Hack Your Brain for Better Responses to Inevitable Challenges

Life gets hard. From personal and professional challenges that impact you as an individual, to societal and global circumstances that affect us as a whole, life presents myriad difficulties that can push you off balance. If you’re someone who strives for perfection, those challenges can loom even larger. In fact, a perfectionist mindset can set you up for greater frustration, emotional and physical pain, and failure.
When you open yourself up to imperfection, downright failure and the full mess that is everyday life, and learn how to reframe such difficult experiences in more positive ways, you can make better decisions, see possible upsides within difficult moments, learn from struggle, extend compassion to others and weather hard times more effectively. It’s what mindset expert, Karen Allen, calls being 100% human. She will share her insights on how to reframe your thinking at the 2022 WFF Leadership Conference March 20-22 in Dallas and live virtually around the world.
Mental strength training
Allen knows difficulty. In one horrible instant, she became a widow at age 29 when her husband was killed. “You realize in that moment that everything you think is under your control is an illusion,” Allen says. Through a period of tremendous pain and grief, she began to see the only way out was through the one thing she could control: her thoughts. “I slowly began to understand that the only thing ever in our control is the way we manage our mindset. How you think and respond to a situation is the one thing you can control.” 
Of course, you can’t avoid pain or disappointment in life, or even stop negative thoughts swirling through your brain, but you can train your mind to move from toxic thoughts to a more positive direction, she says. When you learn how to reframe the way you think, you can exert greater influence on how difficult and painful situations impact you and how you function in situations with a high degree of uncertainty.
That skill is sorely needed today. A survey just completed by the American Psychological Association and The Harris Poll found that Americans’ stress levels have reach unprecedented levels. People are deeply worried about the war in the Ukraine, rising inflation and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to the study, 87% of U.S. adults say their mental health is being greatly affected by what feels like a “constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years.”
Ask better questions
“There are times you will appropriately feel angry, sad, worried and anxious. But you don’t have to stay there,” Allen advises. One aspect of reframing involves asking yourself more empowering questions than those that might first come to mind like, “Why is this happening to me?” or “How could this be?” Instead, she suggests acknowledging the challenges you face and then asking, “What can I do from this point moving forward?” Or, “Who do I want to be after going through this experience?”
For starters, she offers a three-step approach to dealing with challenging situations and finding a way to move through them.
  1. Pay attention to what’s going on in your mind
  2. Choose to reframe negative thoughts
  3. Choose to be present to the current moment
“There’s so much power in choosing your thoughts wisely,” Allen adds. That can include visualizing two paths ahead and choosing the one that will serve you better. It might also involve reframing a challenge as an opportunity to change direction. Reframing can also help bring more intentional effort to bear and even motivate you to practice better health habits to support your resilience and stamina.
Finally, Allen strongly encourages giving yourself grace during difficult times. You can acknowledge the many things that may be overwhelming in the moment, but then focus in on the immediate thing right in front of you that you can actually control and carry out. “Being present only to what is right in front of you can be a very powerful habit during times of hardship and stress,” she advises.
One action you can take today to empower yourself with greater capabilities and connections to support your professional growth is to REGISTER for the 2022 WFF Leadership Conference.

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