A Coaching Power Tool By Catherine Schwab Wildi, Executive Coach, SWITZERLAND
Embrace Challenges vs. Opportunities to Grow
Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Winston Churchill
Through my coaching practice, I aspire to help individuals and teams thrive through change by helping them embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and ultimately reach their fullest potential.
I have been confronted with new challenges throughout my life, which pushed me out of my comfort zone, whether facing unexpected problems, taking on increased responsibilities in my job, moving to unfamiliar locations, or making other life-altering changes. From my own experience, embracing these challenges helped me learn and grow as an individual. As a result that, I see new challenges as opportunities.
On the flip side, I also know that many people hate challenges and see them as stressful, linked to fear, anxiety, frustration, or perceive them as significant hurdles to overcome to reach what they want.
As I am intrigued by these two facets, I have decided to make it my power tool and identify some of the mindset shifts that would support clients to embrace challenges as opportunities.
Let Us Start With the Definitions of Challenges vs. Opportunities:
A challenge is “something new and difficult which requires great effort and determination. It is a situation of being faced with something that needs great mental or physical effort to be done successfully and therefore tests a person’s ability.”(1)
An opportunity is “an occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do, or the possibility of doing something: a chance to do something.” (2)
The words “Challenges” or “Opportunities” trigger various emotions pending on the lens you take on them. We all have different perspectives as we look at certain situations. “Perspective is a point of view; a way of looking at or interpreting a set of events.” (3). Some see challenges through the lens of optimism, courage, growth, curiosity, excitement, etc. However, somebody who does not like challenges might see them with pessimism, fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, anger, etc. Clients dealing with these emotions when facing a new challenge may avoid the challenge altogether and stay in their comfort zone. However, by avoiding the challenge, they will not have the opportunity to learn, grow, stretch outside their existing boundaries, and reach their full potential.
Through “the concept of Reframing Perspectives” (3), coaching can help clients view a situation from another angle and leave them with a more empowering perspective and mindset. “Things that seemed impossible now seem possible.” (3)
With my coaching, I intend to help clients reframe the way they look at challenges to see and embrace new opportunities emerging from these challenges. Coaching and the mindset shift that I will facilitate will address that “What we see and believe to be true, is not “the” truth, it is “our” truth. If the truth we live by no longer serves us, or has us coming up against the same hard lesson over and over – perhaps it’s time to look at adopting a different perspective that “will” move us forward.” (4)
I intend to stimulate the following mindset shifts to help transform Challenges into Opportunities:
- From Pessimism to Optimism
People who might see challenges with fear, discomfort, doubt, anger, etc., can be pretty pessimistic, negative and might complain about facing a challenge.
A shift in mindset to see things from a positive side and become more resilient in the face of adversity can help embrace a challenge as a learning opportunity to grow and improve. Applying positive psychology and a positive mindset can help to deal with challenges differently. With a positive attitude, problems become an opportunity “to learn, grow, improve, or adjust in a way that leaves them better off than before the problem existed.” (5)
- From being taken by Surprise to Accepting challenges as inevitable
Challenges, especially when they come by surprise, can disempower us in the face of the unknown.
A shift in mindset to accept that challenges are inevitable in life, be it minor daily annoyances or disruptive changes, can help prepare us to face them better when they arise. It is true in personal life as much as in the professional world. In the workplace, “days without challenges, large or small, simply do not exist” (6)
- From Fear to Courage
Challenges can seem overwhelming at first when we do not have a solution. They can lead to fear and anxiety, often due to our imagination and perceptions that amplify fears.
A mindset shift can help us distinguish between real threats and imaginary consequences of a challenge. It will help remove some of the emotional reactions to challenges, create more distance, and allow us to find the courage to take action to move forward. “When clients develop strategies to act despite fear, they become courageous and open to limitless possibilities. As they push through discomfort, they become more resilient on their journey to professional and personal fulfillment.” (7)
- From Fear of Failure to Growth / Success
Challenges can lead to fear of failure as we charter into unknown territory. In addition, with the increased pressure to perform, we might be concerned that we are not up to the new task ahead of us.
