Overcoming Challenges One Step at a Time

April 5, 2021

Louis Tay

Many challenges in our lives can seem insurmountable.

During this time, different challenging questions run through our minds, some of which may be all too familiar: How can I make it through the semester? How can I find a job amid a pandemic? How can I find my mental equilibrium when I’ve been so depressed? How can I ever break my addiction?

When put in that light, these challenges appear ever so daunting. We feel inadequate and incapable.

But we are not alone in these struggles, and many people who have gone before us have successfully worked through life’s challenges. We can draw on their wisdom and modern psychology to find the way through.

In the fourth century B.C., Chinese Philosopher, Lao Zi, points out that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In a time where most people got around by walking, a thousand miles was an incredible journey – a seemingly impossible task. But the advice here to overcome this challenge is two-fold. First, making a small start is need not be hard. Second, and importantly, goals and challenges can be broken down into manageable steps.

Modern psychology on successful goal setting and goal achievement return us to the same ancient principle. Turn a large complex challenge into specific proximal goals. Moreover, taking small steps to achieve your specific proximal goals can build self-efficacy and confidence to take your next step in the process.

Consider the example of finding a job. Break down the components of it into a checklist and even a sub checklist. One specific task is putting together your resume. You can allocate days on your calendar to put together an initial draft. Then, you might schedule time with Purdue CCO, who can provide you guidance and feedback on your resume. Later on, you can allocate more time to polish it up. By taking a step at a time, you will find it more manageable and even enjoyable.

I hope this provides a path forward in overcoming whatever challenges you face.

Be well,

Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science.  Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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