How to Find the Opportunities in Every Challenge
I wanted to share something I read the other day that has had a truly transformative effect on my mindset. It’s from Shirzad Chamine's Positive Intelligence book. At the beginning of the year, I wrote about wanting to go on a rediscovery journey. I was so lost and stuck in my life, having just experienced relationship breakups - both romantic and friendship - which then resulted in a move back to London and the need to give up the way I thought things would go - again!
Rediscovery Journey and Regaining Purpose
As part of that blog, I wrote about trying a bunch of things that have since helped me regain that purpose and motivation - taking up boxing, volunteering with the Brain and Spine foundation, reconnecting with old friends, and having weekly therapy. Another is reading more about mental fitness and training mental muscles in the same way we train physical muscles in the gym.
Positive Intelligence and the Three Gift Techniques
Right now, that involves Positive Intelligence (along with the 6-week coaching programme). In the book, Shirzad mentioned a way for us to shift our perspectives on a situation by using the three gift techniques.
The idea is that in order to maintain a positive mindset in everything that we do or that happens to us in life, we need to see each experience as a gift and opportunity. Although this can be extremely difficult to do in the moment of despair, Shirzad challenges us to come up with 3 ways a challenge could be turned into a gift.
The Three Gift Techniques:
- The Gift of Knowledge - e.g. asking yourself “what knowledge would I need to gain here so that the pay off in the future will be bigger than what this is costing me right now?”
- The Gift of Power - e.g. asking yourself “which power or strength must I grow to be able to handle this situation?”
- The Gift of Inspiration - e.g. asking yourself “what inspiring action can I commit to taking that I wouldn’t have done if this bad thing had never happened to me.”
Examples of Turning Challenges Into Gifts
By applying these techniques, the action and the thing that caused it become the gift. A really good example Shirzad gives of this is Christopher Reeve, best known for his role in Superman. As a result of breaking his neck following a horse riding accident, he was paralysed from the neck down. Instead of being stuck in a victim mentality or carrying feelings of bitterness about why this event had to happen to him, he asked himself how he could turn this into a gift. From that, he started investing in and creating a movement for research on spinal cord injuries. Although it may never have impacted his life, he became determined to support future generations and dedicated his life to that movement.
When asked at the end of his life whether he’d have chosen a different outcome, Christopher said “I’ve never been happier in my life and if I had the chance to do this over, I’d have chosen this path because my life has more meaning and purpose. Out of this experience has come some new knowledge and new insight and an opportunity perhaps to do more with my life than I might have done otherwise.”
Another example Shirzad gave, that isn’t as extreme as a health issue or paralysis, is a job loss. The inspiring action here that someone might commit to taking is perhaps networking with more people in the industry or undertaking more research to ensure the next job is more aligned and makes them a happier person. The inspiring action could even be totally unrelated and instead, losing their job could inspire someone to finally quit smoking. The pain of the job loss is so deep that they needed a big positive to counteract it. When that happens, you realise what happened - losing the job - was necessary.
When anything happens to you, avoid categorising it as a “good” or “bad” event. Avoid judging it as something fortunate or unfortunate in your life. Instead, affirm to yourself: “I’m glad this happened in my life because of this…” And list some of the positives that have come from the situation.
When I applied this to my situation, I realised I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities around me, in a way that I wouldn’t have been presented had brain surgery, a stroke, or facial paralysis not happened to me. I lost my smile but gained so many amazing friendships, opportunities to speak and volunteer, create a beautiful brand, and get paid for something I love more than anything, which is to write.
Whatever happens in your life, I encourage you to redirect your pain into inspiration and a gift. Sometimes, in order to get over something truly painful, we must commit to taking actions that you wouldn’t have done had the challenge never occurred.
When you do this, you begin to realise that what happened to you was a small price to pay to get this huge gift.