You have three basic options to react when you are faced with a challenge, problem or just a frustrating situation: (1) you can hide your head in the ground and hope it goes away, (2) you can complain about it and become part of the problem, making it even worse or (3) you can find ways to address and improve the situation, becoming part of the solution.
We already established that hope is a bad strategy, hence (1) is not a good path to follow. For obvious reasons, (2) is not any better, unless you are striving for a live of self-inflicted pain and misery.
Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.
So rather than dwelling in your pity, think about solutions you can bring to the table when you’re faced with a tough or frustrating problem.
This happens to me every day. I go along with my day, and then out of the blue, I get that email which makes me want to choke someone’s throat. Like everyone else, I get angry for a moment. However, I try to be conscious of that reaction, and then step back and think of other ways to react. Often I will take a few hours or even a good night sleep before I respond. That gives my subconscious mind some time to process and come up with a different perspective.
In Tai Chi we say “there is always a third way”. Usually we only think about two reactions whan confronted with an unpleasant situation: give in or fight back (fight or flight). There is always a third way through which you can turn the situation into something positive.
When faced with something that annoys you, don’t give up, look away and walk away. Be part of the solution, find a creative way to solve the problem, drive that solution. Once your mission is accomplished, look back and be proud of how you reacted and what change you drove.
When I am faced with something that makes my blood boil or makes me want to scream at someone, I give it a big pause first. Pretty much all problems can wait for a moment. A well thought through response and action plan is always better than a rushed one. Then I ask myself these three questions:
- What is the opportunity for change?
- How can I avoid or improve a similar situation in the future?
- How can I help others through situations like this?
I even have a Post-It sticker with those three questions on my office desk as a reminder.
I give it a moment or two. I find the third way, do what needs to be done and then move on. In every single case I will be way more satisfied than if I had given in to my first impulses.
Whenever possible, try to identify the root cause of the initial issue and solve it so that the same situation won’t happen again.
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