Inspire your work

What next? Preparing for Challenge

How prepared did you feel for your experiences during 2020?

Most of us were thrown off balance by the events of 2020. I know I was….

Not only were our lives radically affected in the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we needed to regularly – and for some, frequently – adjust and adapt as we learned more about the virus and public health responses evolved.

Being taken out of our ‘ordinary’ and having to adjust can have different impacts, depending on our individual circumstances. Disturbance of the predictability and stability of our routine can take more energy. In the case of the pandemic, we’ve had to change even simple daily behaviours, requiring more effort and attention. This can increase our emotional load and wear us down over time.

Disturbance can, however, also provide a circuit breaker, giving us space to reflect, to look deeply, to reassess.

How can we use our experiences to equip ourselves for future challenges? And given the ongoing nature of the pandemic – and life events – what can we do to learn during challenge?

Julius Caesar is said to be the source of the saying that experience is the best teacher. It certainly is a key way we learn, and we can be more active participants in the process. My engineering training and time in the Air Force exposed me to more conscious ways of learning from challenging experiences that enriched the process – extending, accelerating, broadening or sharpening the learning.

That conscious attention has been useful to me in professional and personal situations, like dealing with a family member’s complex chronic health condition and a getting through a series of protracted and complex contract negotiations at work. After my cancer diagnosis, some of my past experiences were helpful or provided new insights, while others hindered me and had to be reframed or let go. It’s a work in progress!

Regardless of whether we feel drained by or find energy in challenge – or both! – I believe it provides fertile ground for learning. We can enrich that learning with the help of some tools and support.

Over the years I’ve been a grateful recipient of a number of concepts, frameworks and practices that have become my toolkit for learning from challenge with more intention and awareness. It’s an evolving collection, covering aspects including learning, perspective, change processes and support. I’ll unpack it over the next few weeks and hope that you find at least some useful additions to your own tool kit.

In the next week I’ll send two other newsletters to lay the groundwork for the rest of the series. The next issue will cover some considerations for the learning journey.

In the meantime, try revisiting the practices from the previous newsletter series. The practices there are a good way to make space for learning. Reflect on and journal about what is meaningful in your life right now.

Sun shining through clouds over the ocean
© Jodi Steel 2021

Tip: Preparing for challenges doesn’t only mean negative challenges. Challenges can be positive too, such as goals we wish to achieve and opportunities we wish to pursue!

Please note: Many people have suffered from mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, including people who have never experienced issues before. This newsletter series is not a substitute for professional mental health support specific to your circumstances. If you have mental health issues, please access professional mental health services before attempting any of the practices in this newsletter series. Links to some Australian organisations and their online resources are below.

Beyond Blue
Black Dog Institute

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