My whole life I’ve been a problem-solver. Something happens, I figure out what to do and how to move forward. Years of crisis-management both in my personal and professional lives have led me to be a quick-thinker, calm under pressure, and able to detach myself from my emotions when making in-the-moment decisions.
It’s a way of surviving. It was certainly not a way of living.
I saw things as problems that needed to be quickly dealt with and moved past. Problems were negative. Problems were obstacles. Problems were just that — problems.
A few months ago, in discussion with my life coach, I had a realization that for all these years what I’ve been instinctively classifying as problems might well be something else.
Could all my problems actually be opportunities?
Could the credit card debt I racked up actually be an opportunity for me to made a radical change in my financial life?
Could the work project I procrastinated on and didn’t complete to the best of my ability actually be an opportunity for me to reevaluate my work flow and implement new practices?
Could the argument I had with my husband over our messy bedroom actually be an opportunity for us to discuss equitable sharing of household duties?
It sounds silly, I know. It sounds sort of new-agey, like “just think positively and everything will work out!”
But here’s the thing. Once I slowed myself down and started to actually think about my problems, my whole approach to almost everything began to change. If I had a problem, I paused and asked myself, “Is there an opportunity here?”
Suddenly what seemed insurmountable now seemed doable. What seemed depressingly daunting now gave me a personal challenge to create my own win. I switched from automatically assuming a given situation was a negative to actively seeking out the positive benefits of what I was going through.
Here are a few simple things you can do to start creating opportunities out of problems:
- Hit pause. Whenever possible take a breather before automatically rushing into solving a problem. I have a tendency to just barrel forward and I’ve learned that with even just the tiniest bit of time for reflection I’m able to think a bit more clearly. (Obviously this doesn’t apply to emergency situations that require fast action.)
- Literally ask yourself, “Is this an opportunity?” One thing that could help here is a problem journal. Write down your problem at the top of the page, for example “I spent too much and now have only $75 in the bank until payday next week.” Then below that write out all the ways that this could be an opportunity. “I could read that financial self-help book that’s been sitting on my shelf. I could cook in all week and try new recipes. I could finally get serious about creating a budget. I could go over my past spending to find where I could save more money in the future.”
- Celebrate your wins. When you turn a problem into an opportunity, there is inevitably a win. When you got serious about budgeting and no longer felt as though you were living from paycheck to paycheck you removed a huge stressor from your life. That is a massive win! Take yourself out to dinner, treat yourself to a long bubble bath, or even just spend a few minutes congratulating yourself. By celebrating your wins you are giving yourself the positive reinforcement you need to continue turning future problems into great opportunities.
It sounds simple because it is.
By flipping that little cognitive switch you would be amazed at how perceived challenges suddenly start to show themselves as possibilities for positive change, growth, and gain. It takes practice at first; I can still find myself defaulting to despair mode before I remember to take a step back and realign. However as the days, weeks, and months go by you begin to find that creating opportunity out of challenge becomes the norm rather than the exception.
We all have problems in our lives that seem like obstacles to our continued success, but when we begin to see these problems for what they truly are, opportunities for growth, change, and the chance to create big wins, the path forward suddenly looks like a more rewarding.
So take a moment today, tomorrow, or later this week, and start by turning just one problem into an opportunity.
Once you begin there’s no looking back.