Facing challenges head on

Every year we are faced with new challenges, and most of the time we feel overwhelmed and have no idea how we are going to face them. We don’t realise that the challenge itself is not the real issue, but our relationship with the challenge is. This means that when we face a challenge our view of the challenge and our perception of our own abilities bring about difficulty and suffering when trying to overcome the challenge. For most of us, the first thing we do when we are faced with a challenge, is to complain about it or resist it. We do not see the challenge as something that can help us grow, that can be enjoyable or help us improve in how we face challenges.

Facing a challenge head on is all about your mindset. You either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. When you have a fixed mindset you tend to avoid challenges, you give up easily, and you become intimidated or threatened by the success of other people, especially when they overcome challenges. A fixed mindset can lead you to think in a negative way about the challenges and your abilities to overcome the challenge. You believe that your intelligence and talent is something you are born with, and that it is just who you are. You feel that if you avoid a challenge, you avoid failure.

If you have a growth mindset, you view intelligence, abilities and talents as something that can be learnt and that you are capable of improving over time. With a growth mindset you believe that you can gain the knowledge and the necessary skills to be able to overcome a challenge and succeed. This leads to you viewing every challenge as a learning opportunity.

With a growth mindset you can overcome the resistance to the challenge. You believe that your intelligence and talent can be improved through effort and actions which will lead to you overcoming the challenge. Even if you face setbacks, you view them as a necessary part of the learning process, and it can allow you to bounce back quicker and increase your motivation to overcome the challenge.

According to Jennifer Smith, with a growth mindset you are more likely to:

  • Embrace a mindset of lifelong learning
  • Believe that your intelligence can improve based on the challenges you are facing
  • You are more likely to put in the necessary effort to learn
  • You believe that putting in effort leads to mastery of the challenge
  • You believe that failing is merely a temporary setback
  • You view feedback from others as a source of information and an opportunity to learn
  • You are more willing to embrace challenges
  • You view other people’s success of overcoming a challenge as a source of inspiration

A few things to focus on when building growth mindset:

Be Mindful – To be aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Being mindful can help you be more aware of the challenge and how you are reacting to it, how you are experiencing it and how it is emotionally impacting you. By being aware of this, you are able to distinguish between what is truly a challenge for you and what is not. Mindfulness can help you determine why you see it as a challenge, why you might not view yourself as capable of successfully overcoming the challenge, and help you focus on succeeding rather than failing.

Become ResilientTo be able to withstand and recover from any difficulties you are facing. Being resilient does not mean that you won’t experience stress, emotional upheaval or doubt when faced with a challenge. It means that you are able to turn your bad stress into good stress which will push you forward rather than hold you back. It will help you to understand why you feel emotional when faced with a challenge and turn the negative emotions into positive emotions. Being resilient allows you to turn your doubts about your abilities into certainty.

Have GritTo have passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. Having grit will help you to persevere when faced with a challenge and drive you to achieve and succeed. If you do not have grit, your intelligence and talents will not get you far, as it is only with effort that your talents become a skill that can lead you to succeed.

Have Self-empowermentTo make a conscious decision to take charge of your life, you need to make positive choices, take action and be confident in your own abilities to make and execute your decisions. This can help you to overcome any challenge you face by understanding your strengths and development areas and by knowing this can motivate you to learn and achieve what you want to. You need to focus on your drive to want to overcome the challenge, to identify what you can control, and to keep an objective, and growth mindset.

Focus on Self-regulationthis is your ability to control your behaviour, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit to achieve goals or overcome challenges. It can help you to regulate your emotions by managing disruptive emotions and impulses – to think before you act. It also involves having the ability to rebound from disappointments and to act in a way that is in alignment with your values. When faced with a challenge, emotions can run high, and we can say and do things that we might regret. When you understand the root cause of your emotions toward a certain challenge, you can better understand how to control your emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. This can help you to see the challenge as only a challenge, and not as an issue in itself. Your relationship with the challenge will change, and you will have more control over the challenge, and not the challenge having control over you.

