If you read our piece on expected and unexpected changes, you know that we often face more than we anticipated. The best and worst problems can present in several ways. On a professional level, maybe it’s a new project that will be reviewed by your peers or a shifting work culture in the wake of a pandemic. Personal changes can also pack their own unique brand of tumult, good and bad, like an announced pregnancy or a sudden passing. Regardless, there are ways to face our greatest problems without losing our heads. Here are three tips for taking those complex problems and breaking them down into simpler parts.
1. Piece by Piece
After the initial impact of your problem, remember to take a step back and breathe. Making any decisions in the moment of impact can blow back on you, creating even more problems. After you breathe, begin dismantling the problem. Do this on paper, out loud, or on a whiteboard. Deconstructing the problem into different parts can reveal the big and small challenges within the problem. Once you identify these pieces, you can start prioritizing your approach.
2. One Step at a Time
Try not to rush through these all the pieces at once. Instead, take them one step at a time to avoid overwhelming or further stressing yourself. Your time is critical and valid. If your problem involves others, keep the lines of communication open, so loved ones and professional colleagues can become helpers and not distractors who contribute to your stress.
3. Stay Open-Minded
Ever heard the phrase: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? It’s a classic for a reason. No matter what plans we implement and execute, there’s always a chance the best-intentioned, well-thought-out strategy may not go according to plan. It may sound disheartening, but it’s natural. We can’t plan for everything. It’s virtually impossible. However, we can adapt when things don’t necessarily go the way we want them to. When all else fails, adjust or start again with a new approach and game plan.
Summary: Remember to Breathe
Problems can catch us off guard. Even when we have our own plans to solve a problem, we sometimes need to take a different approach. The most important thing to remember is that first breath—that first inhale, and the next exhale. Give your brain a few seconds to collect itself. Give your heart a moment to stop skipping. It all makes a difference in how you tackle your problem and find your best solution.
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