By Jon Patton – July 2020
It’s not just you. Many successful professionals are feeling like they’re just barely holding their heads above the water as life’s pressures have become heavier and heavier. So what’s the solution for tackling everything 2020 throws at us? “Using Past Success to Conquer Current Challenges” shows you that you may not have ever faced this unique combination of issues before, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the same techniques for overcoming obstacles that helped you through other challenges in life and work.
Talking to clients during these momentous times has left me in awe at the resilience of human beings.
People share how they have been coping with current challenges, including working at home, alongside their partners, while becoming teachers for their children and providing emotional support to their aging parents.
The variables change from person to person, but it’s always some version of successfully spinning multiple plates or overcoming challenges that were made even more difficult by the current circumstances. One client shared how her move to a new company coincided with COVID-19 and the new organization moving virtual. She shared that she felt in limbo. Another received negative feedback from his team just before going virtual about being task-oriented at the expense of relationships. Not physically being with his people considerably impeded his ability to make amends.
The timing in both cases was unfortunate and yet both shared how they had adapted, drew on their strengths, and made significant progress despite their challenges. The feeling of success was not initially what they communicated when I asked them how they were doing. They gave me a sigh, and some version of “I’m hanging in there.”
Our experience is people hold themselves to a very high standard in all areas of their life, and if they do not feel in full control of everything, they judge themselves harshly. It is essential to have an awareness of things you can do better. What appears as innocuous self-talk, though, comes with significant repercussions that create negative feelings and physical exhaustion. We continuously then have to reinforce our undermined self-confidence to meet the moment in our demanding jobs.
If we look back and reflect, it is the challenging times in our lives that force us to expand our comfort zones, develop new skills, increase our mental flexibility and build the resilience that helps us meet the next challenge.
A quick personal example. In March, most of our in-person sessions were canceled, rescheduled, and in many cases, replaced by virtual meetings. Interacting with human beings virtually was a new world: raising hands, monitoring on-line chat, and virtual break out rooms. At first, it felt like tapping my head and rubbing my stomach while standing on one leg!
I consider myself somewhat of a Luddite in our organization relative to my more technologically-oriented colleagues. Technology is more a means to an end for me rather than having a value in itself.
Strangely I found the whole experience quite energizing, and I have found myself explaining to surprised people about how to split their screen between a monitor and their laptop. I am embracing technology in new ways. I even used dictation software to create this blog!
The stories we choose to tell ourselves are game-changers, one way or the other. I was coaching a client recently who was feeling overwhelmed by what felt like insurmountable challenges. I gave him homework to identify three instances from his past of overcoming obstacles. As he shared his stories, his face lit up, and his confidence surged as he realized that this was just another challenge that his past successes had prepared him to overcome.
We cemented his past experiences with a guided mediation that allowed him to connect firmly to feelings on inner strength and confidence.
The Chinese word for crisis has two parts. One part means danger, and the other, opportunity. Seeing and embracing the opportunity side of the equation is much helped by consciously drawing on our inner strengths.
I offer you the chance to do the same exercise as the person I coached. The worksheet below gives you the equal opportunity to revisit past successes in your life. The worksheet stands on its own or as pre-work for the meditation, which is also linked below.