Four Tips to Help Turn Challenges into Opportunities

In life and at work, it is so critical to have the right perspective! I think if people were to look at my life, they might feel like I got a rotten deal. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Oct. 2018, went through treatments, and came out on the other side, a survivor in July of 2019. Then in July of 2020, I lost my husband unexpectantly and tragically.

However, I truly believe that a love found and lost is a much better deal than to have never loved at all. I also believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but only if you have the right perspective and you are willing to learn! Without this perspective, I might have given up or lost sight of all the positive things in my life. Now, don’t get fooled. What I am currently going through is not fun, and as I keep telling my son, it sucks! However, there are still so many things to be grateful for.

So let us look at this closely, how is it possible to turn these challenges into opportunities? How can you learn from all the experiences you have both in your personal life and at work?

Tip #1: The Happiness Advantage (Gratitude)

Shawn Achor has a book on this concept- “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work,” he also has a Ted Talk, which is still one of my favorites. I am sure that the techniques he teaches will continue to keep me happy and, therefore successful. The main concept he teaches is that we don’t have to be successful first to be happy. According to his book, your brain, when positive, is 31% more productive. Who doesn’t want to be more productive? He also states the happiness advantage enables you to be more resilient, less burnt out, and less likely to leave a job. He suggests three gratitudes daily; I have a reminder on my phone, “what are you grateful for, and the alarm goes off daily.” He suggests journaling, I have done this in the past and I have started again. He also suggests exercise and meditation as well as random acts of kindness. The idea of meditation is to slow us down, stop multitasking because there is no such thing, it is switch tasking and it makes us all ineffective, frustrated, and ultimately unhappy. All of these steps allow you to switch your perspective to the positive and make you happier, more productive, and ultimately more successful.

Tip #2: Positive Psychology & Resilience

What could the silver lining be in a cancer diagnosis? Or the death of a loved one? Or COVID and the loss of a job? For us, cancer pushed my husband to take time away from work to take care of my son and I. Through this new perspective of caring for us; he determined he wanted to retire early and ensure that we had time together. Although his job as a tugboat captain had allowed him to be 100% home half the time, it just wasn’t good enough for him. He absolutely loved life. He also began working on a boat that his father originally built, and he had started to renovate 20 years ago. We had a year of 100% quality time with him, and then when COVID hit, we had some serious quality family time without any sports or other events. We were together for months and I will cherish that time forever.  Then, once school ended, since I could work anywhere, we took off in our camper for four weeks before he passed unexpectantly while spearfishing on vacation. I will vividly remember the daily dog walks we got in, the projects at home, and just coffee in the morning with nowhere to go. As Lucy Hone, Ph.D., states in her book “Resilient Grieving,” it isn’t about getting over a loss it is about adaptation. How are you adapting during this global pandemic as well as any recent losses or challenges that you have experienced?

Tip #3: What have you learned?

No matter the scenario, I am always looking to see what I learned or what I can learn from all my experiences. Failures and challenges are always the hardest to review, but they are also when we experience our greatest learning moments. What have I learned? You are never guaranteed tomorrow, so make sure you make the most of today! Experiences are what makes for memories and we are so grateful for all of the experiences we have had together. We also know it is time to reinvent our family and discover new experiences. We need to train our brains to be positive and keep focused on the upside, no matter what life has in store for us. If we do this as individuals, our teams, and our companies will become happier and ultimately more successful.

Tip #4: Permission to grieve

Grieving isn’t always about losing a loved one. Grieving is necessary when you lose your job or an opportunity to do what you love because of an injury. As Lucy Hone, PhD., states in her book, “Don’t lose what you have to what you have lost.” People need space to grieve, which in turn enables you to learn and grow.

It’s difficult to remember that nobody is promised tomorrow, I know that better than ever. Start by being kind to yourself and everyone else and grateful for everything you do have. Then, start a gratitude journal if you can. Take time to debrief and learn from your mistakes, see challenges as opportunities, and embrace continuous learning and growth.  Embracing these strategies will keep you at the top of your game, no matter what industry or role you play.

I am not delusional about the road ahead. I know it will be a daily challenge to adapt, but I also know that with prayer, the right perspective, plenty of gratitude, learning every day, and resilience, I will get to the other side and I have no doubt that it will be brighter than ever before!


Source: Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything, by Lucy Hone, PhD

About The Author:

Dr. Gina Ann Richter has over 20 years of experience in learning strategy, consulting, managing, designing, and developing effective and instructionally efficient learning experiences based on brain-based research. These experiences include the use of blended solutions, curation, learning ecosystems, social learning environments, a 70-20-10 structure, collaborative learning experiences, virtual, and self-paced asynchronous e-learning within corporate settings. Gina’s experience also extends into academia where she has designed, developed, and delivered Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degree level courses for several academic institutions.

Within both academia and industry, her instruction is learner-centered and cutting edge through the incorporation of new technologies that facilitate instructional strategies specific to the audience, content, and infrastructure. Gina is a lifelong learner, who is action-oriented, has an inquiring intellect, ingrained ethics, and a desire to excel.