When you are faced with a challenge, move away from a fixed mindset and move towards a growth mindset and see how differently you approach the challenge and how the outcome changes into what you envisioned.

I hope that this blog will help you to overcome any challenge you face this year, and that it will yield only the best possible results for you.

Until the next blog, cheers.

How to be the best you

By Carli Uys

Industrial Psychologist (PS 0151149) Head of Design, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

After a good, but emotionally difficult year at thinking fusion AFRICA, a new year has arrived. We are setting our sights on achieving greater heights this year and to improve as a company. Every year we strive to be the best in our industry, and this requires a lot of focus, dedication, and motivation. This is not just true for us at thinking fusion AFRICA, but also for every organisation. Every year employees and organisations strive to be better than they were the year before. To be able to achieve this, a few tools can be used to make sure that you achieves success and that you are the best you this year.

The first and most important tool we urge people to use, is a learning journal. By putting thoughts down on paper, you set goals, realise your strengths and development areas, you become more creative, and you can reflect back on things that you wanted to improve on. You can record your experiences, thoughts and emotions. By putting your thoughts onto paper, you clear your mind so you can focus on what is important for your success, as well as what you need to accomplish to be the best you. Here are a few other benefits of keeping a journal.

  1. It can help you to achieve your goals. This can help you to keep better track of what you want to achieve and how best to achieve it. It then keeps you accountable and serves as a reminder of what you still need to accomplish and by when you want to accomplish it. Only you can keep yourself accountable for the goals you set, and only you will know if you have not achieved them or not. The only person you will disappoint is yourself.
  2. You can track your progress based on your goals you have set, emotional challenges you may have faced and how you are overcoming them, and the way you think about various things, such as in a negative or a positive way and how you are going to overcome thinking negatively about certain situations.
  3. It can help you to gain more self-confidence about who you are, what you are capable of achieving and the progress you have made in your life.
  4. It can also help you to find inspiration and become more creative when you write ideas down and elaborate on them until you can present these ideas to someone.

These are only a few reasons for keeping a journal, but they are the foundation of why you should start using a journal.

Using a journal can also help improve your relationship with your loved ones, your colleagues and your leader.

The second tool you can use is to have regular meetings with your leader. Having regular meetings with your leader can help improve your relationship as you get to know one another better, can discuss your strengths and development areas, develop a plan on how to improve on your development areas and how best to use your strength.  Your leader can help you achieve your goals in a proficient manner as they know the ropes of the company. The meeting can occur every 2 weeks, for about 30 minutes or so. Do not just discuss work in these meetings, try to have a few discussions about personal matters, such as family life, hobbies, and more  to create a more relaxed and open environment.

During Covid-19 many of us struggled to be honest with ourselves about if we are truly coping or not, and our need to connect with other people. The best way for you to be able to achieve success in your personal and professional life is to be honest about your mental health, your ability to cope with your workload and if you are happy in the environment you are currently in. Good mental health gives you a sense of purpose in life and at work, helps strengthen relationships and feel more connected with others, to cope better with stress and to enjoy your life more. When you tell yourself that you are fine, but know that you are exhausted and are struggling to cope, you can burn yourself out. This can lead to a sense of reduced accomplishments and a loss of personal identity.

The fourth tool is to show gratitude. Indicate in your journal the highs and lows of the previous year and what it is that you want to change and achieve this year. By indicating what you are grateful for will help remind you of what you have and what you have already achieved. Discuss with your team members and colleagues what you found challenging in the previous year and find out what advice they can possibly give you on how to overcome these challenges. Also focus on the good and discuss this with your team members and colleagues and determine how you all can create the good again this year.

The fifth tool is to focus only on a few priorities and not over exert yourself with overly ambitious goals you mentally, emotionally, and physically cannot achieve. Setting only a few priorities for the biggening of the year can help you focus on the now and how best to achieve these goals with your current abilities. As the year progresses, set new goals and achieve them. Communicate constantly with other people to get their inputs on how they recommend you achieve your current goals and maybe ask for possible new goals you can set within your professional life.

