Overcoming Life’s Challenges: Try Harder, Think Smarter or Give Up

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It had been over two weeks since I had mowed the backyard lawn. As I fired up the mower and made my first couple of passes thru the lawn, it wasn’t going too bad. Quickly things changed as I hit thicker patches of grass causing the lawnmower to stall. And it continued to stall over and over again as I tried to mow thru the small jungle that had grown in less than three weeks. Instead of a chore, the lawn had become a challenge.

Challenges, difficulties and obstacles are a part of life as most of us have found out. Mowing your lawn should not be one.  

Returning back to my backyard grass, the mower continued to stall, and my frustration continued to build when out of nowhere a thought came telling me to change my strategy. It was a simple solution too. If I raise the front legs on the mower for a first pass, I can then lower them to the original height and make a second pass. Job completed.

There were now two choices I have to meet the lawn challenge. The first was to try harder, doing the same thing each time the lawn mower stalled. I now had an option; change my thinking about what I was doing. This led to changing my approach. By changing my approach, the frustration was gone. Mowing the lawn returned to being a chore.

How do you deal with the challenges, difficulties and obstacles that come into your life? I offer there are three distinct options you have: The first is to try harder, the next is to think smarter, followed by pretending it is not there or by giving up.

Think of a past time where you felt overwhelmed in the middle of a personal challenge, difficulty or obstacle, and you were not finding any answers to turn things around. Which approach did you take at that point?

Recognize each solution comes with an approach that seems reasonable at the time.

The try harder is definitely a technique many people use to when faced with a challenge. Try harder was my first approach mowing the lawn. The harder and harder I worked, the more my frustration grew. The try harder mode meant I would keep doing the same frustrating thing until the lawn was done, even if it took till nightfall to do it. Notice in the try harder mode that there is a repetition of the same behavior. But are you making progress? Yes, but how much energy are you expending doing it? Could you do less? And Get More?

There are some areas in life where you need to try harder to overcome a challenge and get the victory. My good friend’s answer to quit smoking was green tea and “tough it out.” He has done really well, but was a bit grouchy at times, at first. Sometimes in life you may have to tough it out. However, many people regularly try harder without much success.

Option two is to think smarter. Be open to new thoughts and new thinking. When I changed my thinking and approach to the lawn, I saved time, energy and eliminated the frustration I was feeling. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate how you are attacking that mountain in front of you. How can you change your thinking about that challenge, difficulty, and how can you change your approach to resolving it?  

One of the problems that arises when facing a challenge is “tunnel vision.” Tunnel vision is when you have a very narrow focus and can only see one way out of a problem. This in turn leads to you trying harder over again, even when you recognize there has been no progress. If so, it’s time for some new thinking.

The final way is to avoid, deny or don’t acknowledge there is a challenge ahead. You can also give up all together trying to deal with the challenge. But based on experience, this does not really work, which can make life less enjoyable. To me, this is not an option, but many people choose this option just the same. Challenges, difficulties and obstacles are a reality of being alive. They also help build character.

If you need help overcoming some of life’s challenges, please contact me now to schedule a free introductory life coaching assessment. As an expert in emotional intelligence, I deliver keynotes, small group presentations and seminars for companies and organizations striving for effective communication, leadership and team performance.