Our experiences shape us. The experiences that we have throughout our life have a big part in our belief systems, what we value and even influence our current experiences.
Growing up, I was a good athlete. I had many experiences of scoring a lot of points in basketball (probably because I took more shots than anyone else…) and hitting a baseball hard. I could see the actual results of my actions. Plus, my peers high-fived me, my coaches congratulated me and my parents affirmed that I was doing good. All of the results and reinforcement lead me to believe that I was a good athlete. That belief still is in me today. My experiences playing sports shaped and still continue to shape me.
Experiences also reveal our strengths and the resources we possess. Especially experiences in which we overcome something or are met with some adversity. Often, though, we forget how we got through a tough situation. Think about it… You can probably recall a recent adverse situation you were in. Likely, you can recall the premise that made it tough for you, what you did about it and the positive result on the other side.
Many times, we fail to recognize our unique set of strengths and resources that we used as leverage to get us into the action that led to a positive outcome.
Yet, it’s our strengths and internal resources that we can tap into the next time we’re faced with a similarly tough situation. And, tapping into a strength from a previous experience creates motivation in us to do it again. We can face a hard thing because we’ve faced it before and won.
I was coaching a business leader who was getting ready for a big presentation to her boss, who had a tendency to nit-pick and (in her mind) change direction erratically. She said that she did not have a history of presentations like the one she was giving going well with her boss. I asked her if she ever had a positive outcome in a presentation with someone that was difficult. Her first reaction was that she had not ever worked with someone like her boss. When I prompted her to think outside of work, she quickly recalled a conversation with her sister in which they had opposing viewpoints on a family issue and this business leader convinced her sister to agree with her.
In this coaching conversation, the next question I asked was critical to revealing the strength from the family conversation with her sister. “What was it about YOU that caused your sister to agree with you?” She told me that she stayed calm in the conversation and used logic to connect the dots to the desired outcome. Her strengths of calmness, logic and vision could be used to adjust the presentation ahead of time to ensure that her and her boss were moving toward the same shared vision. Her confidence about the meeting increased because she realized her strengths could be leveraged for a positive outcome.
When you’re faced with a stressful or difficult situation, you can call upon strengths revealed in past experiences to apply to your current situation. It takes intentionality and reflection to make it work.
Ask yourself 3 questions to reveal a strength or resource to apply to a difficulty:
- When was a time that is the same or very similar to the situation you’re now faced with that worked out well?
- What was it about YOU that made it work?
- How can you apply that strength and/or resource to your current situation?
You’ll realize that this “new” hard thing is just like the former hard thing and your unique strengths will help you get what you desire.