The last tool is to become more agile. According to Michael Sullivan, personal agility “is the ability of an individual to quickly and efficiently adapt to a dynamic environment by making incremental changes, continually assessing the effectiveness of those changes, and modifying the approach as needed to achieve a desired outcome.” Becoming more agile will help you deal with all internal and external challenges you face at work and in your personal life. Becoming more agile will also help you to think quickly and clearly about the work you need to do and the challenges that come along with it. Michael Sullivan indicates various characteristics of personal agility, these are:

  • Being able to gain self-awareness through personal reflection (journaling)
  • You find your purpose and what you need to do to live your purpose in life
  • A bias for action
  • You find an appreciation for change, its purpose and what can bring about and not just to tolerate the change
  • You find a deeper value to want to grow and improve in your personal and professional life
  • You also develop a way to better prioritise your goals and your tasks.

When you combine the above six tools, you will be able to cope, overcome and growth in the year ahead. It will help you to set a different mindset for the year ahead and how best to achieve everything you wish to achieve this year.

All of the best for the year ahead and may we all have a brilliant year.

Be the absolute best version of yourself this year.

Cheers

The importance of self-care while working remotely

By Carli Uys (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

For the majority of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has made us remote workers. It was not easy for all of us to transition from working at the office to working at home. It had its own challenges that we all had to overcome, such as work-life balance and our well-being.

This blog will focus on our well-being while working from home and how we should show ourselves some love during this time.

Self-care during this time is not a luxury, it is an essential part for you to be able to adjust to the new (now) normal. It can be easy for you to increase your stress levels while working from home as you may feel that you don’t have enough time for everything that you want to do. You might be experiencing what most of us are, that there are no boundaries in place when it comes to working from home. You start earlier and you end later. Your boss calls or sends a message at any time of the day assuming that you are available because you are working from home. This can put a lot of strain on your well-being and you need start putting your well-being first.

Let’s first look at what well-being means. Well-being is the experience of health, happiness and prosperity. It includes mental health, a sense of meaning and purpose, the ability to manage stress, and the feeling of being well. People in general want to experience well-being, as it includes so many positive things, such as happiness, feeling healthy, having social connections and feeling that you have a purpose in life.

There are different types of well-being that is important:

Can you actually increase/improve your well-being?

The answer is yes!! Increasing your personal well-being is simple, but it is not always easy. Why am I saying this? There are many skills you can use to improve your well-being, but it is at times difficult to figure out which part of your well-being is most important to you and that you must focus on. Figuring out how to build well-being skills are at times difficult.

To be able to positively impact your well-being while working from home, consider the following tips to establish healthy habits that will assist you to maximise your efforts to be able to cope with working from home and to support your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

  1. If you have the space in your house, create a dedicated workspace for yourself to only use for work. This can help you to associate that area as your workplace and limit the rest of your house to be connected to work. This can allow you to still view your house as your home and not your work environment.
  2. Get dressed as if you were going to go to work. This can create a mindset that you have a purpose and if there is an unexpected video call you won’t be caught off guard. This will also give the other person a good impression of you and create a positive view that you are ready for anything that might come your way. It is important to always be professional and it can help you to feel confident while taking a video call and completing your work.
  3. Determine what your objectives are for the day and the week ahead and write it all down. This can help you to plan out your day and week to know what has to be done and prioritise your tasks. By writing it down it allows you to scratch out the tasks that you have completed which can give you an idea of how you are progressing and show you that you are actually achieving your objectives.
  4. It is important to take regular, mindful breaks. This can help you to reset and refocus your mind and energy to what has to be done. Do so for only a few minutes at a time, on a regular basis during the day. This will help to reduce your stress and give you clarity on what must still be done, and it can help increase your productivity.
  5. Remember to eat real food and stop snacking on junk food the entire day. If you do not focus on making yourself a proper meal, then you will continuously snack on junk food and this can cause a decline in your energy levels and an increase in your weight levels. If you want to snack rather than eat full proper meals a day, think about healthy snacks and rather leave the junk at the store.
  6. Not all of us like to work out and most of us do not have space or equipment to be able to work out from home. Put that thought out of your mind that you can only work out at a gym. You can do various activities that can get your blood flowing and help you to reset your mind and body and to feel refreshed. Take a walk around your house, or in your complex or go for a walk around the block. It doesn’t have to be long, just to get your heart racing a bit faster than usual. This can help to boost your immune function and it can help you to approach your work from a fresh perspective.
  7. Most important thing you should do in a day, is have a clock-out time every day. This will help you avoid overworking yourself and allow you to spend time with your loved ones or do something you love to do to relax after a hard day’s work. Let your boss and colleagues know that you will always implement a clock-out time as it is important for your well-being and that they should do the same.
  8. By making an appointment for “you time”, you will allow yourself to set new priorities, stay connected with your loved ones and to create structure in your life. This will give you the control of being able to face whatever comes your way and ways to make work more meaningful.

