What's your biggest challenge right now? I ask this question a lot. Often I ask it as part of a coaching session, but sometimes I ask in the groups I facilitate. Occasionally it is asked as an interview question. Sometimes it feels like we have challenges everywhere we look - so what to do when you're facing a challenge?
What's the purpose of my asking?
Well, when you recall a big challenge, as you would for an interview, you also recall the fact that you got through it. You can focus on what you did well, what you might change were you to go through something like it again. I encourage my clients in these moments to consider their resilience. That's great when you have the benefit of hindsight but what about when you're facing the challenge right now?
Crystallising your thoughts
Asking yourself (or someone else asking you) what your biggest challenge is right now also helps you crystallise what the issue might be - the big issue I mean. Sometimes our challenges are related but there might be one that's bigger than the rest.
Let me give you an example. If I were to answer the questions 'what is your biggest challenge is right now?' As we all negotiate our way through Covid-19 and the effect that it's having on our personal and professional lives, the economy, the climate, the state of the world we are all experiencing it from our own perspectives. I know that sounds obvious. And of course, we are all in this together but we each have our own challenges. Here are some of mine:
- I have lost my routine - and I do love a routine
- My kids are under my feet 24/7 with no idea when this is going to end
- I need periods of quiet - to record videos and podcasts and for my own peace of mind
- I miss my friends
- I find it awkward being socially distant in the supermarkets and outside where I normally run
My biggest challenge is staying balanced
Many of these challenges are easily solved, for which I am grateful. I am able to find/create pockets in the day of quiet to record resources for work, and honestly, if the kids crash a live video...it makes it more real! With regards to missing my friends, as an adult, I am free to contact them as I choose. It's not the same but it's enough for now. I get around the social distancing awkwardness by picking up essentials from our local corner shop and running at 530am (I know, I know!).
The challenges that are slightly more (ahem) challenging for me are the uncertainty of not knowing when this is going to end. I am practising my mindfulness techniques a lot - which help! I think I will certainly be more mindful after this experience. Then we have the lack of routine. I can aim for a kind of routine but the reality is that with three kids under 7 and 2 adults in the house, all requiring different things at any given time, it's going to be a challenge! It feels really unbalanced some days.
Do the next right thing
So what to do? We come back to mindfulness. I have to accept it and let it be. We all do. It's OK not to know what to do right now, none of us know. It's the same in any challenge. There are moments we don't know what to do. We might freeze for a while, we might try and fight our way out of it. We might try and run away from it. But ultimately, things usually get better when we face it.
In fact, as I write this, my daughters are watching Frozen 2 as I work. (It's much better than the first in my opinion by the way!) Anyway, in it, Anna (sister of the protagonist if you're unfamiliar) is facing a huge change. In it, she realises the best thing to do is to do the next right thing. When I saw this film in the cinema when it was released I thought it was an excellent song. Now, it resonates even more. The best thing we can do, the only thing is to take a step forward.
How do we step forward?
The best way to find the way forward is to tap into your values? What's the most important thing to you right now? Focus on that. For me, it's my family - they are my focus during this time, then my clients, then me (making sure my cup is full enough to help others). I am trying to delegate/ditch everything else for now. It's not going to be like this forever and I can pick it up when or if I want to later on.
The second thing that you can do is to focus on what you're doing in that moment rather than the outcome - because we can't always predict the outcome, or when we might overcome the challenge. We often attach emotions to the outcome and that can create toxic goals. Remember that you always have a choice as to how you react to any given reaction and by remaining present and self-aware you are more than capable of coping with any challenge.