Ever been in such big trouble that it feels like you’re at the bottom of a dark pit full of problems? I’ve realised that whenever problems come my way, I tend to settle into problem-thinking instead of solution-thinking. Do you know the difference? You should.
I was recently listening to a Catalyst Podcast episode where Dr Henry Cloud, co-author of the book Boundaries, was being interviewed. The man had gold to give, and I came away with bags of it! This is what he said about how to handle problems.
When people fail at a venture, they tend to have three common responses:
It’s personal – the problem is because of me (I’m not a good enough speaker, or leader, or person, etc.)
It’s pervasive – the problem isn’t just with this isolated event, it’s with everything I’m doing. “It’s all hopeless! What was I even thinking? The whole shebang is doomed to fail!” … Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
It’s permanent – the problem is never going to change. This leads people to either cut their losses and jump ship, or buckle up resignedly for a long, boring journey along the road of mediocrity.
As a cutting edge leader, you need to guard against this kind of thinking! Granted, a problem may be personal, pervasive and permanent (chances are it isn’t) , but the real problem is that this way of thinking is defeatist. If the whole system is broken, if it’s never going to change, and if some inalienable quality of yours is responsible for it, then why not give up right now? But, if things can change, then there’s hope – and with it, new energy, vision, and creativity. It all depends on your point of view.
So this is what Henry Cloud advises. Write out two columns:
1. Everything that’s out of my control. Write it all out. Worry about it, hard, for 5 minutes. Then move on.
2. Everything that I’m in control of and that’s directly related to outcomes. Focus on these things. (There normally aren’t as many points as you thought there’d be.) Make action steps, delegate, organise teams to help with the tasks. You’ll feel so much better as you see the things on this list getting ticked off one by one.
If you can keep yourself accountable to these steps, and if you can keep those around you and under you accountable to these steps, you will see great productivity.
I hope this helps you escape that hole, next time you catch yourself sliding down into the slimy pit of problem-thinking.
What advice do you have to replace problem-thinking with solution-thinking? Let us know!