There are various benefits you get from taking care of your well-being:

Remember that self-care is not selfish, it is a must! Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.

Being hopefully optimistic

By Carli Uys (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

During these turbulent times it is difficult to be hopeful about what the future holds and to be optimistic that it all will turn out good in the end. It at times might feel that it is all getting too much to handle and that there is nothing to be optimistic about, as it feels that these turbulent times will not end any time soon. The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we view life, how our society works, and how we work. Many have lost their jobs and are struggling to be able to survive financially while most are battling to stay hopeful that this pandemic will pass and allow us to live our lives the way we want to.

These turbulent times have impacted our sense of hopefulness and our optimism about our future and how we will be able to get through every day. It is up to you to imagine a better future as to help you maintain some level of mental well-being. This can help you to keep believing that a better future will arrive and that your life will get better.

So, what does being hopefully optimistic mean?

Let’s first look at the meaning of hope, hopeful and optimistic.

Hope can be defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen, a feeling of trust and a want for something to happen. This means that you have an expectation that something good will happen. Every person views hope in a different way. Hope can be an emotion that you feel or you can use it as a way to motivate yourself to take action or it can be a coping mechanism that gets you through difficult times.

Hopeful is a feeling or inspiring optimism about a future event and a person likely or hoping to succeed. Optimistic can be defined as being hopeful and confident about the future.

This means that if you are hopeful you are an optimist. APA defines an optimist as someone “who anticipate positive outcomes, whether serendipitously or through perseverance and effort, and who are confident of attaining desired goals.” It is completely normal for a person to at times have trouble with being optimistic. Most of use lie somewhere on the spectrum between pessimism and optimism, and tend to demonstrate sometimes strong and relatively stable or situational tendencies in the direction of optimism or pessimism.

Kara Cutruzzula provided various tactics to help you shift your daily thoughts from possible pessimistic thoughts to optimistic thoughts.

  1. Shift your expectations from only seeing the negative in a situation or in your day to change your subjective reality to be more positive. This will also help to change your objective reality by acting as a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that when you wake up in the morning you need to say that you will have a great day and speak it into existence to avoid yourself of falling into the trap of making gloomy predictions about your day.
  2. Be aware that you can change your life at any given point in time. Just because you are experiencing turbulent times does not mean that you have to accept it and let it control your life. If you lose your job, you have to decide to be hopefully optimistic that you will get a new job or that your dream of starting your own business will become a reality. Whatever your desire for your future might be, you need to be hopeful that it will happen when you put in the effort to achieve your dream.
  3. Always look for meaning in challenging times in your life. Always view negative events in your life as something that you can learn from and focus your mind on trying to find the positive that can come from the negative event. We can all learn from negative experiences and implement the learnings into our lives. It is up to you to see the positive and decide how it can transform your future and view of the world.
  4. Listen to another person’s story where they found meaning in their turbulent times. Listen deeply and intentionally to get the just of the story and understand how it impacted that person’s life in the long run. Then go and reflect on your experience and how you can find meaning out of your turbulent times. Make it a memorable experience as your journey can positively impact someone else who might be experiencing something similar and who might need guidance or encouragement to get through their turbulent times.
  5. Focus on what you are truly passionate about and let it anchor you in what you truly want out of life. Let your passion guide you to understand what it is that you want to achieve in your life and determine how you will go about achieving it.

