Do you see obstacles or opportunities?

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

A failed attempt, a rejection, a moment of self-doubt, or a shadow of regret. All of a sudden, your mind shifts into negativity. You feel angry, anxious, hopeless, defeated, apathetic.

It's easy to linger in these moments. But as difficult as it may be, you do have a choice to reset your state of mind. To reframe a problem as an opportunity, accept a challenge and learn something. In each and every scenario, there is a practical lesson to learn, or at least something to salvage from the disaster. It just takes practice to train your mind to recognise and embrace it.

Still sceptical? If you need convincing, I highly recommend that you read Ryan Holiday's book, 'The Obstacle is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs.' Holiday's book is a potent reminder that you control your attitude, your beliefs, and your choices. You have the ability to decide what to make of the things that happen in your life. And after you're able to free your mind of doubt, denial and defeat, you can even recast things that seemed like impossible obstacles into life-changing opportunities.

Let's be realistic here. You can't just decide that you'll be more open to opportunities and that's that, done and dusted. At first, you'll need to deliberately stop, pause and reframe. If you step back for a minute - before your assumptions and self-limiting beliefs kick in - you will find that you notice possibilities you didn't see before. After a while, this will become automatic.

Tony Robbins, the infamous performance coach, puts it perfectly. He says that if you want to lead a prime life, you need to 'prime' your emotional state to enable you to see options and solutions, not just dead ends and problems. He does this each morning. For him, this is a 10 minute ritual that includes a pattern of breathing, listening to specific music, being outside, and focusing his mind on:

  1. Feeling complete gratitude for three things;

  2. Connecting deeply to an inner, healing presence; and

  3. Focusing on three things that he is going to make happen.

For Tony's explanation of his priming rituals, listen to Tony Robbins' podcast episodes on The Tim Ferriss show here.

How should I start?

One of my techniques is to take three deep breaths each day. I breath deeply into my chest and then release the breath, 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out. To occupy my mind, I try to feel the air filling my lungs, and notice my stomach rising slightly and then letting go.

That’s it. It might seem silly, but it helps me to clear my mind and reset. I do this at the table before I eat my first meal of the day, or any time that I feel stressed or frantic. (It also helps me to pause before I dig into my first meal of the day!) I feel so much better for it, more calm and collected. For me, this simple breathing practice is a way to recalibrate my mental frame of reference.

If you're a Type A personality with a frantic, analytical mind (like me!), I'd also recommend that you try the Headspace app for simple guided meditations that focus on breathing. It's a fool proof 3 minutes each day. And for an added bonus, I found that it's a revealing test of your ability to just chill the f*!? out and clear your mind for just 180 seconds. I failed, but at least it helped me to realise I need to work on it.

Why bother?

If you can free your mind from the clutter, you can prioritise the things that matter. You'll be able to focus on the things you dream about, and channel that focus into training or preparing for it. You will develop the mental and emotional fortitude to act in the face of adversity and to allow each moment to make you stronger. Even if you're frustrated and apathetic, it's still better to approach things like a professional and look for the lessons in that moment then to wallow in it.

I don't see this as naive optimism or a 'can-do' attitude. It's not just a blind belief that 'It'll all be ok'. It's all about perception and reflection.

Remember - your problem is precisely as bad as you think it is.

So smile, laugh, be curious. Each day is a new day, you're in control and you have the ability to do what you set out to do.