By Arthur Menard-Calenge, CEO of SPARTAN.
No matter how well you plan your next venture or project, you will find yourself dealing with problems, setbacks and uncertainties. As an entrepreneur since my early 20s, I have faced my fair share of those, with a high level of commitment. So I am well-placed to know that it can be a huge source of negative stress and how much this can hurt your productivity.
Over time, I have developed a habit of going through these steps whenever a potential source of stress arises. And I have virtually banned negative stress from my life.
Always Start by Asking Yourself: 'Do I Have Control Over This?'
Most of the time, we are sulking over issues we don't have any control over. "Will this colleague get the promotion and become my new boss?" "Will this company accept our buying offer?" "Will this storm crash our plane?"
Start by asking yourself if you have control over the source of stress. If you have very little or no control over it, then realize there is absolutely no point in stressing over it. Not only it will not make things any better, but it will also negatively impact the other areas of your life. If you think about it logically, it is actually counterproductive to sulk about a potential issue you don't have control over.
Now, what if you do have control? What if the source of your stress is whether or not you will manage your presentation well in front of top management or perform well during an interview? Then, good! You have control over it, so it is time to trust yourself. You know you will do the necessary steps in order to overcome the challenge. You know that if this is important enough for you to be a source of stress, you will work as best as you can to succeed. Anxiety has no place here.
Live in the present and have faith in future you to take care of this issue.
Think About Solutions Rather Than Problems
Now, what if the setback seems just too huge for you to believe you will handle it correctly? As I was starting my MBA, the program director told us on the first day what became one of my most valuable management (and self-management) lessons: "Don't ever come to me with problems. Come to me with solutions."
I believe this way of thinking can completely change your perception of setbacks, personally or for the people you manage. Instead of focusing on the negativity (the problem) train yourself to always think about the potential solutions.
No problem has ever been without a solution. If we managed the Cuban Missile Crisis or Chernobyl, then surely whatever you are facing can be dealt with. Forcing yourself to think of a solution instead of focusing on the problem will help you open up to alternative ways of thinking.
If the source of your stress is a potential negative outcome, start by listing out all the downsides that would follow and think of the steps you can take to set this right. Often, you will find that things are less terrible than you would think and also that it is fairly easy to get back on track if they do occur. No matter what, remember that the problems are not important. What counts is the way you solve them.
Realize That Every Problem Is an Opportunity to Improve
Jocko Willink is a legend in the Special Operation World and the commander of SEAL Team Three's Task Unit Bruiser. Under his leadership, it became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit. Jocko had one way to respond when one of his team members would come up to him with the usual: "Sir, we have a problem!"
In the world of elite military operations, having a problem means that you are not dead, which is already quite good news. Dealing with it gives you the opportunity to learn, correct it and do better next time.
This thinking also applies to the regular business or your personal life. Every problem is an opportunity to improve your organization, to set things right or to experience and learn something new. The magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Embrace uncertainty and discomfort and you will get the most out of your present.
Arthur Menard-Calenge is CEO of SPARTAN, the 1st high-tech undies that shield your nuts from cell phones. Writes on improving self-efficiency on www.arthur.business.