There’s no human life without any challenges. If you don’t have any challenges now, you’ve probably retreated to your comfort zone. I’ve got bad news for you. The challenges that you’re avoiding now will eventually find you.
You might be on the other end of the spectrum, and your life might be full of challenges. Moreover, you might be facing the same challenges over and over.
You might be switching between jobs. You might have different relationships. The same challenges might occur in all of your jobs, relationships, or in any other context.
If you have repeating patterns among different jobs, relationships, or in other contexts, it might be your approach to the problem that isn’t working.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze Responses
We have three reactions to challenges, fight, flight, or freeze. These are low-level reactions and tend to perpetuate the problem. You might win a fight, but I can guarantee you that a similar conflict will arise.
The same holds for the flight response. You might quit a job because of a conflict, but the chances are high that you’ll face a similar conflict in your next job.
The freeze response doesn’t solve any problem either. It only postpones it.
How are we going to deal with our persistent problems then?
Today, I want to share a template you can use to work on your persistent problems. I recommend that you pick a problem, take a pen and paper or open a text editor, and do the exercise with me.
When you’re writing your answers, take as much time as you want. Some of your answers might be contradicting each other, and that’s fine. We’re brainstorming here.
Once the whole exercise over, you’ll have the opportunity to write down your conclusions, the lessons you learned, and the action plan you devised.
Step 1. Define Your Problem
Most of the time, we perceive a situation as a problem on an emotional level. We have reactions like “I hate my colleague” or “my colleague hates me.”
In this step, we want to bring the problem to a conscious level.
- What are the symptoms of your problem?
- How does this problem manifest in your reality?
- What makes you think that your colleague hates you?
- Why do you hate your colleague?
Step 2. What Are the Adverse Effects of Your Problem?
This question must be easy to answer because you define the situation as a problem. How does this problem lower the quality of your life?
Come up with a few sentences to define your problem and the adverse effects of your problem. Don’t skip these steps with a simple sentence response like, “my colleague hates me, and he makes my job harder.”
Also, don’t go too much into detail. If you find yourself writing more than a few paragraphs, you might be dealing with multiple problems. If that’s the case, pick one of those problems, and work on it.
Step 3. What Are the Advantages of this Problem?
This question might sound counterintuitive to you, but take your time to reflect on it. This step is important, so be creative, and write as many answers as you can come up with.
If you need inspiration, you can read my post Reframe Your Challenges as Opportunities.
- This problem motivates me to improve my conflict management skills.
- It’s an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
- It’s a personal growth opportunity.
- It’s a lesson to learn not to take things personal, and be objective.
- It’s an opportunity to face my inner demons.
- And so on…
Step 4. What’s My Contribution to this Problem?
In this step, you have to be honest and objective. How did you co-create this problem? I don’t claim that it’s all your fault. But what’s your responsibility in it?
None of us are saints, but maybe you tried to act like one and gave people around you the permission to treat you any way they want.
If you don’t take any responsibility and only blame the other party or the conditions, you’ll be giving away your personal power.
If you give away your personal power, you’ll face the same challenges over and over, and wonder why you attract these unpleasant experiences.
Step 5. What Are the Lessons You Need to Learn from this Problem?
You’ll be attracting the same challenge over and over unless you learn your lessons from your problem, and act on those lessons.
Again, take your time and reflect on this question. Maybe, you have to dial down your agreeableness trait. Maybe, you should stop taking every remark of everybody serious. Maybe, you should acknowledge others, and not look down on people. Maybe, you should start practicing mindfulness.
You can come up with as many lessons as you can. They might be contradicting each other, and that’s no problem in this step. In the first five steps, we are exploring and brainstorming.
Step 6. Your Conclusions and Action Steps
Now, it’s time to come up with a congruent conclusion. That means making a summary of each step by taking the items that make the most sense to you and that don’t contradict each other.
Based on your conclusion, you need to come with your action steps and behavioral changes. And of course, you need to follow up on them.
I recommend making weekly reviews on your conclusions, action steps, and behavioral changes to find out how they play out in your life, and to make course corrections whenever necessary.
Our default responses to challenges are fight, flight, or freeze. Those reactions only perpetuate the problem and make it persistent.
If there is a problem that occurs over and over in your life, you might want to go deeper than those basic reactions. You can use the following six steps to do that.
- Define the problem.
- What are the adverse effects of your problem?
- What are the advantages of this problem?
- What’s your contribution to this problem?
- What are the lessons you need to learn from this problem?
- What are your conclusions and actions steps?
If you don’t take the responsibility and work on your problems consciously, they will persist and come back at you over and over in different contexts.
By taking responsibility, you’ll build your personal power and improve your satisfaction and the quality of your life.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.