How to overcome challenges with ease

So you moved to a new country some time ago. You were so excited about this! You were looking forward to the new adventure, and expected lots of fun, new friends and invaluable experiences. It was like that in the beginning. But then the excitement settles, and you actually try to build a life in that new country. And this is where you have to overcome challenges and things might start to feel a bit heavy.

Overcome challenges with ease

The same could happen if you got married, had a child, moved to a new house, or started at a new job. All those are life events*, which impact us and have an effect on our stress level. Now you might wonder why I am solely including positive changes in life here. I did this on purpose to illustrate that even the positive and desired events of our life can result in a transition phase and potentially lead to inner turmoil and confusion.

So all of a sudden you find yourself feeling stuck instead of being on an adventure! How do you get out of this and emerge stronger?

How to handle situations that change your life as you know it

After the initial excitement ebbs off, you find yourself lost. You are not sure anymore who you are, what you stand for, or what you really want. In a way, you have to reinvent yourself. And while this is super challenging, there is also a vast opportunity to grow through these periods of life.

Appreciate where you are right now

The first thing I want you to appreciate if you are in a situation, where you are struggling right now: it is ok to find it difficult. Even if the struggles are caused by a change that you desired and wished for, you can find it difficult and challenging.

This does not make you weak, not “not good enough”, a loser, or whichever label you might find for yourself. Take it from someone who can relate, because believe me, I have been there big time.

Huge changes happened in my life between 2011 and 2013, which involved marrying, moving to a new country, quitting my job in the “old” country to be able to move with my husband, unsuccessful job search in the new country while my husband was getting into his new job – and then having a baby in 2013. Which added this completely new role of being a mother to my responsibilities – and to my identity as a whole person.

Bouncing back after rock bottom

My self-confidence, self-esteem and enthusiastic nature hit rock bottom in 2015. I simply did not know anymore who I was, what I was really good at, what I truly wanted and desired in life. It took a while, but I pushed through and came out as a stronger, more self-confident, improved version of myself. And you can too!

By successfully mastering a challenge and coming out stronger at the other end, you build up skills – and you can use those same skills again to overcome small and big challenges in life. So let’s look at those skills and explore why it is worth investing in building them up.

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#1 Responsibility

Granted. Staying positive and feeling empowered can be super tough in the face of adversity. And still, this insight

  • that you DO have a choice,
  • that you CAN change your own situation,
  • that you can TAKE the POWER and make the best of it,

might be one of the most important insights you ever have. 

Overcome challenges - When life hands you lemons

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Nothing beats feeling of empowerment, because this is where you go from victimhood to choice. Where you take the driver’s seat in your life and shape it the way you want. Just the awareness that you have that power makes it possible for you to reflect on what you really want and how to make it happen.

Going with the flow is easy. You might disguise it as being spontaneous, a person who is enjoying life and taking opportunities when they show up. It is comfortable. Until it gets uncomfortable and dissatisfying.

Until it results in a feeling of being stuck.

I am talking from experience here. Most of my life, I have gone with the flow. While doing so, I have achieved and experienced quite a bit. I was positive and cheerful, but deep inside never 100% fulfilled. Because the opportunities that came along were good, but they were not excellent. They were not what I truly desired and strived for.

That excellent and aligned opportunity I had to craft myself. I made a conscious decision – or a series of decisions really – on how to thrive and be happy abroad.

The hands-on tip for you

So if you feel stuck and trapped in a certain situation, ask yourself:
In how far do I have a choice? How can I choose to go in a different direction and change something about this?

#2 Courage

“If only I had more self-confidence, then I could have more courage.”
Does this seem familiar to you?

The thing is: if you had more self-confidence, you might not even need the courage. Then it would be easy and not require courage. So what comes first: courage or self-confidence? And if you could pick just ONE: would you pick courage or self-confidence?

You see, this is all about the exciting dynamics between courage, self-confidence, fear and your comfort zone.

Whatever lies within your comfort zone doesn’t take particular courage from your side to do. What is outside your comfort zone, requires courage. And when you have the courage to feel the fear and do it anyway, that in return will grow your comfort zone. AND your self-confidence for that matter.

Was that confusing? Read on and get the more practical approach to it.

Dream big. Take small steps. Start now.

Really, it is all about starting with baby steps.

Imagine that you could grow your courage with 1% each day, or just half a percent if that is what feels within reach for you. This doesn’t seem too scary, does it? It just requires one tiny action each day that is outside of your comfort zone.

Imagine what that approach could do for your comfort zone, self-confidence, and the results you create in your life if you do it 10 days in a row, a month, or an entire year? Just imagine how much closer this would bring you to the life you love.

