Posts Tagged ‘problems’

A Good Problem to Have

April 11, 2008

It’s a rare person among us who sits around thinking, “What problems can I create for myself today?” Most of us spend our days on the lookout for how we can best avoid problems, preferring to act when we’re fairly certain we’ll be successful, or at least incur the fewest headaches for our efforts.

It may be counterintuitive, but recognizing “good problems” to have — and allowing them to happen — is a key to personal and professional fulfillment.


THE EVIDENCE:

Have you ever noticed that as a group, folks who enjoy the greatest achievement and satisfaction (with the least accompanying anxiety) often share a common view of challenges?

1) Simply put, they welcome good problems to have in the pursuit of their goals. In fact, these folks tend to view challenges as opportunities which indicate and spur growth. They know that most goals worth pursuing come along with a fair share of hassles. And so, they get good at spotting those challenges that are necessary and useful along the terrain they wish to travel. Rather than dwell on the hassles, these folks place their focus firmly on the potential upside the hassles herald.

2) Perhaps even more importantly, these same folks rarely spend time forcing themselves to come up with the solutions to anticipated problems in advance. This way, they don’t waste energy, and they don’t hold themselves back from taking action altogether. It isn’t that these folks ignore the potential downside to problems. Rather, they trust they will “handle it” and find solutions when the time comes. They know that their first solution may not be the best one, but that won’t matter. After all, part of the growth that problems create is ingenuity when it comes to solving them.

GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE:

In a former life, the producer I worked with at the hit HBO show, The Sopranos, taught me the value of this approach. Her favorite response to anyone’s “what if” questions was, “Now that would be a good problem to have!” (When problems did occur, she’d respond in the moment with useful solutions). I remember we were kicking off the 2nd season of the show with a screening at The Ziegfeld to an invitation-only crowd that we had overbooked. I asked her, “But what if we have to turn away people at the door?” to which she responded in customary fashion, “Now that would be a good problem to have, wouldn’t it?” She saw the value that lay in the short-lived hassle of crowd control. No further mention was made of the “problem” as we got busy on preparations for the special event. In fact, the “problem” did surface the night of the screening, and after we performed some damage control and made a few quick arrangements to accommodate some extra guests, the press covered the event to glowing reviews as a star-studded, standing-room only affair. It was then that I realized one of the things which made this producer so talented — she knew how to direct her energy towards the results she wished to create (while recognizing the gold in the inevitable hassles along the way). After six terrific, Emmy-award winning seasons, her mindset couldn’t have been more productive.

As a coach, I sometimes notice clients holding themselves back with the intention of avoiding a hassle they foresee lurking around the corner. Recently, a client was wrestling with whether to attend an interview for a job she wasn’t sure she wanted. “But what if they offer me the position?” she asked me, to which I heard myself reply, “Now that will be a good problem to have, won’t it?” Once we discussed it in greater depth, the client realized all she stood to gain by inviting the “problem” to occur, including: the opportunity to learn more about the company, extra practice interviewing, a chance to surprise herself and be surprised by what the company might have to offer, and increased self-confidence. (It turned out the hiring manager agreed with her inclination that this wasn’t the position for her, but he was so impressed by her that he offered her another position that was beyond what she could have imagined!)

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS:

So how do you put this concept of seizing on “good problems to have” to work for you?
Consider the following questions next time you’re starting a new project, taking on a big goal, or making a transition:

  • What would be a good problem to have happen here? How can I make it occur?
  • What hassles am I trying to prevent, avoid, or solve upfront? By doing so, how might I be holding myself back from taking action?
  • What else could I be doing with the energy I’m currently using to focus on problem-avoidance?
  • What problem might I need to allow to occur to get past this stuck point?
  • What strengths must I recognize in myself in order to feel comfortable moving forward on this?


And remember, puddles are made for splashing!


Jen

Visit Jen and learn more about her personal & career coaching services at www.JZBcoaching.com.

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