When there’s a blow to your business, especially an unprecedented world event like the pandemic we are living through, you might feel paralyzed and unable to make a move. But when problems crop up, you as a business owner can’t afford to freeze. Or fight, or flee, for that matter. Freeze, fight, and flee are the three most common responses to trauma, and they are reactive states that can sneak up on us before we even know what’s happening.
So, step one to making it through every challenge – whether it be personal or professional – is to start to get to know yourself, and how you respond to trauma—do you freeze, fight or flee? Make a note for yourself, so that you can see it when it happens.
Often there are ways out of a bad situation that can actually put you in a better position than the one you were in before. Sometimes the best you can hope for is to keep the damage to a minimum. Either way, the first thing you need to do when you are faced with challenges and uncertainty is to get your head on straight.
Here are some suggestions of how to look at your problems in a way that will keep you moving forward, personally and professionally, rather than frozen with indecision, fighting for your life, or running for the hills.
Find Your Inner Calm
There are a lot of outside voices who claim to be experts, and who claim to know how you should conduct your business. Some of these voices could be helpful, and others could be harmful, but if they’re coming from many directions at once, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference. With every piece of bad news or new demand placed on you, your body reacts. Every demand on your attention, and every rush of adrenaline, is taking away from the energy you could be using to solve the problem that is in front of you.
Bruce Lee said, “There will be calmness, tranquility, when one is free from external objects and is not perturbed.” If you are taking in negative voices and the 24-hour flow of news, notifications, and speculation, you will never have the mental space to consider your options. First and foremost, stop watching the news. Then, get the book The Art of Contemplation by Richard Rudd, read it and breathe. Finally, carve time out for yourself daily to breathe, pause, and remind yourself what really matters. Your inner peace is paramount, and must come before anything else.
There will be residual emotions and thoughts that remain once you’ve switched off your television and digital devices. Acknowledge them, don’t fight them. If you fight them, they’ll just fight you back, but if you just let them be, they’ll lose their power over you.
Once you’ve shut out those outer and inner voices, do something that relaxes you. When all else fails, you have the best relaxation tool built right into your body—breathing. Fill your lungs with oxygen with a nice, deep breath, and you’ll clear your mind that much faster.
Get Support You Can Trust
Do not sit alone with your problems. Reach out and ask for help. Not all help is equal though. Reach out to a mentor, advisor, or guide who has possibly been where you are and made it through. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, reach out to us. We serve as a trusted advisor and guide for many of our clients.
Whatever you do, do not reach out to people who will simply reinforce your freeze, flight, or fight response. Do not reach out to people who have not done what you want to do, or been where you want to go. They will not be able to help you.
You must reach out to objective advisors who can help you with logic, intelligence, foresight, wisdom, and experience.
Break Down Your Problems
Imagine you have a large, heavy bookcase that you need to move from one room to another. How would you get started? If you’re like most of us, you’d start by taking the books down from the shelf. Then you’d consider the size of the door or hallways you’ll need to pass through, and whether it means you’ll have to take the shelf apart as well. Is one person ok to carry it, or do you need to call a buddy? And once it’s in its new location, how will you re-shelve the books?
You have a lot of choices when you tackle this problem. The worst choice, however, is to just try to pick up the whole bookcase, full of books, and start trying to move it into the other room without a second thought. You could throw out your back, break your foot, or get knocked on the head by the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
That’s what you’re doing when you try to solve a big problem on your own before thinking it through.
When you are facing a problem, you need to consider every step that needs to be taken to solve it. That will help you figure out what resources you’ll need to reach your goal, and what small decisions you’ll need to make along the way.
Focus on What You Want, Not What you DON’T Want
Race Car drivers are taught to not let their eyes stray from the track. Looking at the wall around the track can end in a high-speed crash. Whatever picture you have in your head right now is what you’ll move toward.
Vision really does matter.
Obsessing over your revenue, for example, is limiting your thinking to one short-term goal. Enriching the lives of your customers and employees with your products and company culture is a vision, which your short-term goals support (possibly including the one that you are fixated on). If you keep your eyes on the finish line, you’ll be able to more easily see all of the smaller maneuvers you have to make to get there.
Remember Your Resources
Lastly, remember that you have a network who is there to help and support you. Once you’ve taken some time to quiet your mind and collect your thoughts, you can choose who to listen to. Call on your mentor or mentors. Don’t wait to do this. You need help before you feel comfortable asking for it, so ask sooner rather than later.
And of course, remember that we are here to be your advisor as well. If you are having trouble determining your path forward in the face of a challenge, we can help you lay out your options and define your goals, so you can make more agile and wise decisions. Don’t put off calling us when you need to. We’re here to help.
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