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Declare War on Your Challenges

I was happily working on an article one day when disaster struck.

The article, as I’d envisioned it, was not going to work and I had already spent hours writing the piece. I felt a twist of dread in my gut when I realized I had veered far from the original bullet points. The outline I’d crafted would have to be scrapped. Further, I worried that what I had already spent time writing would not survive the redirection.

What was really frustrating though is that I had put lots of time into preparing to write the article. I had the required three sources—two books and a CNN article—in front of me. I’d read through the material. I had a vision. Despite this preparation, things fell apart.

Of course after having written hundreds of articles, I’ve run into these kinds of snags before. Normally when an article gives me a hard time, I retreat. I throw in the towel, put the article away and work on something else. Then the next day when my outlook is more optimistic, I pick it back up and try again.

For some reason that day instead of going belly up, I got angry. I decided I would not peacefully acquiesce. Not this time. I resolved to put on my boxing gloves as Dr. Don Greene suggests in his book Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills for Performing Your Best Under Pressure (which I borrowed from the library.)

This was all happening in the early evening and two household chores still needed to be done. A trip to the pharmacy and dinner. I assigned my husband kitchen duty while I walked the seven city blocks to the drug store; not to get away from my problems, but rather to immerse myself in the challenges I faced. As I walked, I vowed that by the time I got back, I’d have that troublesome article eating out of the palm of my hand. I was going to show that uncooperative piece of writing who was boss!

It was war.

Lyrics from that old Colonel Abrams song came to mind: “No, I’m not gonna let/I’m not gonna let/let you get the best of me.” While stopped at lights I scribbled on a piece of paper. I did the same while I was waiting to be checked out at the drug store. On the way back, my mind stayed focused on the challenge.

Several hours later, I read over the finished article, satisfied. I attached it to an email addressed to my editor and thought RIP as I hit “send.”

I had won!

The article had no due date. I could have completed it the next day or even a month later. It’s what we call in journalism an “evergreen,” which means it’s not time sensitive. My purpose for submitting the article that day had nothing to do with an imposed deadline and everything to do with wanting to practice persistence in the face of a challenge.

Now I have the blueprint for how this is done: I identified the problem, declared that I would fix the problem and believed I could fix it. Then I took action, remaining focused until I straightened everything out.

And when I was victorious, I did a little mental celebration.

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