Life, as we all know, often doesn't go the way we expect. That seems especially true for entrepreneurs and their families.
Along the path of uncertain finances, hard decisions, and overstretched capacity, it's easy to feel stuck at times. Like there's no right choice, no easy escape from a tough business decision or a contentious disagreement.
The default response to feeling stuck is usually to feel frustration, resentment, even despair. But, according to marriage-family therapists and executive coaches I interviewed, there's another way to approach such challenges.
And it starts with one question: What is the opportunity in this?
There is always something to be gained
If your business is flailing, or your marriage has gone cold, or you're having trouble connecting with your kids, you can still ask this question. You can dig deep within yourself, look at the resources surrounding you, and see what there is for you in this situation.
The opportunity may not always be what you expect, but there is always something to be gained from a situation. Perhaps it's a chance to develop important character traits like patience, humility, and persistence. Perhaps it's an opportunity to learn a new skill. Perhaps it's a chance to reach out and ask for help.
That's why one therapist I know says the best cure for resentment is "curiosity and wonder." Resentment results when we feel disempowered in our lives, when reality falls far short of expectation and we feel unable to do anything about it.
We have more choices than we realize
But when we are open to the possibility that something positive can come out of even the toughest situation, we suddenly find ourselves with choices. We can choose to change our perspective. We can choose to try something new. We can choose to try to better ourselves.
Entrepreneurs are marked by their creativity and their dogged pursuit of opportunity. And there is no greater impetus for thinking outside the box than when you are stuck or struggling.
As nationally renowned social scientist Brené Brown writes, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change."
Personal growth and change are always possible
Every entrepreneurial couple I know reaches a point in their relationship when they have two distinct options: stick with the status quo or try something new.
Those who choose the latter usually end up with healthier work-life balance, more effective communication strategies, and a stronger support network--outcomes they didn't know were possible before.
But even if that doesn't happen, they will still have learned something new in the process, which is a major improvement over the same old resentment and conflict.
We often cannot control the circumstances around us, and we certainly can't control other people. But we can choose our own response.
We can choose to perceive hardship as a signpost pointing us toward something unexpected. We can keep ourselves curious about what we can gain. We can broaden our definition of opportunity and success to include who we and our loved ones are becoming through life's ups and downs.
No matter what you may be facing at work or at home, keep your eyes open and searching. There is certainly an opportunity for you in the making.