By: Angela Escobar
“Don’t let life’s difficulties and obstacles get the best of you. Stick with it. Improve. Learn. Grow. Go. Persist. Persevere. Never, never quit. Don’t give up. You can do it. You will make it.” – Unknown
We’re all confronted with, and have to deal with, challenges, problems, difficulties, obstacles and inconveniences in life. Handling life’s challenges is challenging and uncomfortable, but can be managed well if we can practice strategies for turning these so-called problems into opportunities. Some of these obstacles may seem overwhelming and even impossible, but with effort and persistence, even the highest mountain can be surmounted by building winding pathways. The following strategies are provided to you in hopes that you will rise to the challenge and realize that you have a unique capacity to shape your life. I myself have tried several of these strategies and have found them to be very helpful in my own personal quest for growth and evolvement. Search around you and within yourself for the kind of growth that will shape and fulfill you. Good luck!
1. Start to believe you can. Think positively. Most people never get what they want because they don’t believe that they can achieve it—plain and simple. Even if you don’t come up with any answers immediately, when you accept that you will find a solution you’ll begin to experience a shift. You’ll go from feeling like you can’t do anything to gaining confidence and “can-do” attitude.
2. Realize that it is a choice—your choice. Whether you believe it or not, you choose how you look at things. You choose your approach. Stop being the victim and take control.
3. Quit blaming others and accept responsibility. Recognize that you are in control of the situation—not the circumstances—and accept responsibility. This is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. Take a minute to recognize your role in the problem. Accept responsibility for how you respond, and recognize that your response upholds a powerful influence on your life. It’s not due to luck, or the way the stars are lined up, your upbringing, your genetics, or your horoscope. Until you accept responsibility you won’t have any reason to change.
4. Shift your focus. Don’t focus on the problems; focus on finding opportunities and solutions. Right action follows the right perspective. Your next move all depends upon how you’re “looking” at what you’re seeing.
5. Get clear about the problem. President Grover Cleveland said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. They can’t even see the problem.” When identifying the problem, be as specific about the nature of it as you possibly can. Be as precise as you can.
6. Determine what it is you truly want to achieve. Brainstorm on paper. Write it down. Think out loud, or bounce ideas off someone else. What is it that you want?
7. Strategize. Think about all the possible ways you can accomplish your goal. Write out all possible solutions and the steps to achieve them. Finally, consider the consequences and benefits of each option, but don’t spend too much time overthinking—start moving as soon as possible. Know from the start that not every possible solution you come up with and try will be a good one—just keep going down the list.
8. Once you have your list of strategies, choose the best one. Corporate executive, David Mahoney, Jr., said, “You’ll never have all the information you need to make a decision. If you did, it would be a foregone conclusion, not a decision.” Gather the best information, make your decision, get to work, and stick with it.
9. Don’t assume. Assumptions create a barrier between ourselves and new possibilities.
10. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. When faced with failure ask yourself: Why did this happen? This helps birth alternative ways of doing what needs to be done.
11. Ignite your imagination. Knowledge is important, but it’s limited to what we currently know and believe to be true. Imagination opens the door to endless possibilities. Even Dr. Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge”. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
12. Take different views of the situation. Exchange ideas with different people who can offer different point of views, ideas, and feedback.
13. Keep moving. Just take action. Do something—anything. Start by saying yes to create momentum and you’ll be on your way. Problems seem more intimidating when we stop to look up at them. Think progress, not perfection.
14. Turning problems to potentials—make this a habit. Seeing every problem that comes your way as an opportunity is easier said than done. Do whatever it takes to keep at it.
15. Be accountable. Give away your accountability and suddenly you’re in a state of helplessness. It is more empowering to be accountable for your own actions and attitude.
16. Be curious. Question everything. Turning problems into solutions requires an insatiable curiosity.
17. Try combining problems. If it seems like problems are piling up and things are getting overwhelming, see if you can blend together or combine problems.
18. Do one thing at a time. Practice giving one task your full attention and completing it before taking on another one.
19. If possible, find the root of the problem, and then think about how you can accomplish your goal.
20. State the problem in different words – it might make it much easier to solve.
21. Be less attached to the outcome. Some people overthink their problems and never make decisions because they want their outcomes to be absolutely perfect. Just relax and try to become less attached to the outcome, then aim your focus on the solution and you’ll produce better outcomes.
22. The 10/90 rule. According to media strategist, marketer, and writer, Ryan Holiday, people who spend 10% of their time, energy and words focused on the negative issues that arise, and 90% of their time focused on the solutions, will be far more successful than someone who does the reverse. Remember to spend only 10% of your energy identifying the negative, and once the problem is clear, spend 90% of your energy on solutions.
23. Try starting backwards. Instead of focusing on the problem, focus immediately on solutions and opportunities. Starting with solutions invites us to imagine and discover creative ways to move toward a future rather than merely overcome or correct the past.
