In my first meeting with struggling couples, they often deluge me with their problems and complaints, listing everything they don't like about each other and their relationship. They each have a long laundry list of things they blame each other for, and they recite it with fervor.
When meeting with company leaders for the first time, a similar experience unfolds. The business owner, CEOs or managers point out what they want to change or fix.
It's easy to slip into negativity with so many demands on our time and resources. Problems in relationships or business are often dreaded and avoided, while we use complaining and blaming to relieve stress. Many people consider problems annoying at the very least, insurmountable at the worst.
Problems are a natural part of life and growth, but they can destroy a marriage or the vitality of a team when we ignore them or allow them to control our responses. If we don't use problems to move us forward in creating more mature and healthy relationships, they very quickly take over, just like unattended dandelions in the yard. The good news is that if we reframe them in a positive light, problems can be a powerful catapult for ingenuity and richness in our lives, business, and relationships. It isn't difficult, but it takes a brand-new perspective. Here's a story to illustrate this mind shift:
In 1941 George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, went on a hike with his dog in the Alps. When they got home, they were both covered with burrs. At first, de Mestral was annoyed as he tediously plucked them off his clothes one by one. Then he got curious. What made these things stick so tight, anyway? Examining the burrs under a microscope, he discovered small hooks that burrowed into the tiny loops of cloth—and the idea of Velcro was born! De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955, and by 1959, he was selling more than 60 million yards every year. Forty years later, the annual sales of Velcro were over 250 million yards!
How many people cursed the burrs that clung so stubbornly to their clothes before de Mestral came along? How many people discarded them with disdain while their secret remained unseen? When we curse, dread, or avoid problems in our personal and work relationships and treat them like foes, we are blinded, and we miss opportunities to grow and strengthen the love in our marriage or the innovation, creativity and synergy in our organizational culture. However, if we see problems as friends and seeds of greatness, our attitude shifts dramatically.
Problems are the voice of a better way. We can choose to put our attention on the problems or on the opportunities hidden inside. By reframing problems, we open a window to fresh air and brighter light. It doesn't matter if it's a grumpy spouse or an angry teen in our family life or an upset customer or a declining product line in business, these are cues for exploring opportunities for growth.
Let's isolate and break down how de Mestral shifted his attention, and begin to convert our problems into opportunities.
Steps to Convert Problems to Opportunities
If the problem is in your business and your net profit is hitting rock bottom, it's time to look squarely at this possibly disturbing trend. Perhaps your industry has been disrupted by a new technology or you've invested too much and too fast into new product lines that are not sustainable.
You will find that it's much easier to convert problems to opportunities than it is to go on living with the problems. It's just a matter of perspective. Practice the steps above to create more mindfulness while continually moving forward productively. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results when a problem is just viewed as the voice of a better way.
For more tips and support, please visit our Heartmanity resources or contact Jennifer@Heartmanity.com for private and couple mentoring programs or our business programs.