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When You’re Thrown a Challenge, Here’s What to Throw Back

If you’ve been working for any length of time at an agency, you’ve had your share of challenging and stressful moments that made you want to scream. If you’ve been working for any length of time, you know that a pillow is the only safe place to share those screams.

You may have thought the word “challenge” should be in your job description, right? Well, since it’s truly part of our workday, workplace and work-life, we need tools to deal with it effectively. You’ve heard the saying “The best revenge is living well”? In my humble opinion, the best response to a challenge is: “Bring it.” However, before we get so bold, let’s look at simple ways to avoid investing a small fortune in pillows.

Begin with perspective. Look at this challenge with fresh eyes after you’ve had a break that includes a soothing beverage, maybe playtime with your children or pet. You’ll know when you’ve released the tension and resistance, and you can then apply some personal reflection to it.

Next, look back at the other times when you’ve experienced this kind of stress or challenge. What was happening? How did you feel through it? What did you learn from it? How are you different as a result?

Let me give you a personal example to clarify how this can work for you.

I worked for a tough, yet brilliant manager. She was someone no one wanted to deal with. She had a very sharp mind, and if you didn’t keep up with her, she’d eat you for lunch. After a lot of tears, headaches and pillows, I learned to just go with her flow. When I moved to a new job, she fully supported my promotion. Later, she asked me to come back to work for her again. Well, this was something no one had ever done! At this point, she was an executive and even tougher! I truly respected her, and I knew how to work with her, so I said, “Yeah I’ll work for you again.” I continued to have many new and challenging moments with her. However, she pointed out that I was now a different person and had grown to “manage” her well.

What changed?

Before returning to her team, I deeply reflected on my previous challenges with her and how I got through them. In addition, I recognized who I became as a result (see tip #3). I also realized it was about the meaning I was attaching to her challenges. I understood that it had nothing to do with who I was or how talented I was. It no longer bothered me, personally. She saw this growth in me. It turned out to be the best manager-employee relationship I’ve ever had.

Do not avoid the challenges you face. Use them!

Here are three tips to help:

Tip #1 – Nothing has meaning but the meaning you give it. We want to think the best for ourselves; however, with the slightest glance or word, we’ll make things worse than they really are in our minds. We give it a negative meaning instead of trying to create something positive. Instead, try this.

When asked to take on a challenging project while you have so many balls in the air, tell yourself that you’re being asked because of your talent and expertise. Perhaps this opportunity is being given to you to stand out on the team. Decide your own meaning and you’ll be more than surprised with the result.

Tip #2 – What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This is truly a powerful mantra. With the right perspective, it shows us that we can be much stronger than we think. It also serves as a reminder that you’ve been down this road before, and it’s always worked out for you!

Tip #3 – Declare this will be for my benefit! What if we just made the declaration right here, right now, that no matter what, I will take more from this event than it could possibly take from me! This stirs your energy and gets you focused in a powerful new direction.

Perspective, reflection and these three tips will serve you well when you’re in the throes of a challenge, in your career and life.

You can finally let go of that pillow now.

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Christine “Chris” Makell has worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for over four years, having held positions of increasing challenges and responsibility in that short time. She is currently a Program Analyst in the Knowledge Management & Transfer office. She joins federal service after a 28-year career in the private sector and six years as the owner of Chris Makell Consulting/Coaching working with individuals and sales teams to achieve greater success.

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Profile Photo Nicole Blake Johnson

This will be for my benefit! What a powerful article. I agree with Pearl. These are the tips to keep in mind throughout your career. I especially love this part: “I also realized it was about the meaning I was attaching to her challenges. I understood that it had nothing to do with who I was or how talented I was. It no longer bothered me, personally.” Talk about perspective.