Wellbeing Doesn’t Always FEEL . . . well . . . WELL!

Here’s how I’m facing this year’s daunting challenges. Who’s in? – Kimberly

With all of the hatred unleashed in the 2016 US elections, I’ve been struggling to regain my send of wellbeing. Then I remembered . . .

WELLBEING ISN’T NECESSARILY EASY. Sometimes I fret that “wellbeing” will be misinterpreted as “Life should always be easy.” How dull would that be?!! My work mostly involves tackling challenges that most people claim are very difficult, highly unlikely, or darned near impossible, and I find the work absolutely exhilarating! Yes, I feel quite “well” when I’m in the midst of such circumstances, meeting tough challenges while shaking in my boots, staying committed to results that seem unattainable. Wahoo! For me, wellbeing isn’t endless days of paddling a lazy canoe toward my ultimate resting place (RIP). While I sometimes enjoy the tranquility of a quiet stream, I’m sure I’d go completely bonkers if I had to experience peace, calm and tranquility every moment of my life. Truly.

BEING WELL CAN MEAN BEING CHALLENGED. In my experience, wellbeing can be a flurry of daring adventures, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and the ecstasy of accomplishment in the face of daunting odds. The irresistible allure of what seems impossible, but is merely difficult, inspires a mixture of both anxiety and excitement in me. Like most human beings, I have a healthy fear of failure. And like most experienced professionals, or anyone who’s lived a couple of decades for that matter, I’ve learned that what we’re ultimately capable of is typically far greater than what we first imagine. Anxiety at the start of an awesome adventure is normal!

THE EMOTIONAL LIFECYCLE OF THE “IMPOSSIBLE”. Facing “impossible” challenges is not a negative experience for me because I’ve learned to reinterpret the emotional signals of such challenges as a hint that I’m onto something truly worthy of my time and attention. Here’s my experience of what happens when such a worthy cause plops into my life, and how I turn my initial discouragement into outrageously successful results:

  • THE CHALLENGE: At first I might not realize that I’ve been presented with a daunting task. Perhaps it seems easy, just another item on my “To Do” list. As a result I might not even pay much attention to how to approach the possibility, like when I think “Hey, I should get a bunch of my scrappy businesswomen pals together and write a book!”
  • ABSENT-MINDED ATTEMPT: Then I start working on the task kind of haphazardly, without much of a plan or any real discipline.
  • IRRITATION & DISCOURAGEMENT: Surprisingly, progress is slow or non-existent, and I start to feel irritation and discouragement tapping me on the shoulder. A little voice in my head says “This sucks! Why can’t this be easy?! What the heck was I thinking?!”
  • RECOGNITION: Then a lightbulb goes off in my head, and I step back, smile and think “Aha! This is one of THOSE challenges!” That’s the moment that I recognize that I am grappling with a problem that won’t yield to standard approaches and paying less than full attention. Instead of discouragement turns to the courage to continue. That’s when I set my sights on achieving at LEAST partial credit on an impossible task (it worked in grad school!), and reach for my “Possibilities Toolkit”.
  • BREAKTHROUGH: Fully present, I bring the power of possibilities to bear on this seemingly insurmountable challenge. The Possibilities Toolkit has all sorts of handy techniques and approaches that have been proven to help me lurch fitfully in the direction of success, even when there seems to be no hope of crossing the finish line. Among them are:
  1. The courage to begin, possibly risking failure.
  2. The determination to continue without any sign of hope or progress.
  3. The good sense to research what’s already known by others about the problem.
  4. The curiosity to experiment with new and different ways to tackling the problem.
  5. The willingness to ask for help from others who can bring wisdom, experience, or a different perspective.
  6. The persistence to keep at it even after I want to give up, even while cussing a blue streak!
  7. Luck! (And working hard does seem to make me luckier, as the sages of the ages have told us.)

The outcome is generally far greater success than I could have imagined at the start, and certainly more than some “experts” predicted. For example, when I was first invited to lead business workshops in Japan several cultural experts warned me that Japanese businessmen would never play along with my extremely playful, lively and engaging workshop style. They assured me that I would be facing a room full of blank stares, and most certainly encountering ZERO participation. This turned out to be completely incorrect, and I’ve been wildly successful working with Japanese businesses all over the world for the past 9 years. (Note to Self: Never let an “expert” discourage you! It’s not their fault,mind you. They just know too much to keep hope alive in the face of huge challenges in their field of expertise.)

TREASURE DISGUISED AS TRASH! As a result of practicing this Possibilities Toolbox approach hundreds of times in my life, I now only spend a nanosecond or two dreading a great big hairy audacious challenge when it comes knocking at my door. I know that this approach works, and I’ll be able to at least get partial credit on most any problem. I also know that the opportunity to achieve something worthwhile, and  the personal growth that accompanies these opportunities, often show up in our lives in a rather unappealing disguise. Identifying the initial emotional cues of this cycle – irritation and discouragement – as the doorway to new fields of possibility allows me to turn my initial “Oh, no!” paralysis into “Wahoo!” get-busy action.

IMPOSSIBLE OFTEN ISN’T. At the end of such an experience I often feel awestruck (and exhausted, of course!) by the enormity of what was actually possible in the face of the seemingly impossible. Sometimes in hindsight I even see that success was inevitable, but out of view around the bend when the journey began. Well, isn’t that the way it is with most journeys? We must set out with no clear view of the destination, traveling the first few kilometers on faith.

WELLBEING IS EXCITING! Anxiety and excitement, mixed together . . . that’s one sign of wellbeing in my life. Even what initially feels like a breakdown can lead to a breakthrough when we meet the beast with a warm cup of tea, determined to learn from them.

Wouldn’t it be a pity if life were always easy? I would have missed out on so much!

EXPERIMENT! Is there something in your life that’s irritating or discouraging? What does this make possible that wouldn’t be possible otherwise? Could this be a door opening to a new future? Next time irritation or discouragement ring your doorbell I hope you’ll spend a few minutes mulling that over before you run and hide under the bed.

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