Life is full of challenges and difficult situations. Of course, you know that. You also accept it. If nothing else, dealing with tough situations is a learning experience: you grow and mature as a person.
Knowing that doesn’t always make the task ahead any easier. Some obstacles can seem to be insurmountable (and might even be).
A course of action can help you through that difficult time. Her are my 3.5 steps to help you overcome obstacles at home or at work.
1. Maintain proper perspective. How big–really–is the problem? Some are, of course. But many just seem huge at the time. Often if you just wait a few hours, or over night, you’ll see the issue in a whole new light.
Years ago my car suffered what I felt was a serious problem. It was night, and I was wrapping up a lengthy drive from another city. As I got close to home the car started to sputter and lose power. I chugged along for a few moments, then decided to pull over. It was around 10:00 p.m and I was about a mile from home. Frantic, I called a friend for suggestions, but he couldn’t do anything.
Eventually I called for a tow and went home.
The next morning I thought I’d try to drive it. Surprisingly, it turned over right away and idled smoothly. I immediately drove to a service station.
That event taught me a valuable lesson and a new outlook on life. When an issue arises, sometimes it’s best to walk away for a bit. Even sleep on it. I couldn’t do anything about my car problem that night, so why allow myself to get even more worked up?
Funny how the new day can put a new perspective on an issue. Keep this in mind the next time you face an obstacle. If you can’t resolve it right away, set it aside for a while. Move onto another project or issue (ideally one you can accomplish), then come back to the earlier problem. It may not seem that bad after all. You’ll experience less stress and worry overall.
2. Create an agenda. An odd suggestion for sure, but try it. I talk about agendas in another post. Just as an agenda brings order to you professional day, it also allows you to manage personal matters. That order is useful when you’re faced with a difficult situation.
In difficult times an agenda helps you to focus on one issue. Too often your mind is racing as it contemplates a multitude of concerns. It’s best to focus on one item through to its conclusion (if possible). Your agenda will show time blocks for the various topics. You are forced to devote a certain amount of time on one project before moving on to the next. You can budget more time later in the day, but it’s important to work on only one matter at a time. Doing so will allow you to accomplish something. While it may be only a limited amount, the fact that you achieved anything will in itself feel like an accomplishment. That’s better than none at all.
3. Attack the most challenging or unpleasant issue first. Too often we procrastinate on the difficult or unpleasant tasks. They won’t go away, as you know. Instead, they remain and just fester under the surface. You can’t get it out of your mind, thereby increasing the stress level. While it feels better momentarily to avoid them, the effect becomes multiplied the longer you put off the issue.
That’s why I suggest starting with the worst item. Put that first on your agenda. As noted above, you’re likely to take care of at least part of that tough situation. Because you’re using an agenda, you should be focused on one item at a time. Force all other issues out of your mind.
Try to eliminate all distractions. Seal yourself off in a room. Put your phones to voicemail, and turn off the ringers. Log off all web programs and other applications not needed for the task at hand. If you concentrate best with some music playing, that’s OK. But keep the volume low, and by all means do not listen to talk radio.
3.5. Reward yourself. If you followed these steps, you will have accomplished something, perhaps a lot. Ideally the original issue is taken care of. If not, it’s at a more manageable stage. Most importantly, you feel better. Now it’s time to congratulate yourself.
Go for a jog or swim. Treat yourself to a good meal or decadent dessert. Pop a good CD or DVD in the player. Regardless of which route you choose, give yourself a break from those issues (to the extent possible, of course). Serious matters deserve constant attention. Even then, you need to relax on occasion. There’s nothing wrong with doing something good for yourself. Indeed, it’s highly recommended. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be better able to handle what faces you.
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