Adversity is a common experience that leaders encounter. It could be situations with your employee's engagement and performance, difficult clients, stress-inducing financial constraints, business competition, work-life balance difficulties, or even personal health matters.
When adversity arrives at your doorstep, two options will present themselves. One will lead to growth and the other will lead to stagnation and mounting frustration.
These two options aren't separated by much. In fact, the difference lies within your mindset. Those who choose the growth option focus on a simple three word philosophy: focus on possibilities.
Far too often, when less-than-ideal circumstances present themselves, there's a tendency to not focus on possibilities, but instead, to focus on problems.
Why you shouldn't focus on problems.
It may seem counterintuitive to not focus on problems when an issue is present. But, when you focus on problems, your mind wanders toward negativity, which only then, prompts you to focus on even more problems.
Operating with a problem-centric mentality can drastically decrease your motivation and overall mood. For example, I use to think the world was out to get me--it was me against everyone else. Lo and behold, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy where I had little-to-no relationships and was generally closed off to the world.
Another key issue with problem-centric thinking is it prevents you from fully taking control of your life. If you view a problem as externally thrust upon you, this can make it feel as if life is not in your control. In the face of change, you run the risk of feeling hopeless in changing your circumstances.
Stating that you want to focus on possibilities (and solutions) instead of problems is easier said than done. However, to begin the process isn't akin to learning quantum physics. You can begin your mental shift of focusing on possibilities by incorporating these three habits:
1. Get clear about your current reality.
This seems like a no brainer, but as I learned years ago, application and knowledge are on opposite ends of the pendulum. Therefore, the first step is to get crystal clear on how things are.
An example of an ugly reality I had to deal with was my overall business structure and strategy (or lack thereof, in all honesty). In this stage, it's important to not confuse problems with symptoms.
In health, someone will have weight gain (i.e. the problem), but the symptoms can be inflammation or dietary choices. In business, there could be a lack of profit, but the symptoms can be incongruent messaging or lack of systems.
Get to the root cause.
2. Find time for solitude
French mathematician and theologist, Blaise Pascal famously stated back in the 1600's that, "all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
Often times, your ability to think and perform better is hampered simply because you're cognitively overloaded and compromised.
Schedule time for daily periods of intentional solitude free of smartphones and various devices to check in mentally and emotionally with yourself along with brainstorming big ideas.
3. Ask yourself better questions.
I remember when adversity struck or in general, when something didn't go my way, I always asked: "why me" or something similar. And with consistency, after asking these types of self-pity questions, I gained zero insight but added more stress and worry to my life.
Over time, I learned that the quality of your life will greatly be determined by the quality of your questions.
As Tony Robbins states, "Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers."
To start asking quality questions and get away from a problem-centric mentality, avoid questions that mainly focus on the reason or the problem in general. Also, avoid asking questions that bait you into a state of self-pity.
For example, a question I love to ask myself along with clients as their pursuing various goals is "Who do I have to be to make [insert your desired result] happen?"
This is specific, future-focused, empowering, and gets your brain seeking solutions instead of limitations and problems.
If you focus on problems, you'll only get more problems. But, if you begin to focus on possibilities, you just might receive some miracles.