A practical idea on how to get started

Make a list of things that scare you. Come up with as many as possible. The action can range from “a teeny tiny bit scary” to “that scares the sh** out of me”.

And then pick one of them each day, which you are going to act on!

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#3 Resilience

Resilience is the art of not falling into a deep hole in the face of adversity, but instead stay in control and recover quickly. At the same time resilient people will build up even more strength in the process and surface from crises as an improved version of themselves.

Some ingredients of resilience are a positive attitude, optimism, management of your emotions and the ability to see negative events as an opportunity for growth. This might come easier for some people than for others, and resilience can be learned.

2 very important aspects of resilience are in how far you feel that you have contributed to the situation as it is and to which degree you are in control of the outcome. And the first leads in some way automatically to the other.

If you are aware of the parts that you have contributed through your behavior, through your mindset or through your perspective, you will feel more in control of changing something and influencing the outcome.

2 questions for practical reflection

So if you find yourself in a situation that you find challenging, ask yourself:

  • What is my contribution? In which way might I have caused the situation?
  • How could I respond and act differently to change the situation?

#4 Boundaries

Now, that is a HUGE one.

It comes up all the time. In workshops I facilitate, in different groups I am part of, in client conversations. So let’s take a closer look at what this is all about. 

Overcome challenges - Set boundaries

In a nutshell, setting boundaries is being clear about your preferences, communicating to others where you are at and letting them know how you want to be treated.

The effect of not setting boundaries is that over time you lose yourself, you lose your identity. You are not living your full potential, you are not your most authentic self. If you are not setting your boundaries, at some point you most definitely will feel stuck.

Many of us are primed to please

We have that implicit idea that setting our boundaries is the opposite of being kind, being likeable and being a good friend. So we don’t. While in fact, setting your boundaries will make you more respected, less ambiguous and more reliable.

Let me explain. I am so totally guilty of being a pleaser. At this stage I would call myself a “recovering pleaser”. Through all the work on self-awareness, breaking limiting beliefs, getting over patterns that don’t serve me (any more), I have become much better at setting boundaries. One situation I am still sometimes thinking of happened in 2007. At that time, my now husband Henrik and I lived in the Netherlands, and my two sisters wanted to celebrate New Year with us in the Netherlands. So did a group of friends.

If you don't know what you want, you can't set your boundary

Now, one thing you should know about me: I LOVE having visitors. And I had (and still at times have) a really hard time saying ‘no’ to people I love and want to spend time with. Time that is rare when you live in different countries. So when they enthusiastically told me their plans, I was like “yes, that would be so cool!” To both of them – sisters and friends. It all culminated in a situation, where

a) I had waited way too long to get clarity on what I really wanted
b) I had failed to communicate to either the group of friends or my sisters that unfortunately we cannot celebrate New Year together – in good time
c) they both had made arrangements to come
d) there was heaps of confusion and disappointment and hard feelings etc. on what was actually going on

Can you see how me setting boundaries would have made me so much more respected, less ambiguous and more reliable? My inability to decide between two options, which I both loved, and then set boundaries accordingly, had caused a lot of troubles. For myself and others.

So how DO you set your boundaries?

Reversing the learnings from my story, here are three steps on how to set your boundaries:

1: Get clear on what you want. What is most important to you?
2: Communicate your preference to whoever it needs to be communicated to.
3: Do this consistently, if the situation requires it. If you sometimes do set your boundary, and at other times you don’t – you confuse people.

Sounds easy, right? And I know that it is not. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel you are succeeding in this tomorrow. It is a life-long process, a cycle of self-awareness, ownership and courage.

Key Take-aways

Discovering, designing and leading the life you love is an exciting journey, on which you are going to meet many challenges. The four skills here are definitely a good companion.

Here are the key points that I really want you to take with you:

  • More often than not, you do have a choice.
  • When you are scared of something, go for it. It is probably powerful.
  • The path to success is not a straight line. If you fall, get up and go on.
  • Get clear on what you really want, how you want to be treated and let people know.

Which of these skills do you already excel in?
Which one would you like to focus on improving?

Share in the comments below, send me an e-mail or send me a message.

Be happy abroad. Create the life you love away from home.

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* The science nerd part in me wants to add a note here on the actual research in this field. Both positive and negative life events can shake our life to the core, because they mean change. You have to adapt to a new role, a new setting, a new environment. This creates insecurity, instability and might make you doubt yourself. Too many of those life events coming together can cause serious stress. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a ranking of how much different life events contribute to our stress level. While the first six life events on the scale are negative or event traumatic ones, marriage for example – which you would think is a quite positive happening in your life – comes in as number 7 with a score of 50. And hey, even a vacation is on there with a score of 13!!

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