Q: My business has gone through enormous upheaval this year and I see these problems continuing into 2021. Do you think once the virus is manageable through vaccines most of these other problems will go away? What tools do you offer clients to help them problem solve when problems keep landing on their business run way?
A: No, I don’t think once the virus becomes manageable that these other problems will just go away. The pandemic helped highlight problems that only become glaringly obvious during this crisis. The tools I teach include giving up the idea that success is having no problems. Success means having more tools than you have problems not being problem-free.
When we go through a stressful time subtle problems burst into flames. A good example is when women are pregnant. Doctors tell pregnant women to pay close attention to health issues because pregnancy puts huge stress on the body. Doctors point out that pregnancy doesn’t create these health challenges it just forces them into the open.
Our culture already had income inequities, race issues, climate challenges and remote work issues before the pandemic. The pandemic simply made it obvious that these problems are big and now is the time to fix them.
Many women after a tough pregnancy take much better care of their health because they don’t forget what went wrong during the pregnancy. Most of us will find it difficult to go back to sleep after watching the social unrest, unemployment, and workplace problems we’ve witnessed this year.
Problems are not fun to endure but problems do motivate us toward action. When people speak about the problems facing us as a species and as a country there’s generally a more receptive and interested audience than before COVID-19.
Weirdly as well most of us have more gratitude for the simple things that do work during times when chaos stalks us all. Our health, our family and our income seem like serious blessings where before we may have taken them for granted.
Life and work are problem generating machines. Imagine being on a tennis court with a ball machine that keeps spitting balls in your direction. As long as you are above ground that ball machine will keep sailing problems over your net and you’ll need to react.
Our magical power is the ability to react. Some clients tell me that in order to stand up for themselves they had to react by doing something ineffective. The truth is we can feel any way we want about what’s happening but we cannot afford to react any way we want if we like ourselves.
Rather than asking what reaction the current problem facing you deserves ask yourself what solution you deserve. Now ask what words and behaviors will make the solution you want more likely.
You’ll need to develop new muscle memory habits and tools to solve problems when you are sad, mad, or scared. Feeling upset is human. Reacting in service of the goal that benefits you is superhuman.
You won’t start the New Year out with a perfect track record of reacting to every single problem over your net only in ways that benefit your goal. You will get closer to changing your reactions so you stop sabotaging your goals just to feel good in the moment.
If you currently have more problems than tools, use 2021 to find a teacher. I’ve spent years learning from people that had better interpersonal skills than myself. When I have a problem now that I cannot solve I tell myself, “This is a problem where I don’t have a solution yet,” then I keep asking people smarter than me to coach me on their ideas.
We don’t have to struggle alone with that tennis ball problem generating machine called life. We are all better when we can ask for help when there are more tennis balls flying our way than rackets to return that serve.
The last word(s)
Q: I’ve been really lonely this year working from home and being single and the only people I meet are people I work with. Is dating people you work with still tricky if that is the only avenue to discover new people?
A: Yes, but complete social isolation is also really bad for your health. Sometimes taking a calculated risk at work for a person you really admire is worth that risk.