Problem or Opportunity?
Frustrated with her workload and the demands on her time, my client, a thoughtful, budding entrepreneur, called me to schedule a half day strategy session. She complained about being in the weeds in her business, knee deep into managing her team, stuck in circles, and not getting ahead.
She knew she had to find a way through.
Like many leaders who are responsible for making things happen, this busy entrepreneur was swimming with ideas on how to continue to grow and *most importantly* scale her business. She needed help sorting out her multitude of thoughts, getting herself out of her head, and paving a path forward.
Before we got into the nuts and bolts of mapping out a vision and clarifying her starting point, I needed to remind her of something very important.
I asked her to take a step back and recognize, “Where did you start from and how far have you come?”
Three years earlier, when I first met my client, she was an executive assistant wanting to leave her job and start her own business. Her idea was to provide virtual administration services to executives in small and mid-sized organizations.
She asked if this was even a thing. After 17 years of working in an industry that utilizes virtual assistants, I let her know with a resounding YES – this is a THING! And, YES – you can do it!
She ran with her business idea, and here she is 3 short years later, with a new problem to solve.
On that day, my client was reminded of the mini empire she built and what it took to get there. She was reminded of how she has found clients and built a team to support them. She was reminded of what she has learned along the way, and how she’s done an amazing job of figuring out what she didn’t know.
Now, she’s got a whole new problem to solve. It’s a problem that SHE created for herself. Dare I say, it’s a high-quality problem to have too!
As we reminisced on where she came from to where she is now, I shared an analogy with her.
“Behind each door of opportunity, you’ll often find a problem to solve. And, behind each problem, you’ll find a door of opportunity. What you focus on, where you put your energy matters. How you choose to look at this situation will make all the difference to how you choose to move forward.”
“I’m struggling doing it all and I need help to figure out how to scale and grow my business!”
If we look at it closely at her problem, it isn’t a problem at all. It’s actually an OPPORTUNITY. It’s an opportunity to explore and consider how to grow her business – in a way that supports her and doesn’t exhaust her.
By shifting her perspective from problem to opportunity, she was able to shift her energy from frustration to creativity. From frustration to excitement of what’s possible for her and her business.
When she looked at it this way, it wasn’t a problem that needed to be solved, it was an opportunity for her to explore possibilities. It was from that place that she shared her ideas for moving forward and we began to map out a plan that energized her.
What’s the mental model on how you view problems?
Just like my client, we each have a mental model – our unique view of the world – that guides our thinking, directs our decision making, and prompts our actions.
You’ve created your own mental model about problems and opportunities that is built upon your everyday experiences from birth until now. How you react and respond to problems has become entrenched in how you were conditioned to think about them when they present themselves. Left unexamined, our mental models – or mindsets – control us.
Carl Jung warns of this in his famous quote:
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."
Successful people assess and adjust their mental models on how they view the world, and their unique experiences in it. So it’s worth considering how you view problems and determine whether or not there is room to develop a new mental model.
How do you tend to view problems? Are you a Door #1 or a Door #2 person?
Door #1 - Do you see problems as something that shouldn’t be there? Something you should avoid altogether? Do you get frustrated by them? Allow them to drain your energy? Bury them under a rug, or shame yourself for having the problem in the first place?
Door #2 - Or do you simply see problems as something that needs to be solved? Or better yet, as an opportunity waiting to be explored?
When your next problem presents itself, I challenge you to reflect on these questions:
“How am I choosing to view this problem?”
“What opportunity does this problem present for me?”
Let me know how shifting from a problem mindset to an opportunity mindset made a difference for you. I'd love to hear from you.
Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.
Grow as a Leader and Thrive as a Team!
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