Problems are So Last Season

I want to talk about something today that shapes every aspect of life – the power of words and perspective.

Specifically, I want to talk about how one phrase can limit our power, while the other can empower us to view life as a journey of growth. Those words are “problem” and “challenge.”

Now, I know what you may be thinking – a single phrase or word, what does that matter? But my friends, language creates mindsets. The words we use shape our actions, relationships and outcomes.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Let’s start with the phrase “it is what it is.” Seems harmless right? But this phrase implies a fixed mindset where we have no power.

“My child struggles in school? It is what it is.”

“My partner and I argue constantly? It is what it is.”

Do you see how dangerous this is? This phrase makes us passive. It excuses lack of effort because we believe things can’t change. But nothing “just is.” The world shapes us, yes, but we also shape it through our choices, perspectives and actions.

So please, strike “it is what it is” from your vocabulary! It disempowers and limits human potential. When you hear it, interrupt and ask “But how can we grow and shape this situation?”

Growth is possible – if we view life as a journey of continuous learning and challenges rather than fixed problems.

And that brings me to our main focus word – “problem.” Like the passive phrase we just discussed, “problem” focuses us on the negative. It primes our brains to see issues as prohibitive burdens.

Just listen to how we use “problem” in everyday speech:

“I have a problem child.”

“We’re having problems in our relationship.”

“My life is just one big problem after another.”

See how problem implies a static dead-end? It evokes a defeated mindset where problems seem set in stone. Nothing could be further from the truth!

With effort and an open mindset, we can turn problems into opportunities for growth. But first, we need to change our language.

Instead of problems, let’s view difficulties as challenges. Challenges are active opportunities waiting to better us. Challenges build character, forge bonds and develop skills.

Let’s reframe those sentences as challenges:

“My child faces behavioral challenges we can work through.”

“We have some challenges to communicate openly in our relationship.”

“My life presents interesting challenges for me to develop new skills.”

Suddenly these difficulties feel navigable. “Challenge” conjures up adventure, self-testing and ultimate victory! Shifting this one word opens up possibility.

And studies show this isn’t just theoretical. Our words shape reality. When we view difficulties as challenges instead of problems, we actually achieve better outcomes!

Let me share a story that opened my eyes to this power. A few years ago, I was leading a team through a website redesign – coordinating multiple complex pieces. It was incredibly challenging!

Deadlines loomed. People felt overwhelmed. And “problem” crept into our vocabulary:

“These site delays are a real problem.”

“We have serious problems getting the tech right.”

“So many problem areas could tank our launch.”

I knew this mindset would defeat us before we even began. So I called a meeting and announced a new rule: every time someone says “problem,” we all do 10 pushups! Silly, I know.

But you know what happened? People started saying “challenge” instead!

Suddenly, obstacles felt surmountable. The team became energized with possibility. Framing our difficulties as challenges rather than problems completely transformed our mindset and approach.

And you know what? We ended up launching early and under budget by embracing those challenges.

I hope this story demonstrates the power words have to shape our reality. When we view everything as problems, life seems full of impenetrable obstacles. But when we reframe difficulties as challenges, our outlook and potential shift dramatically.

Now I know you may be wondering – why do we default to seeing problems everywhere instead of challenges to overcome? I think two core reasons explain this tendency.

First, language habits. We absorb others’ negativity. Media hypes problems rather than solutions. We mirror what we hear without thinking.

Second, self-doubt. When we lack confidence, every difficulty appears 10 times more intimidating. We don’t believe in our potential, so problems feel insurmountable.

Doubt feeds negative language habits and vice versa in a vicious cycle. Ever feel stuck in that spiral?

But take heart, because we can break free simply by making “challenge” our new mantra!

It comes down to building two key habits:

First, carefully monitor our language. Notice when you say “problem?” Interrupt and reframe it as a challenge! Make it a game with friends and family. I still do pushups to remind myself!

Second, build your confidence muscle. View difficulties as opportunities to grow your capabilities. Remind yourself of past victories. Approach new obstacles from a place of courage. Your potential is limitless!

