In business and in life, everyone has the rug pulled out from under them. Sometimes we see the warning signs from a mile away. Often, we're blindsided.
In business, it takes only a single contract or proposal loss, a lawsuit, or employee resignation, to send the business into a free-fall. In our personal lives, we're vulnerable to an array of significant upheavals and disruptions.
When the going gets tough, how do we buckle down and power through the problem?
These four actions will help you to maintain progress, even when it feels as if you are standing still. I also share five important questions to ask yourself once you've come out the other side.
1. Adapt the mindset of a marathoner.
In my previous Mindset column, I discussed the importance of choosing to not be a victim. In drawn-out battles, once we accept that we have control over our outcome, we must also quickly switch our mindset from one of a sprinter to one of a marathoner.
Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth discusses the critical importance of "grit" as a long-term success factor. Grit allows us to dig deep for the endurance we need to overcome any challenge that pops up on our way to a goal.
If you are fighting a big battle, your goal is to reach the light at the end of the tunnel stronger than you were before your battle started. Accepting you have a long path in front of you will help you to continuously put one foot in front of the other, no matter how long it takes.
2. Remove the emotion from the tasks to save your energy.
Moving through difficulty can be a highly emotionally-charged event. Feelings like fear, loss of control, anger, hopelessness, and resentment are emotionally draining.
Preserve your valuable energy by keeping your negative emotions in check. Take steps to resolve the negative emotions in a positive way. Confiding in trusted friends, exercising, and journaling are three ways to release the negative emotions.
Also, view your obligations as tasks on a checklist. Uphill battles require us to do a lot of things we don't want to do. Otherwise they wouldn't be battles. Every action you take to move through it is just one more task on a long task list. No emotion attached; just part of the steps forward to put a difficult situation behind you.
3. Celebrate every move forward.
A critical strategy for staying strong through difficulty is perspective. Every step forward, no matter how small, is a victory. Every day you ARE moving closer to the end game, even when you don't feel this is the case. If you compare where you are now with where you were a week ago or a month ago, you will see that there has been progress.
4. Avoid self-pity.
It's easy to fall into a trap of self-pity and self-loathing. "Why me?" is rarely productive. As a cancer survivor, and as someone who has pulled their company from the brink of bankruptcy, I know firsthand that we all face our own reckoning.
Everyone is going through their own battles, and the one you are in now likely won't be your last. Re-direct your energy into getting out of the situation, rather than into sinking further into it. Your mindset must be about victory, not self-pity.
Five important questions to ask
As you move through your battle, consider these five questions:
1. What led you to your current situation?
As Steve Jobs said, it's only after looking back that we are able to understand why dots connected the way they did. How did your situation manifest? Without blaming other people, can you re-trace your steps to this point in time?
2. What steps did you take to extricate yourself from the situation?
In addition to analyzing what got you into your situation, it's important to assess what got you out of the situation.
3. If this situation is a repeat of a previous battle, why did it happen again?
It's been said that history repeats itself until the lesson is learned. What vulnerabilities did you leave open that allowed the situation to repeat?
4. What unexpected opportunities for growth arose from your battle?
Our greatest lessons arise from our greatest difficulties. To quote Steve Jobs (again) in speaking about his ouster from Apple, "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." How have you or your organization grown and changed from your experience? What new opportunities have resulted?
5: How can you avoid this situation in the future?
What are your trigger points for this type of challenge? What can you do to ensure it never happens again?
Battles, no matter how hard and long, are temporary. They don't define us. We must learn to co-exist with the chaos so that it doesn't drown us. And if we're lucky, they'll be instruments for growth, change, and opportunity.