Olympian Alexi Pappas’ Secrets for Handling Challenges (and they’ll work for you too!)

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Facing challenges and adversity is something we all experience, no matter our chosen path in life. In fact, it’s safe to say that there will always be things in our professional and personal lives that are outside of our control.\
Alexi Pappas shared her tips for dealing with difficult situations head-on in our recent Pivot: Shift Ahead interview. An Olympian who participated in the 10,000-meter run in the 2016 games in Rio, Alexi has a lot of experience in training herself to persevere through tough times. Her experiences first translated into the book Bravey. She’s now published Bravey (Adapted for Young Readers), which is less of a memoir and more of an instructional read. Although this version is great for children, all of us can benefit from what she shares. After all, we all expend energy pursuing things we can’t fully control. The type of energy we use can be changed for the better.
Alexi had to learn largely on her own how to chase big dreams, care for her mental wellbeing, and handle the feelings that come with the world seeing her differently than she saw herself. With that in mind, she wanted to help others by sharing how she’s successfully navigated these scenarios through mindset adjustments, shifting her perspective, and other tips and tricks. While you wait for your own copy of Bravey (Adapted for young readers) to arrive (and you should definitely order this book for yourself or someone you love!), consider the advice she shares below:
1. Things are unpredictable – in life and in sports.
There are always going to be unexpected things that arise. Difficulties are a given. However, there are things you can do to ensure you’re as prepared as possible. Have a plan. Then, be aware of the things that can influence your desired outcome. Alexi, for example, knew that there was a possibility that she could get lapped at the Olympics by a fellow runner who was expected to make a world record. When it happened, she was prepared for it and able to carry out her initial plan. Other runners, however, had not considered this scenario and it impacted their performance – they either crumbled under the pressure or tried to keep pace with the world record holder. Neither situation was ideal.
2. Embrace some of the unknowns and unexpected things.
Unexpected outcomes are not always bad, but we often think of them in this way. Seeing the unknown as a reason that things will go right requires a mindset shift. Alexi experienced this firsthand as an Olympian. After all, the Olympics aren’t like any other race she’s ever run. When she looked at the Olympics through a different lens, she was able to embrace its differences and enjoy them, rather than allow them to make her fearful in the moment.
3. It’s not you versus the world.
An abundance mentality can help us to navigate challenging times because it removes the fear of others succeeding at our expense. Alexi learned to look at races as experiences where she was in it together with her fellow competitors. Her goal became to do her best, but to do that, it wasn’t necessary to be the best. And she stopped assuming that everyone around her was having a better or easier experience than she was. Alexi recognized that she could only understand what she was going through. It was likely that each and every person surrounding her had their own struggles.
4. Know your “why”
Alexi found that to face adversity head on, she needed to know what her “why” was. In other words, she needed to know why she was putting herself through the challenges. And she found that what made the tough times tolerable were the check-ins where she could reflect on the work she was putting in along the way. Alexi recognized that she couldn’t have amazing results all of the time. Instead, she set expectations that her performance would be evenly distributed between great, mediocre, and terrible outcomes. With her “why” in mind, this realistic approach to the impossibility of perfection enabled her to be okay with her results.
Like Alexi, we all have the ability to face challenges and come out the other side. Sure, things may feel messy at times. However, the growth we can experience from dealing with difficulties with a positive mindset and perspective shift is worth it. Seek it out and don’t fear it.
Where can you apply these tactics to your own lives?
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