If you are reading this post, you are likely familiar with the concept of turning a challenge into an opportunity. If you are like me, you have spent several years of your life saying, “Oh yeah, definitely, make that challenge an opportunity.” You have nodded silently or even gregariously when this sage advice has been offered all the while secretly telling yourself, “they obviously don’t know my challenges. What, do you think I’m running around not trying to be spiritually ‘woke’?” The problem with this advice is that no one ever tells you HOW to turn the challenge into the opportunity. It all seems to be proclamations from on high with a little bit of magic thrown in for effect. And though I loves me some magic, this dear reader is a practical process.
First, we need to be clear that turning a challenge into an opportunity most likely won’t be fun. Again, if you read my previous post, it is something you have to fight for. It won’t appear in a pretty box with a lovely bow and engraved card saying, “opportunity inside.” No, disabuse yourself of the notion that opportunities are like that scene from Willy Wonka where Charlie pulls sugary treats from amazing candy trees. And second, I’d like to rephrase “opportunity” as “growth.” Within a challenge exists the opportunity for growth. When we think about it in these terms our minds automatically refocus opportunity as a process and not an immediate thing to have or check of the list. More importantly, I believe “opportunity for growth” creates a mindset of purpose that allows us to focus with determination.
Surely tomes could be written on HOW one creates opportunities out of challenges. But for now, I simply want to list 3 steps that will create a state of opportunity, a fertile ground of growth, if you will.
Whatever the challenge, do the following:
- Stop! Step back from the situation and quiet your mind. This could take a second. This could take an hour. This could take days or…you get the picture.
- Search for clarity regarding the situation. Release yourself from the emotion of the situation so that you can simply understand what’s going on and affirmatively acknowledge the issue. In other words, “just the facts.” You will likely revert between steps one and two because releasing emotions around challenges in order to analyze them usually results in reliving a problem which then prevents us from quieting our mind. But this is part of the process.
- Once you have been able to quiet your mind and look at an issue for what it is, ask yourself, “What is the opportunity for growth?”
The answer to the last question might elicit confusion or frustration as I didn’t ask “Is there an opportunity” but rather “what is the opportunity?” The later a firm belief on my part that there is a lesson in EVERYTHING. But this is key, that lesson doesn’t have to be life changing. It can be big or small or transformative or just a reminder. To be clear, getting to the point where you can ask yourself the question is a monumental step. And, actually listening to your own answers, well, that’s a life journey all to itself.
- The challenge of a difficult work situation should provoke you to step back, get clarity and ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” Perhaps you didn’t complete that report to a standard of excellence and you need to step up your game, take some classes and hit it out the park next time. OR, perhaps less than favorable reactions to your stellar work is a notification from the Universe that you need to move on to welcoming shores or at the very least an opportunity to see things for what they really are. (And clarity is priceless!) If you don’t take the time to figure out the lesson, you’ll never reach a state of opportunity but rather languish in the land of “why is this happening?” Or even worse, “why does this continue to happen?”
- “Well yeah, I can do this for many things but you don’t know what I’m dealing with!” Big or small, there is a lesson. Challenges can literally bring you to the edge and in practice we must remember it is only easy when it is easy. Nobody needs advice on skipping through the park on a sunny day. It’s when the challenge feels beyond our grasp that we must remember the steps, ask the questions, and listen for the answers. As I write this I am tending to a family member in frail health. Does this feel good? No. Am I walking around with a song in my heart? No. But I took a step back, quieted my mind and sought clarity. I know this lesson. I’ve been here before. I must remember to live in this moment. To sit with my father now and laugh over a slice of pizza. I must allow him to be present with me. I must be strong for my mother. I must be thankful for each moment. I must realize in this sadness there is life, and from this sadness I must grow.
In the same manner that we seek to be in a state of peace or joy or good health we must vigilantly seek to live in a state of opportunity. Your challenges are likely doorways offering you opportunities to grow. Take a moment and walk through.