When was the last time you tried something new? Whether you are starting a new job, exploring a new relationship, or trying a new activity, understanding your mindset is essential in helping you to navigate any challenge with success. Even the word ‘challenge’ can be scary to some people. A challenge allows you to test your limits and it’s 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 your breath 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.
“Your breath is a powerful tool.”
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, which is inefficient for absorption of oxygen and causes low emission 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, which promotes a healthy exchange of gases and sends a signal to your body to relax. If you feel your breathing is shallow, pause and take a slow, deep inhalation then an equal or longer exhalation. 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 and know your mindset.
Whatever new challenge you are about to take on, first take note of what you are telling yourself about this challenge. For example, I have completed two Tough Mudder Races – a 20 km, military-style obstacle course that fully tested my physical abilities and limits. Yes it felt scary when I first signed up as I wondered how I would survive running 20 kilometers; climbing over 15-foot walls and taking a swim in iced water.
“Watch your thoughts and notice when your mind is going down a negative spiral of ‘what ifs?’”
Prior to the race, instead of running a story that this would be too hard and 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 yourself, 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 fear 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 help of an online community. There is usually ample support available, yet we often put up barriers to seeking support.
“By asking for support you will find others who are facing or have faced similar challenges to yourself.”
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. You get the idea, right?
Taking small steps will cause you to break down your challenge into manageable pieces. It will also help build your confidence as you accomplish each step, thereby improving your mindset for the rest of your challenge.
Challenges are a natural part of life and they typically cannot be avoided. Knowing your mind and using these five tips will help you navigate challenges and thrive no matter which stage you are at in your life. Remember to enjoy and learn from whatever challenge comes your way.