Turn Your Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones!

Turn your stumbling blocks into powerful stepping stones

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Preston Ni is a professor in the areas of interpersonal effectiveness, professional communication, cross-cultural understanding, and organizational change and shows you 8 powerful steps to take during difficult times when adversity strikes

Actually, we have no problems or stumbling blocks - we have opportunities for which we should always be grateful for. Challenges or stumbling blocks are opportunities that are given to us to correct or to learn from.

When we refuse to correct these mistakes, challenges or stumbling blocks we miss the opportunity to become better persons and the results can sometime be quite devastating. It takes courage to face our own shortcomings and wisdom to do something about them.  Though we cannot go back and make a brand new start, we can however start from now and make a brand new end.

Helen Keller once wrote: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

As we navigate through challenging times toward a better future, it’s useful to visit some tried and true ideas regarding life hardiness and resiliency. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a reminder of some existential ideas we sometimes set aside as we tend to the hectic details of daily life. If you find this article helpful, share it with those whom you care about who are in need. There's power in good will reverberated.

  1. The Power of Perspective.  Life is not always easy. We all know that. How we choose the way we think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat. With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?” “How can I learn from this experience?” “What is most important now?” and “If I think outside the box, what are some better answers?” The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. By asking constructive questions based on learning and priorities, we can gain the proper perspective to help us tackle the situation at hand. “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” - Thomas A. Edison

  2. Focus on the Sky not the Mud.   We should learn from the past, but not be stuck in it. Sometimes life circumstances and personal setbacks can haunt and prevent us from seeing our true potential and recognizing new opportunities. What has already happened we cannot change, but what is yet to happen we can shape and influence. At times the first step is simply to break from the past and declare that it is you, not your history, who’s in charge. Ask empowering questions such as “What matters to me now?” “How can I make a difference in this situation?” and “What’s the next step for my best interest and well-being?” Every moment we’re alive we can make new choices that help us move on and step toward a better future. If we pay attention to only mud on the ground after a storm, we won’t notice that the sky above us has already cleared. Goethe reminds us: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” Don’t focus on the mud. Make better choices today and move on.

  3. Ask the Right Individuals.  In life we sometimes may feel like we’re walking alone, but we don’t have to be as long as we’re honest with ourselves, and ask for help when needed. You can find strength and support through a “board of advisors” you create. These are your “go-to” people when you’re in need of sound advice, a new perspective, a certain expertise, or simply an empathetic ear. Members of the board can include individuals you know whose opinions you respect and character you trust. Your personal B.O.A. can also include your role models from past and present, historical or fictional. Ask, for example: “What would (role model A) say about my situation?” or “What would (role model B) do if she were in my shoes?” Asking for help is not the same as complaining. Habitual complainers dwell on what’s wrong. Successful people assume responsibility for finding the support they need to solve the problem.  “Normal people have problems. The smart ones get help.”  - Daniel Amen

  4. Thrive on Your Strengths While Exploring Your True Potential.  We each have certain dispositions in which we naturally excel. Some of us are great with people, others are handy with tools, yet others thrive on information. A mismatch between what you’re naturally good at and yourwork in life is wasted potential. There are a myriad of assessment tools available that can help you determine your natural strengths, as well as your areas of greatest potential.  “When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.”  - Joseph Campbell

  5. Keep Having Fun .  Van Wilder from the movie with the same name said: “You shouldn’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive.” No matter how difficult the circumstances, resolve to keep the fun and enjoyment in your life. Make a point to take a “mini-vacation” everyday; be it walking in the park, exercising, hugging a loved one, or taking a nice, hot bath. The more challenging and stressful life is, the more important it is to take good care of yourself so you can relax your body, ease your mind, and rejuvenate your spirit. After recharging your batteries, you may see the same situation in a different, more positive light.

  6. Keep Your Options Open.  There are many paths to opportunity, success, and happiness. We can begin by asking ourselves what true success and happiness means and looks like to us, and let our answers show the way. When one path seems to be at a dead end, look another way and see what new openings may be waiting just around the corner. Options can come from consulting the aforementioned board of advisors, thinking outside the box, daring to dream, doing something different, or simply letting go of a habit or condition that has clearly outlived its usefulness. We’re never stuck unless we have blinders on. Keep your options open.  “We must dare to think 'unthinkable' thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.”  - James W. Fulbright

  7. Keep the Faith.  There are many ways to keep your faith alive: Faith in yourself, faith in your place in this world, and faith in answers the Universe has in store for you. Go to places and engage in activities that give you the greatest feeling of inner peace. When you give yourself this gift on a regular basis, what psychologists call the Higher Self emerges, as insights, inspiration, and a sense of deep knowing spring forth from the depth of your soul. The following quote by Anne Frank is just one example: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”   As you immerse yourself in peace, ask: “What if what I’m going through is a blessing in disguise? What greater meaning exists for me now?” Put forth these and any other constructive questions that come straight from your heart. Don’t try to figure out the answers during these moments, but rather “empty your mind” and let the solutions come to you. The answers may come at that moment or later: sometimes when the time is right; sometimes when you least expect them. All you have to do is hold the questions and pay attention.  Keep the faith. Find your peace within, and the answers will come!

  8. Resolve to Never, Ever Give Up.  I once heard a courageous person say that there are no losers in life, except for those who give up on themselves. If you’re still alive and breathing, your purpose in this life time is not yet fulfilled. The great adventure is in discovering what that purpose is, and to live it until your last breath. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably being pulled by an inner calling to do more. That calling is your adventure waiting to happen. What are you waiting for?

And what are you willing to do now?
“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.”
- Wall Street Journal
“If you don’t have the capacity to change yourself and your own attitudes, then nothing around you can be changed.”
- Anwar Sadat
“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”
- Helen Keller

As mentioned at the beginning, if you find this article helpful, please share it with those whom you care about that are in need. There's power in good will reverberated!


About Preston
Preston Ni is a professor, coach, trainer, and course designer in the areas of interpersonal effectiveness, professional communication, cross-cultural understanding, and organizational change.  With twenty years of experience, Preston’s dynamic presentations and powerful coaching have benefited thousands worldwide. He has worked with companies including Fortune 500 stalwarts Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Intel, Visa, and eBay, as well as coached executives, managers, and private individuals to identify their catalyst for success.

Preston received a Master of Science Degree in Business Administration, and is tenured faculty of the Communication Studies Department at Foothill College in Silicon Valley, California. He holds a certificate in the Management Development Program at Harvard University, and is an Alumnus Fellow of the Stanford University Human Rights Education Initiative. His articles and commentaries appear in publications including USA Today, The Oprah Magazine, and Asian Week. He is the recipient of the Diversity Leadership Award in Teaching and Learning, and the inaugural recipient of the Silicon Valley Speak-Up Distinguished Speaker of the Year award.

Preston is the author of “Communication Success with Four Personality Types” and “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People.” He is also keynote speaker on the DVD program “Cross-Cultural Communication: East and West,” featured on the Business and Technology Network and the National Technological University Network.

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