A common interview question asks “how do you handle a difficult situation?” The question appears to be specifically vague. You could answer it in any number of ways: you might use a hypothetical situation, or draw upon from a real experience, or maybe even just make something up. The interviewer will probably get as much insight from whatever direction you take your answer as they do from the answer itself. Thankfully, you don’t need to wait for an interview to gain some personal insight; just pose this question to yourself and learn about your own ability to face a challenge.
I have found that when faced with difficult situations, our minds can start to think in a different way. We may experience fear, excitement, anxiety, anger, helplessness, or any combination of different emotions that we don’t usually experience on a daily basis. Some people cower away from difficulty. Some try to keep the status quo and pretend it isn’t happening. And some people meet a challenge head on and start thinking more clearly to come to a solution. You may also do a mixture of techniques, such as first denying, then accepting, then rising to the challenge. Your thought process is a fascinating thing, and you can learn a lot about yourself by looking at how you face the difficulty you meet, not just whether or not you succeed.
Of course, we have all faced situations that challenge us and shake us to our core. But on a daily basis, we meet smaller difficulties that we must overcome. The beauty lies in not just overcoming these small or mundane challenges, but in realizing that you’ve used your mind in a new way to overcome whatever you’ve been faced with, and that you’ve added a new skill to your arsenal.
Once, I was with two friends and we encountered a problem. We had a bottle of wine, and boy were we thirsty…but there was no wine opener to be found. We faced the same exact issue, but we all instinctively came up with very different solutions. My one friend started to look for a wine opener, though we all were 99.99% sure there wasn’t one. That .01% gave him hope, and off he went. My other friend tried a technique he saw in a movie: he put the bottle in his shoe and tried banging the bottom of the shoe against the wall to loosen the cork, until he realized you can’t believe everything you see on TV and became concerned he would break the bottle (and also because he realized that our other friend and I would start banging his head against the wall if that happened). My first instinct, on the other hand, was to look for tools we could use in place of a traditional wine opener. Three people, same problem, three solutions.
What ended up happening was a little bit of teamwork and a lot of laughter as we attempted to pry the bottle open by turning a screw into the cork, using a pair of pliers to grip the screw, and then using a tool made for cutting stained glass to leverage the pliers and free the cork. It took three of us to do it, but within minutes of being faced with our seemingly insurmountable problem, we were enjoying the fruits of our labor. That bottle may have only cost a few dollars, but it tasted like a million bucks because we had felt a sense of accomplishment from working together and utilizing our problem-solving skills in an unconventional way. We may not have felt the world’s greatest glory that day, but boy did we enjoy that wine.
A sense of accomplishment can be felt from running a marathon, but it can also be felt from just having the strength to put on your running shoes. If you’re looking to change something in your life, you will likely be met with any number of challenging situations that may threaten to throw you off your path. Can you keep your pace, with your eyes on the prize, and come up with resourceful ways of facing, accepting, and tackling the obstacles along the way? Chances are, you can. You just have to believe in your ability to find your way.
So embrace the difficult, the perplexing, the mundane, and the seemingly insurmountable situations that you face, no matter how big or small. Because every time you overcome any difficulty, your mind has learned to think in a new way and you earn an extra badge of honor. You may not wear it for all to see, but it strengthens you from within, and you can bet that inner strength will be felt by you and those around you.
How about you? What challenges have you faced in your personal life that have taught you to think differently?