What to Do with Challenges

What to Do with Challenges

by: Emily Thomas

One of our favorite pages in the Prep Work of the PowerSheets® goal planner is called "Learn from the Past."

"Goal setting is usually about looking forward," it says, "but there are rewards waiting for you in the past." We believe we gain wisdom and make better decisions about how to use our time and energy well when we look back at where we've beenwhether it was good, hard, or a mixture of both. 

If you're familiar with the PowerSheets, you know that this page asks you to write out good thingswhat worked in the pastand challengesthings that didn't work or were hardas well as lessons learned and a list of people you're grateful for.

For most of us, writing out a list of good things is easy. These are our wins, our successful habits, our well-oiled routines, our flourishing relationships and decisions! Even in a less-than-ideal year, it feels good to focus on what is working.

The challenges? Not so much. It's not fun to point out our failures, our disappointments, our fractured relationships, and generally what feels hard and icky and stressful. Sometimes, these already loom large in our minds, and so pointing them out feels even more defeating. Other times, we try not to think about them at all and resent being asked to do so.

It doesn't have to be that way! Naming and taking action on challenges can be incredibly empoweringa helpful step in cultivating what matters, in living a life of passion and purpose. Here's how to do it.

1. Acknowledge the challenge. 

Writing downadmittinga perceived failure is a brave act.

Of course, we all want to have it figured out, to move through our days with ease and be our best selves at every turn, but that's simply not how life works. If you're daring enough to be in relationship with others, to work on things that matter, to care, to try new things, you WILL have setbacks and disappointments and missteps along the way. It means you're out there cultivating!

When you can matter-of-factly notice where things are not as they should be, you're already on your way to making them better. And, by slowing down long enough (and being honest enough) to do so, you're already far ahead of most people.

2. Break it down .

Why is this thing a challenge, and what can you do about it?

What would it take to turn the challenge you wrote down into a "good thing"? What would it look like to move that part of your life from one column to another in your PowerSheets? What would have to happen? 

For many challenges, the first step is to brainstorm a bit about what led to the challenging situation. For example, a challenge I wrote down in my PowerSheets this year was "not as much time for evening read-alouds." More evening activities and protracted evening routines meant our time to read together before bed was getting squeezed out.

To move it to a good thing, I brainstormed a few options:

1) Shift bedtimes later.
2) Shorten our evening routine.
3) Change our evening activities.
4) Find another time of the day to read together.
5) Adjust my expectations for how often we'd read together in this season.

For most challenges, there's no one perfect solution—there's just an opportunity to choose what seems best given your unique season and circumstances, and then pivot as necessary from there.

3. Make it smaller.

If you can't think of a solution to the challenge, make the challenge smaller! Don't set out to change everything about a trouble spot or tricky part of your life in one go. Instead, narrow the scope of the problem to something you can figure out a solution for. 

For example, if you wrote down "no close friends in my neighborhood" as a challenge, perhaps you could narrow your scope to making one new friend by the end of the year.

4. Take one step.

You know where you're headed—now it's time to live it out! And remember: you don't have to know all of the steps to take the first one. You can step out in faith, knowing that you will figure out the next right thing once you've made the first move. You are smart, you can pivot, and you are brave!

5. Revisit regularly.

Don't let December or January be the only time you look at your Prep Work. Regularly revisit key pageslike Learn From the Past, the Big Picture, or your Yes and No List—and keep taking small steps forward towards what matters. Little by little adds up! A year from now, with consistency, you'll be amazed by the challenges that might turn into good things.

Your turn! How do you deal with the challenges you write down on your PowerSheets? We'd love to hear!

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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