As a therapist, I often hear clients talk about struggling.

In fact, most all of us do use this word – struggle – often.

Life presents challenge and we struggle. We struggle with knowing what to do next. We struggle with difficult emotions. We struggle with how to handle situations.

Ever watched ballroom dancing? I’m no professional dancer, but I can watch and observe the ebb and flow. The give and take. The pauses and then the bursts of energy. The harmony.

Ah…. there’s the difference between struggling and dancing!

When we struggle there is tension, pushing and pulling. Struggling conotes a furrowed brow, a white-knuckled grip.

When we dance there is a harmonious flow, blending and cooperation.

So what would this look like to dance with life’s challenges? How about this 5 step plan…

1. Challenge arises. Be with it. When a challenge arises, first, consider it a puzzle to be solved. A feat to be faced. Rather than bowing up with resistance, try to accept that it is here and simply have a look.With mindfulness practice, we are able to gently observe what is happening without reaction or judgment. Just gentle observation.

2. Feel the Rhythm. Now that you’ve noticed the challenge and are just hanging out with it sans reaction, go inward. Take note of sensations in your physical body. Scan for unnecessary tension. See if you can allow the tension to release and soften. Make a note of emotions that are stirring around and breathe into the feelings, noticing the physical sensations that go along with them. Just notice without acting or reacting. Feel your body in space just as a dancer does. Feel the pulse of life in your body.

3. Survey the dance-floor. Consider your options. What is possible? What is within your control? What is outside of your control? What is in the best interest of all involved? What are the consequences of the various choices?

4. Choreograph your plan. Now that you’ve outlined all your options, measure your steps. Consciously choose which course of action you will take and begin mapping it out.

5. Go with the flow. Allow your plan to be the framework for your dance but allow there to be flow. When the factors of the challenge intensify, you can grow softer and move with that intensity rather than matching it with resistance. When the factors of the challenge back down and ease up, you might lean in and take the lead with action.

The key to dancing with life’s challenges is harmonizing. Know when to give. When to take. When to move and when to be still. This is the dance.

The next time you hear yourself saying “I’m really struggling…” take pause. Take a breath. Consider shifting that mind-set and even changing the language to reflect a choice to dance with it rather than struggle.