24. Give thanks. Cherish your failures. Relish your problems. As hard as it may be, thank the challenging people that cross your path, for teaching you about yourself and for giving you the opportunity to learn the benefits of a positive mindset. These challenging people that are traditionally viewed so negatively offer an opportunity for personal growth and teach you invaluable lessons that will help you to explore and utilize your brilliance.
25. Watch Your Language. Pay attention to your internal dialogue. Stop yourself before you say things like, “I can’t”, “That’s impossible”, “It’s too hard” or “I already have too much to do”. Change what you say to yourself if you need to by switching to a more positive internal dialogue.
26. Keep a Notebook. Writing your thoughts down will keep you organized. Write out the nature of your problem. When you see a possible opportunity, jot it down in a notebook you keep with you at all times.
27. Work around the problem. You don’t have to tackle the problem head on, especially if it seems larger than life. Sometimes the longest way around is the shortest way home.
28. Be Optimistic Always. If things are going to happen anyway, then might as well make the best of them.
29. Don’t react–respond. When faced with setbacks and challenges, resist knee-jerk reactions. Instead, consider intelligent responses.
30. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Just get it done. “I don’t care if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” — Deng Xiaoping. We spend a lot of time thinking about how things are supposed to be or how things should be. Reality is, things aren’t ever going to be perfect, but that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be. Just get it done.
31. Do It differently every time. Don’t use the same approach for every obstacle you face. Solutions are not a one-size-fits-all. The solution should be as unique as the problem. Build a customized solution for each problem that you face.
32. Always Be Honest. Don’t over-react, over-state, or over-exaggerate. Just state the problem as it is.
33. Keep labels in check. When we label something as a problem, it becomes one. Ask yourself: Is it truly a problem?
34. Know your mission, vision and life purpose. Focus on something bigger than yourself. It helps to be secure in your mission, vision, and life purpose when faced with challenges.
35. Avoid being indecisive. Whenever a problem seems overwhelming, it can be intimidating. You may be questioning yourself and doubting whether or not you chose the best strategy. You may ask yourself if perhaps you made a mistake. Don’t change your mind. Make a decision and stick with it.
36. Your obstacles cannot destroy you. They might delay you, but they can’t destroy you.
37. Take it as feedback. Negative feedback is often more valuable than positive feedback. It can tell us a lot about ourselves, and shows us ways we can improve and change. Positive feedback lets us know we are moving in the right direction. There is no such thing as success or failure – it is all just feedback.
38. Trust and follow the process. A quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” You don’t need to see the whole picture, just take one step at a time, and in the process of moving forward, you will find your way. Take the next immediate step and follow that thread into the next action. You will find yourself moving along, one step at a time.
39. Use leverage- be in control right from the get-go. Always have the upper h and. The best time to do this is during the first few moments whenever you are faced with a new challenge. Once you start going down a negative road, it is much more difficult to reverse your course and start again. Instead, start at the beginning. If you control your first step, you start out in the right direction.
40. Concentrate your attention. Keep it fixed to your star. Motivational speaker and business mentor Peter G. James Sinclair wrote: “Sailors in ages past used the stars to guide them through all weathers upon the vast oceans that they sailed. Because of that they reached their destination.” Don’t let the rough waves and chaos of the waters of life steer you away from what you are trying to achieve. Always keep your eyes on the prize.
41. Use The Obstacle Against Itself. Instead of fighting the obstacle, find a way to make your obstacles defeat themselves.
42. Look for opportunities and picture the possibilities. By investigating our beliefs and modifying our biases, we begin to correct our perceptual blindness. Try to search for the hidden opportunity within your problem. Consider the ones below:
• A chance to step out of your comfort zone. Some people tend to get too comfortable, stagnant, complacent, and even lazy in their personal and work lives. Perhaps this is a chance to finally do something that will force you to step out of your comfort zone.
• A chance to grow and evolve. Conflicts, challenges, and obstacles are essential for growth and evolvement.
• A chance to improve productivity. Work to turn conflict into improved productivity.
• A chance to eliminate old behaviors. Your opportunity may lie not in new capabilities, but in eliminating bad habits and old behaviors that don’t serve and grow us anymore.
• A chance to improve your personal and/or working relationships.
• A chance to clean house. What areas in life do you need to “clean up” and/or “clean out”?
• A warning that there is bad communication. Check to make sure there aren’t any misunderstandings.
• A chance to change your perspective. Perhaps it’s time to look at things through a fresh pair of eyes.
43. If all else fails, just turn it into a game. When we take life too seriously, it’s easy to overreact to situations. Sometimes, it’s just not that serious. Learn to recognize when your problem is truly a serious problem, and when it’s not.
© 2014 Angela Escobar, Moksha Center for Transformative Studies
Photo credit: http://www.koppdelaney.de