our decisions. I firmly believe this. In every situation, in every struggle, there are controllable factors and uncontrollable factors. So what is really in our control? Our attitude, our perceptions, our decisions, our desires, our emotions, our determination. If we apply each of these elements to our situation, to our struggle, diligently, to the best of our knowledge and abilities, then the problem won’t seem as overwhelming. You cannot control another person but you can definitely control how you respond to that person.

You are in control of your thoughts so focus on the task at hand rather than allowing your mind to wander and overthink about your struggle. Take things hour by hour, minute by minute if necessary.

For example, there are certain people and certain things that trigger me. A while back I shared that I had been following my nutrition plan diligently and hadn’t cheated in over 40 days and a follower commented with this, “Oh I can’t do that, I hate myself for it.” It angered me because I firmly believe in valuing yourself first, no matter what. In the past, I would go into lengthy discussions explaining this concept but now I respond with a non-committal “Hmm” as I realise that I can only help those who are willing to help themselves, I can’t rescue the world, nobody is going to rescue another person, we have to be our own superheros, we are up to ourselves. Once I realised this and accepted it, I learnt not to be triggered by such comments and also learnt how best to respond to them in a neutral way. There is always a lesson in every, single thing!

■ Identifying Actions we can take to help us cope during the struggle

This has a lot to do with what is within our control and what isn’t. I can only explain this through examples from my own experiences.

When I was battling self-value struggles, especially after not seeing success with two businesses of mine, I chose to focus on simple things that gave me instant or almost instant gratification. In essence, I took the “ordinary” and made it “extraordinary”. How? Let’s start with cooking – I have always made the same things over and over, not really changing things up so I looked up recipes online and started making new dishes and I got instant gratification when my family appreciated what I cooked up. I took something as ordinary as cooking and made it extraordinary. The idea behind it was to show to myself that I can take on something new and succeed at it, it was to enable me to believe in myself again.

Those who know me would call me somewhat of a fitness freak. Even in this, I took the ordinary and made it extraordinary. In the past, if I missed a rep or two or even more of a certain exercise, I wouldn’t let it bother me as I had an attitude of “a bad workout is still better than no workout”. But as I went through this struggle of self-worth, I chose to take every workout and make up reps to myself if I missed any, after the workout was done. This way, I got all moves and all reps in. I chose to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Only you can control how you approach any struggle, sometimes you need to take actions like I did – actions that make no sense at all but enable you to believe in yourself again. Small, defined actions that give you almost instant gratification which will help you build self-confidence and more importantly – self-belief to overcome whatever struggle you are facing.

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