A mindset shift will make us realize that setbacks and failure are a normal part of the journey to growth and success and that failure and success are often closely interlinked. “The question is not how to lead a life in which we never feel the fear of failure, but rather, how we can move forward despite our fear. Are we able to transform our fear into an enthusiasm to engage with the new challenge and learn from it?” (8)
As seen across many different disciplines, “it is a struggle that creates champions.” (9) and “if you read about the lives of successful people, they are full of obstacles and challenges they had to overcome.”(9) A perception shift should help us embrace the concept of “failing forward “and help us see challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and ultimately gain success over time. “Challenges are truly opportunities. Opportunities to grow and learn, to strengthen ourselves, to test ourselves” (10)
- From feeling stressed to seeing potential
Challenges are often stressful and seen as a burden to overcome, especially when they trigger various fears and other strong emotions.
A mindset shift to help break up the challenge in bite sizes, accept that it is “not important to have all the answers right now.” (10), and embrace challenges as a potential to learn, grow and succeed will help reduce some of the stress.
- From Not Knowing to Curiosity / Learning
Facing new challenges often means embarking on unchartered territory and not knowing all the answers, which can seem intimidating and limit one’s ability to embrace change.
Shifting the mindset to becoming more curious and wanting to learn can be game-changing in seeing challenges as opportunities. ”When we are open and inquisitive, we are more apt to find the inspiration to move forward, live fully, grow exponentially …” (4)
- From beingPast / Future-focused to being Here & Now
Challenges trigger many emotions in us that are often linked to past experiences or future “what if” scenarios that potentially generate discomfort, stress, or anxiety.
Through a mindset shift, we can understand that a challenge can be addressed through actions“here and now” (11), which will help us move forward and learn.
- From being Frozen / Stifled to choosing to change
We are often frozen or stifled by the new situation when facing new challenges, as we do not know how to deal with them.
A mindset shift can help us see that we can take responsibility and control of our life. It will help us understand that we can choose to change by focusing on the next best step. In that context, it will also help us realize that we can control aspects of our lives while others are outside of our control. A change of perspective will allow us to focus on the parts within our control and not waste energy on things that we cannot change.
- From feeling Self-doubt to feeling Confidence
Challenges can trigger fear of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and self-doubt about whether we will be able to deal with the new situation.
A mindset shift will help identify ways to gain confidence by inventorying our strengths, skills, and experiences. Especially in the professional world, “facing challenges is not a time for timidity. Even smaller challenges can win in such an environment. Attack a crisis or challenge with enthusiasm, confidence, and the conviction that you will win. “(6)
“Challenges are the source of new opportunities to establish your professionalism, decision-making quality, and ability to focus on a problem and solve it.”(6)
- From Uncertainty to Determination / Commitment
Facing new challenges and situations pushes us out of our comfort zone, and with it often comes uncertainty on how to deal with the unknown. It can lead to hesitation and potentially inaction.
A mindset shift can help us uncover actions, as small as they might be, that help us move forward through change with determination and commitment.
- From being Flustered / Angry to feeling excited / Determined
Challenges can make us feel flustered and sometimes even angry by the roadblocks we might need to overcome.
A mindset shift will allow us to consider the attitude we want to embrace towards challenges. “The biggest challenge is choosing your attitude. Will you get flustered and angry, or will you get excited and determined?“ (10)
- From seeing an obstacle to feeling pride / Accomplishment
Often we see a challenge as an obstacle to reaching our goal, which seems either unsurmountable or will require a significant investment in time and energy to achieve.
With a mindset shift, we can reconsider the role a challenge plays in our life. Do we want to avoid it, or do we follow the old sayings that “nothing worthwhile comes easy”? (6)From experiences, when we overcame an obstacle and had to work hard to do so, we were rewarded with a huge sense of accomplishment and pride.
The Benefit From Challenges vs. Opportunities
My power tool focuses on the above mindset shifts to help clients embrace challenges that might initially have seemed daunting as opportunities to grow, thrive through change, and ultimately reach their fullest potential.
Being open to shifting perspectives and being willing to step out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable but will help us move forward. Changing our perspective and opening our minds towards challenges can be liberating and open up new opportunities beyond what was initially anticipated. If we want to learn, grow and stretch outside our existing boundaries and reach our fullest potential, we benefit from embracing challenges as opportunities.
CHALLENGE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.
OPPORTUNITY | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.
ICA Advanced Professional Program Theory.
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