"A person who sets his or her mind on the dark side of life, who lives over and over the misfortunes and disappointments of the past, prays for similar misfortunes and disappointments in the future. If you will see nothing but ill luck in the future, you are praying for such ill luck and will surely get it." – Prentice Mulford
What is your relationship to problems? When problems arise, how do you handle or manage them? How do you react? What impact do problems have on your business or life?
During a networking event I attended this week, a gentleman shared his concern and upset around his job. He's an investment banker and was recently promoted to a position of leadership demanding more responsibility and results than before. He told me that as excited as he was to take the position, he's now completely frustrated with his job. "I can't make this work." "My boss is critical and judgmental." "I don't want to be in this role anymore, but I don't know where else to go." I literally could FEEL his upset and problem.
As he finished sharing his upset, I asked him what his usual response was to a situation like this one. He said, "Well, I'm upset. I don't know what to do. I don't know if that's my 'usual' response, but that's what's happening for me right now." Then I asked him to share another problem he's faced in the past six months and to let me know how long it took to resolve that problem. He shared about a problem at home that just got resolved - it took five months. He then said, "You know <st1:place>Preston</st1:place>, when the problem occurred at home, I did the same thing...I threw my hands up and said 'I don't know what to do and I'm upset'. And worse yet, I avoided it for five months. I did exactly what I'm doing now."
As a coach, that's music to my ears. Here is a successful business professional, committed to producing results for both his company and himself, and dealing with a problem. And, he noticed what he does when a problem arises. He "throws his hands up, says 'I don't know what to do', gets upset and avoids the problem."
Noticing our relationship to our problems is the first step in moving beyond them. We might call it human nature or we might call it what we've been taught, but either way, we learn that problems cause upset and are to be avoided. So we invest a HUGE amount of energy in being upset and avoiding. In the situation above, this investment banker has spent the last three months complaining about his boss and avoiding his colleagues at work. The impact of that complaining and avoiding has been strained relationships at home and work and very little results being produced at work. And the clear future of this situation is that things will only get worse - he's living proof of Prentice Mulford's quote.
Now are you ready to stretch your grey matter a bit? Imagine if this investment banker (or you if this sounds familiar) had a different relationship to problems. Imagine if he were to simply shift his perspective or interpretation of problems from "despair and confusion" to that of "blessing and clarity". What do you think would be possible then?
Here is what I'm pointing to - if we were to shift our perspective from "problem" to "opportunity", we would free ourselves from a future of ill luck, disappointments and misfortunes. Problems and opportunities are NOTHING MORE THAN INTERPRETATIONS.
So how do we do this? It's really quite simple:
· First, write down your problem. Actually get it on paper as this will move the problem from your mind to someplace outside of your mind. This will help diminish the power of your interpretation.
· Next, list three opportunities that exist INSIDE your problem. That's right, opportunities that exist INSIDE your problem.
· Then, list three actions for each opportunity that you can take to move that opportunity forward.
Sounds too good to be true? Let's use an example from our investment banker.
· Problem = "I can't make this job work."
· Three opportunities = 1) I'm more interested in another position, 2) I'm learning more about my strengths and weaknesses, 3) I can improve the relationship with my boss may lead to more fulfillment in my job.
· Three actions for opportunity #3 = a) set an appointment to meet with my boss, b) create 5-7 questions or issues I'd like to discuss in that meeting, c) look at where I'm not taking responsibility for the health of this relationship.
In using this process, we are not setting out to FIX the problem. Rather we are setting out to SHIFT OUR RELATIONSHIP to the problem. To shift our relationship from "being at the effect" to "being at cause" in a given situation. Another way to look at this is shifting from being a VICTIM to being RESPONSIBLE.
In simply shifting our relationship to our problems, we are shifting our future from that of ongoing adversity, disappointments and misfortunes to that of prosperity, satisfaction and tranquility.
The next time you're faced with a problem, consider going through this exercise. You may be surprised how much you'll begin to love your problems.