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Are You Experiencing a Threat or a Challenge?

TIGNUM Thoughts

July 6th, 2019
By Brian Wade

It’s coming. That big event. You know the one I’m talking about... It’s been circled on your calendar for weeks. Every time you see the date, you feel a surge of adrenaline and a tightening in your throat. It’s important and you know it's a big deal, so the pressure to perform well and be your best is high. It might be weeks away, yet you’re already feeling stressed about it. We’ve all been there.

In fact, it’s actually very common. When we view and value something as important, our brains can often overdramatize the event. We begin to view the event as larger than it is, artificially increasing the stakes or consequences and turning the proverbial molehill into a mountain. When we overdramatize, we also tend to see things as more harmful than beneficial. In essence, you begin to view your presentation, meeting, or deadline as a threat.

Not a threat in the traditional sense of harm to life or limb. This threat stems from the perceived harm to your status and your career - harm to how you are perceived by your leadership, peers, and subordinates. When we think of something as a threat, it damages our ability to properly prepare and perform. Think about it: threats are inherently a bad thing. They cause harm, provide little room for growth or learning, and rarely provide any opportunity or feedback beyond surviving through the ordeal. None of that helps you feel confident about preparing or allows you to look forward to the event. Instead, it fills you with a sense of dread, apprehension, and anxiety - none of which are facilitative emotions.

So, what do we do about it and how can we get back to maximizing our impact? It comes down to the Performance Mindset skills of reframing and perspective.

When you start to dive deeper, you realize the problem isn't the importance of the event; the problem is how you view the event. By reframing the way you view your upcoming event, you can start to see it as a challenge instead of a threat. What’s the difference between a threat and a challenge? Everything.

Where a threat is inherently bad, challenges are usually viewed as good or fun. Where threats provide little room for growth or learning, challenges, by nature, drive growth. This growth is what helps you learn how to overcome your next challenge. Where threats produce black or white outcomes, challenges are ripe with the opportunity to see where your preparation has taken you, ultimately giving you feedback on how to improve. When we view something as a challenge, it energizes us and fills us with excitement, eagerness, and a sense of thrill - all of which are very facilitative and action-promoting.

Reframing a threat into a challenge starts by asking yourself some simple questions about the event:

  1. How will I benefit from this experience?
  2. What opportunities will this experience provide me?
  3. What can I learn from this?
  4. What excites me most about doing this event?

Each of those questions gives you the chance to slow your brain down and create some context around the event. Start by answering these questions, and over time, your brain will begin to view this specific event (and future events) through the same lens. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Other Thoughts

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