When was the last time you tried something new?
Even the word ‘challenge’ can be scary to some people. But challenges allow you to test your limits. They’re also an opportunity for learning and growth. Try to forget about the outcome and enjoy the experience.
Here are five things you can to do improve your mindset when taking on new challenges:
1. Take a breath.
Your breath is a powerful tool. You can use it to uplift and energize yourself. You can also use it to relax. Let’s say it’s the first day of your new job and you’re feeling apprehensive. You can change your body chemistry in seconds by taking a few deep breaths.
When you are feeling anxious or nervous, your breathing is shallow. This is where the breath is concentrated in the upper part of the chest, making it inefficient for absorption of oxygen and causes low discharge of carbon dioxide.
Shallow breathing has a negative effect on the body by sending a distress signal to the autonomic nervous system (associated with the fight or flight response).
With practice, you have the ability to cultivate a deep and even flow of breath. This will promote a healthy exchange of gases and send a signal to your body to relax. If you feel your breathing is shallow, pause: inhale deeply and slowly, then exhale.
Just a few cycles of this can instantly change your mood and leave you feeling eager to start your day.
2. Watch your thoughts.
One of the key ways to improve your mindset is to first understand it. Whatever you are about to take on, first take note of what you are telling yourself about this challenge.
For example: I recently completed a Tough Mudder Race (a 20km, military-style obstacle course) that fully tested my physical abilities and limits. Yes, it felt scary when I first signed up. I wondered how I would survive running 20 kilometers, climbing over 15-foot walls, and taking a swim in icy water!
Prior to the race, instead of running a story that this would be too hard, that I might get hurt, or I might not finish, I chose to focus on the positives. It would be a fun event with my friends. Yes, it would be challenging, but I imagined myself crossing the finish line with a smile on my face, feeling proud of the accomplishment. During the race, I kept telling myself that I was strong and that I would keep going to reach the finish line – and I did!
Watch your thoughts and notice when your mind is going down a negative spiral of ‘what ifs?’ When negative thoughts are dominating, catch yourself and then swap them out for positive ones.
3. Acknowledge your fears.
While you can use your breath and your thoughts to prepare yourself for any challenge, it’s important to acknowledge any fears you may have. Ask yourself: is your fear due to a real or perceived threat?
Let’s say you are about to give a presentation to a group of people – public speaking is a common source of fear for many people. Instead of ignoring that heavy feeling in your belly, or allowing it to make you physically sick, take a few moments to walk-through some possible scenarios.
Ask what is the worst that can happen? Sure, you might forget some points you want to say, then what? Having an idea of how you will manage if things don’t go exactly as planned will help you quell your fears.
Taking time to acknowledge your feelings will help you discern between real and imagined fear.
4. Seek out support.
No matter what your challenge, chances are, you are not the first person to face it. Think back to a previous problem you solved with the help of your family, friends, or even with the assistance of an online community. There is usually ample support available – yet we often put up barriers to seeking support.
Common barriers to seeking out help and support are feelings of being stigmatized, or fear of being embarrassed. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help. If you are not comfortable talking to family and friends, seek out support online or in your greater community.
By asking for support, you will find others who are facing, or have faced, similar challenges to yourself. Learning from others will help to put your mind at ease when dealing with your challenge.
5. Take the first step.
Taking the first smallest step and evaluating how you feel as you go, will help you to navigate any challenge in life. Nothing will occur until you take action.
For example: if you are seeking a long-term relationship with a significant other, nothing will happen unless you first put yourself in a position to meet people. The next step is to get out on a first-date.
Taking small steps will cause you to break down any challenge into manageable pieces. It will also help build your confidence as you accomplish each step; thereby improving your mindset.
Challenges are a natural part of life, and they typically cannot be avoided. Knowing your own mind and using these five tips will help you conquer any obstacle, thriving no matter which stage you are in at life. Remember to enjoy and learn from whatever challenge comes your way.