When presented with a problem, how do you react? I have done some research and found that almost every person runs through a “what if…” scenario in their head before responding. What follows that “what if…” determines everything.
Those who choose to run away from the problem follow that what if with negative thoughts:
- What if this goes bad for me?
- What if I can’t overcome the problem?
- What if I lose the respect of my peers?
- What if my decisions lead to… (fill in whatever negative thought you would like here)
- What if…the outcome is negative?
These people allow fears and lack of skills needed in the situation stop them from trying. They say no to the challenge.
Those who choose to run towards the struggle tend to respond with positive thoughts:
- What if it works?
- What if this turns into a great opportunity?
- What if I go first so others can then follow?
- What if my decision leads to… (fill in whatever positive thought you would like here)
- What if…the outcome is positive?
These people step up to the challenge and see it as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. They say yes to the challenge.
Here are a few things that I think matter the most in determining which type of “what if…” we respond with:
Your attitude matters most: Your attitude determines most things. What do you expect to get when you run into a problem? Is it a learning opportunity (is everything that happens to you an opportunity to learn and grow)? The great thing is you get to control your response to any situation. I know it does not always feel this way, but you always have control over your attitude. You make a conscious choice of how you will respond to every situation. You decide to accept responsibility for problems and push through with a positive perspective, or you decide to blame your circumstances and others for the challenges you face. The first will help you succeed, and the latter leads to stagnation.
You must have skills: Positive responses do not happen by chance. We often stop trying in our endeavors and begin blaming circumstances when things do not go well. Usually, it has nothing to do with our circumstances, and more to do with our skill set to solve the problems we face. You always have time; you just do not always have the skills to accomplish what is needed in the amount of time given. You cannot wait until you are faced with a tough situation to build the skills needed. You need to find ways to build your: personal skills, communication skills, or whatever skills needed to meet your challenges before you are faced with future problems.
You can only control the controllables: There is always an overlap between what really matters and what we have influence over. Where those two things intersect is where we need to place our focus. First, our focus needs to aim at taking on struggles that really matter to us. It is not worth pushing through and struggling against things that do not matter to us, or at all. Next, we need to determine what we can have influence over. There are really important things that are out of our control, and things that do not matter that we can completely control. To grow through struggles, we need to take on things that really matter and that we can have influence over. That is the sweet spot of struggle and growth.
You must have courage: Pushing forward in difficult times is not easy. We must have the courage to step up to the challenges with which we are presented. Courage does not mean that we are absent of fear in these situations. Courage means we know what to do with our fear in the difficult times. It means that we accept that something scares us and we step up the challenge anyway. Too many times we let the fear of the negative “what ifs” rule our decision making process. We run ourselves down a rabbit hole of negativity and make decisions on all the fear based hypothetical situations. Courage to take risks is a vital step in facing challenges.
Responding with a positive “what if…” takes a great attitude, the right skills, focusing on the controllables, and having courage. Which of these do you need to work on the most so you can respond with a positive “what if…” to the challenges you are facing? Whatever it may be, step up to the challenge because it is the only way to get to where you want to go.