Despite our best efforts, everyone encounters challenges that seem insurmountable. Procrastinating, worrying or wishing the challenge never presented itself only wastes precious time. Instead, apply these three steps to overcome them.
1. Get out of your head. When presented with a challenge, the stress often feels all consuming which hinders your ability to think clearly and generate a viable solution. Separating yourself by doing a stress-relieving activity or taking a well-deserved break will help you put things in perspective later. When writer’s block paralyzes my ability to brainstorm compelling content, I step away from my computer and into a yoga class to clear my mind. This enables me to return to my work rejuvenated and ready to generate content. Taking a walk, listening to your favorite music or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend are easy ways to set the obstacle aside.
2. Focus on the facts. Once you’ve cleared your mind, it’s time to consider what you can actually control and list all facts. For example, if the head of sales never earns her annual bonus because some of her sales rep’s aren’t performing to their potential, she must consider first what is within her control, e.g. managing, motivating, mentoring, reviewing, sales call-shadowing, etc. Forcing her team to produce is not within her control, so she must focus on indirect ways to drive performance, which she can control.
Listing all facts eliminates assumptions, false beliefs and other unproductive messages. Examining actual sales vs. quotas; the number and type of sales training implemented—if any, and the level of her employees’ engagement are facts that will fuel a viable solution.
3. Analyze and act! Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Now that we’re armed with accurate information and acutely aware of what we can control, we take action to develop a solution to the obstacle. The fourth and final step of Dale Carnegie’s techniques for analyzing worry is, ‘Write out and answer the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- What are the causes of the problem?
- What are the possible solutions?
- What is the best possible solution?’
By honing in on the actual probelm and identifying its root causes, we can begin to generate and evaluate solutions. For example, consider an employee whose burgeoning workload is the obstacle preventing him from being a candidate for promotion. The root causes are the fact that a colleague recently resigned and her work was redistributed, and the employee’s responsibilities have doubled since he began a few years ago.
Listing possible solutions, e.g. having a one-on-one with his manager to cite concerns and propose alternatives arrangements such as assigning some of his tasks to lower-level team members whom he could mentor. Proposing this solution not only solves the issue of being overwhelmed, but strengthens his candidacy for promotion because mentoring demonstrates leadership.