Thinking positively helps a person be healthier, more productive and in the end happier. When you tell yourself you can do this, you can be the best, then you will have a mindset that pushes you to be the best and help you achieve your goals. But when you are negative, you will feel down, you will feel like you cannot achieve anything and that you are a failure. But you are not, no one is. It is about your mindset. When you face a challenge and decide to be hopefully optimistic about the outcome, you already have made it possible for yourself to achieve what it is that you want to achieve. Strive to always look at a situation from a hopefully optimistic perspective, as it will open your mind and help you see what can be done to solve the problem or achieve your dreams.

How to be mindfully resilient

By Carli Uys (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Mindfulness is the mental state you achieve when you focus your attention on the present moment, are aware of everything occurring in the present moment, and accepting your own feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Resiliency is the capacity you have to recover quickly from any kind of difficulty you are facing.

So how does a person combine the two? And why would you want to? Well, the answer to this is, to be able to recover from any difficulty in a meaningful way you need to be aware of your thoughts and feelings at that moment, as well as your thoughts and feelings after the difficulty occurred. This can help you to get a better understanding of why you responded the way you did, why you said what you said, and why it made you feel the way it did. Being aware of how you respond to a certain situation or difficulty will help you to understand yourself better and learn to control your reactions. It will also help you to accept your own feelings and emotions at that moment, and understand that you are only human and cannot control everything that happens to you, but knowing that you are in control of how you react.

Being able to control how you react in a certain situation, will help you to avoid any regrets afterwards of what you said and what you did to another person during the time of ‘difficulty’. This can mean a break-up, being laid off, car accident, or an argument with someone important to you. As we all know, in the heat of the moment, we say and do things that we later regret. When we practice being mindful in all situations in life, we are able to control our out bursts in moments of difficulty, to avoid doing damage to someone you love, and your reputation.

The following are tips on how to combine mindfulness and resiliency in an effective manner:

  1. To be able to control your anger, and avoid becoming aggressive in any stressful situation, you need to be aware of your feelings, reactions and thoughts to be able to stay calm, and assert yourself to get your point across and let yourself be heard.
  2. To mindfully think about a problem, and see the problem as a temporary set-back, and find ways to solve the problem in a structured and knowledgeable way to get the best end result.
  3. Being mindful about your reactions and the things you say to other people in times when you are stressed or facing a set-back. Being mindful will help you to avoid conflict that occurs because of what or how you said something.
  4. Being mindful about other people’s needs and taking the time to understand what they are going through. This will help you to show them empathy in their time of need, even if you are struggling and feel like you can’t stretch yourself any further. Being mindful about how you respond and treat others will help you to avoid damaging your relationship with that person.
  5. Even when you find it difficult to find a sense of humor or positive outlook during a difficult time, by viewing the difficulty through a mindful perspective, will help you to see the silver lining in the situation and help you to be able to stay positive.
  6. Being mindful during interactions with other people, will help you to be aware of your emotions and emotional expressions when you are with other people, as you will be present in the moment and make sure that you give the appropriate expressions when necessary.
  7. Always be mindful when you are spending time with loved ones and friends as having them as your support system will help you to become more resilient to any set-back or difficulty you are facing. When you aren’t mindful during your interactions with these people during these times, it can damage the relationships and cause you to lose the people you need and love the most.

As we can see from the above, mindfulness can be applied in any difficult situation you are facing to help you cope with the difficulty and help you to see the light at the end of your dark tunnel. It will help you get a better understanding of yourself and the situation, help you to think before you react, and help you to get through the difficult situation without causing damage along the way.

All the best of luck, and I hope my advice will help you to become more mindful during a difficult times.

(Various sources used)