Hovering high over the city is the largest cast iron statue in the world: Vulcan, Roman god of Fire and Forge.
I was riding past Vulcan and thinking about this year’s social work month theme “Forging Solutions Out Of Challenges”.
Two thoughts came to mind:
- Where are Vulcan’s pants?
- Changing all that iron ore into a statue must have been really hard.
Let’s leave thought number one alone and focus on number two.
When I looked at the Vulcan statue, I thought about all of the challenges that must be overcome to change (forge) iron ore (a challenge) into an epic statue (solution).
Think about what has to happen:
- Iron ore must be mined from the earth.
- Then the iron ore is heated to a high temperature to extract it from the rock.
- The melted iron is then cast into a mold, creating it’s new shape.
Maybe you’ve got your own iron ore-like challenges to work on:
- You’ve decided to pursue your MSW while continuing to work full time.
- You’re struggling to find your first social work job after graduation.
- Your family life suffers because of your overwhelming work duties.
Regardless of where you are in your life and career, one thing is certain:
If you are going to be effective helping clients overcome challenges in their lives, you’re going to need to do the same for yourself.
In today’s post, you’ll learn 7 proven ways you can forge solutions to your own challenges.
So what do we mean by forging?
Your first thought may have been something like this:
I think NASW had something more like this definition in mind:
make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it.dictionary.com
Before the blacksmiths of the world begin educating me on the difference in forging steel vs casting iron, let me stop you . . . we are using a loose metaphor here. Just go with it. : )
Forging Social Workers = Changing Social Workers
If you want to forge a solution to a challenge, you probably want to change something in your life.
One of my all time favorite books on change is:
Switch: How To Change When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.
I’ve gushed about the Heath brothers before. In Switch, the brothers outline strategies backed by science that increase the likelihood of change happening.
Let’s checkout some of their “forging” framework.
1. Find Your Bright Spots
Any social worker worth their salt is good at finding strengths in their clients. Do the same for yourself. Identify where you’ve had success in the past. Collect data on yourself and increase your time spent in strengths-based activities. Obsess about your success.
Challenge: Your annual performance appraisal included three outstanding ratings and one less than average rating.
Bright Spot: Focus on the ratings where you have strong scores and focus on spending more time in those activities.
2. Script Your Critical Moves
Start by thinking big picture. But when it becomes time to work on a solution, think small and concrete. Focus on the specific behaviors and next actions you can take. What is the first or next step you can take? Schedule those first one, two, or three steps.
Challenge: You need to finish filing your 2015 taxes.
Critical moves: (1) Gather all W-2s and tax documentation, (2) turn on computer, (3) login to Turbo Tax.
3. Shrink The Change
Big challenges can overwhelm you. Taking small steps . . . not so scary. Sometimes you may need to shrink down your change really, really small to get started.
Challenge: You want to run a half marathon by year’s end, but you are out of shape.
Change Shrink: You know how to walk. Start by walking for ten minutes everyday at lunch.
4. Adopt a Growth Mindset
Change often involves learning something new. You should never give up just because you don’t immediately succeed. When you are struggling to learn something new, your self-talk should be “I just haven’t figured it out yet”. Research studies show that when you develop this mindset and grit, your outcomes improve significantly.
Challenge: You’re struggling to catch up on using the new electronic health record software.
Growth Mindset: You learned to use Gmail and Facebook, you will catch on with the EHR the more you use it.
Need a little more inspiration? Check out this short video about growth mindset:
5. Begin With The End in Mind
Physical creation follows the mental creation. Start with visualizing the solution, or where you want to end up. Got your vision? Good! Now work backwards from there (also known as backwards goal setting).
Challenge: You need to plan and hold a successful social work month conference.
End in Mind: Imagine conference attendees smiling and raving about your awesome conference and giving glowing evaluations.
6. Tweak The Environment
Your environment significantly impacts your ability to change. When you change your environment, you alter triggers that cue the undesired behavior that needs changing.
Challenge: You’ve gained weight because you buy and eat doughnuts every morning on the way to work.
Environment Tweak: Change your driving route so you avoid the doughnut shop completely.
7. Build Habits
Change happens more easily when you create habits that support the desired change. Habits, once set, don’t require as much energy to implement or maintain.
Challenge: You get sidetracked every morning while responding to seemingly urgent email.
Habit: Avoid checking email and voicemail during the first hour of work.
Social work month is the time to recognize and celebrate the value social workers at all levels add to society:
This month is also a time to connect and draw on strengths from your colleagues.
If you are reading this article, you are part of a community of hundreds of social workers who want to succeed personally and professionally.
Challenges will arise in your life and career that need solutions.
Use the strategies suggested in this article to begin forging solutions out of your challenges.
Now get to forging!
Sign up for updates at SocialWorkerSuccess.com and share this article with another social worker on Facebook.