Reinforcing these habits takes practice. But over time, “challenge” becomes your natural mindset – not “problem.” And research confirms this perspective shift improves resilience, relationships, performance and life satisfaction.

Because when couples reframe issues as shared challenges, they handle conflict with more empathy, vulnerability and growth. Can you imagine how much healthier society would be if we all adopted this mindset? There would be less violence and more open-mindedness.

So be the change! Make it your personal mission to erase “problem” from your vocabulary and replace it with “challenge.”

I won’t lie to you, this takes vigilance and patience. Our brains cling to familiar thought patterns. Negativity bias is strong. But with care for ourselves and others, we can nurture this growth mindset.

When you catch yourself seeing problems, don’t judge. Simply reframe gently as a challenge and move forward. Celebrate small wins and find encouragement in community. Together, we can build momentum.

Because with consistent practice, our words transform our thoughts. And our thoughts transform our reality. This is human potential realized!

But shifting perspective is not enough. To fully embody the challenges mindset, we need reinforcing systems. Goals motivate, but systems transform.

Here are 3 systems I recommend implementing in your daily life:

  1. Set reminders. Put “seek challenges!” notes on your mirror. Make your phone background an inspiring image related to challenges. Have affirmations pop up reminding you of your control and potential. Prime your mind.
  2. Discuss with others. Join or form a book club focused on growth mindset. Start a “Challenges Not Problems” club to share setback reframing stories. By socializing this mindset, you strengthen it.
  3. Hype yourself through self-talk when facing obstacles. Say “I live for this!” or “The mountain exists to be climbed” or “I don’t quit, I conquer.” Let your inner voice reinforce your power.

Trying even one of these systems moves the needle. Combined, they transform your mindset rapidly. Soon you’ll seek out challenges and obstacles with zeal, not dread!

So are you ready to make this commitment? To eradicate “problem” and embrace “challenge” as your mantra instead?

If so, stand up right now wherever you are and look around. How many problems do you see? That cluttered closet, your stagnant career, the leaky faucet.

Now, label them challenges instead! Shout out loud: “That’s not a problem, it’s a challenge!” Claim your power over each situation. Go ahead, try it a few times. Feel the shift as you override old language patterns.

Let’s do one together. Say it with me:

“Problems? What problems!? All I see are challenges!”

This is your new reality. With consistent practice, “challenge” will become your automatic mindset.

You’ll enter any difficult situation seeing not problems, but challenges to be conquered. Challenges that will forge your character. Challenges that will make success sweeter.

Challenges you already know deep down you have the power to meet.

This is my vision for us all. I hope that in time, any situation that defaults to “problem” in your mind will immediately be reframed as “challenge” instead.

This won’t happen overnight. Transforming deep mental patterns requires vigilance, self-care and community. But I know you can do it. I believe in your potential.

And when you find your mindset permanently shifted in this way, please share your success story! Write to me about the first time you automatically see difficulties as challenges rather than problems.

Know that your victory will lift and inspire so many others. Because by empowering yourself, you empower humanity.

That’s the true beauty of shifting mindsets – everything is connected. Each insight we gain for ourselves creates ripples, raising consciousness collectively.

So let’s get out there and conquer some challenges, my friends! The world needs this elevated thinking now more than ever. There is so much potential for our lives and society once we erase problem-vision.

Remember, challenges make us stronger. Challenges make life rewarding. Meeting challenges builds confidence and character.

The clock is ticking, and our challenges await, ready to transform us. So now is the time to power up our minds and spirit.

With focus, courage and confidence in ourselves, we can’t lose. Whatever comes our way, we’ll see it not as a problem, but a challenge to embrace.

And that subtle shift makes all the difference.

So believe in yourself. Commit to this path of continuous growth.

Challenges bring out our best. Seeking challenges makes us who we were meant to be.

“We acquire the strength we have overcome.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

So let’s get out there, mess up, learn, and progress together.

The journey continues, my friends. Onward.

October 17, 2023

Marcus Dickinson

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