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Stuck in a Rut? Find the Hidden Opportunity

Stuck in a Rut? Find the Hidden Opportunity
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When was the last time you felt stuck in a situation, where you didn’t know how to get out of it, and almost felt hopeless?

It may have been a personal relationship that wasn’t going well, a job that you weren’t happy in, or life in general not giving you the sense of fulfillment that you’d like…

Often, when we’re faced with a setback, it’s easy for us to look only on the negatives and dwell on the bad. Everything suddenly seems bleak and it’s hard to see that silver lining.

But, here’s what separates the successful from the average… they are always able to recognize and dig deep within these setbacks, to find hidden opportunities–opportunities can allow them to get back on their feet, and out of their rut.

So how do they do that?

They start by looking at the positives.

First, Focus on the Positive

No matter the situation, positive thinking has been related to so many healthy benefits like increased life span, lower rates of depression, better psychological and physical well-being, and better coping skills during hardships.

We need to accept that suffering is a part of life; it’s inevitable! But, how you decide to come out from each moment of suffering determines the rest of your life journey. So, it’s important to train your brain to find opportunities over limitations.

These obstacles that you face can be turning points for break throughs no matter what role you’re in – a stay home mom, a retiree, a working professional, etc. So if you’re currently feeling somewhat stuck in a certain aspect of your life, why not find one or two positive thoughts that you can think of from that situation?

The Beauty of a Blocker

Another reason why it’s so important to look for the positives in something bad, is because it helps you to shift your mindset towards seeing negatives as something good. This is otherwise known as ‘Post-traumatic growth’, and happens when a person experiences positive changes resulting from a major life crisis.

According to research by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, post-traumatic growth goes beyond resilience; by actively searching for the good in something terrible, a person can use adversity as a catalyst for advancing to a higher level of psychological functioning.[1]

Finding the beauty in something bad encourages personal strength and boosts self confidence. Once you overcome past challenges, you feel empowered, and you’re more likely to feel confident in taking charge of future challenges.

Besides being a part of life, setbacks also shift our perspective and help us to recognize the good things in life, allowing us to see the value of not suffering, and increases our empathy. This allows us to see the importance of making the most of our lives.

We can also empathize better with those who have also endured hardship, giving us the distinct advantage of seeing circumstances from a new and different perspective, which is ultimately the root of creativity.

Whether bonding on a deeper level with friends and family or feeling connected to strangers who have gone through similar difficulties, suffering can bring people closer together. Social support is especially important for healing; discussing and processing hardships with other people assists with meaning-making.

What’s Stopping You Should Be Your Main Focus (For Now)

Now that you’ve seen the importance of looking at the positives in a bad situation, let’s go back to your current obstacle, whatever it may be. Use this instance as your main opportunity, and not a setback.

This will help you see what to focus on first before tackling other aspects of your goals. I’ll share an example:

My friend Sarah was recently given a new job opportunity. Sarah was given a golden opportunity to take up a leadership position at a new regional office in Seoul (S. Korea), but one of the key job requirements is to facilitate communication between local partners.

So even though Sarah’s got over 10 years of experience in her field, has a strong set of skills that fits the job and is the leading candidate by a large margin, Sarah doesn’t speak Korean. Which means Sarah faces a pretty significant obstacle with the language difference, as her promotion is conditional given she can prove that she’s able to fulfill the job role despite her limitations.

Instead of focusing on the negative aspect of this job offer, Sarah chose to turn this setback into an opportunity – an opportunity to prove beyond doubt that she’s the person for this role by gaining working fluency in the Korean language.

Despite knowing that a large part of her job involves constant interaction with local partners, Sarah is still confident that she has what it takes, and believes that her little understanding of Korean will not get in the way.

So, what did Sarah do to conquer her obstacle?

She started off by hiring an assistant who was able to converse in fluent Korean, so that the assistant could act as her translator for the first few months while Sarah was learning the Korean language.

She also dedicated 1 hour each night to working with a Korean language tutor, and 1 hour each weekend to watching Korean dramas.

Six months later, Sarah is able to speak simple conversational Korean with her colleagues, and she can even hold meetings in Korean with little help from her assistant. Of course, there was a lot of goal setting and focus put in by Sarah in order for her to achieve this accomplishment. But the key is that she didn’t let her initial obstacle of not being able to speak Korean get in the way of an amazing career progression.

Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. In this case, Sarah found her focus in wanting to excel in her career.

Because of this, she was able to visualize and set focus objectives that she could work on to reach her goal of speaking Korean to excel in her job.

So, once you get past your blocker and find your focus, you’ll be well prepared to start checking off other tasks to get you closer to your goal. This is how an obstacle can become a hidden opportunity!

Get Moving to Get Unstuck

In order to get unstuck, you have to move. You have to do something that can allow yourself to come out of the rut, and that’s why you need to create a new goal that can give you focus and motivation to make progress again.

In Sarah’s case, she could have stayed stuck in her current job, without taking on the new opportunity if she let the obstacle of not being able to speak Korean get the better of her.

Don’t let your limitations keep you constrained inside a loop as they keep you stuck facing the same problems, having the same choices, and taking the same actions over and over, and over again. Start by getting the right focus.

Try using these guiding statements to help you get moving, and finding your hidden opportunity:

  1. I’m limited by… (obstacle/constraint) because… (why it’s a limitation)
  2. It stops me from…(the thing you want to do)

Once you’ve identified your limitation, you can work on finding the turning point and really assess the possibilities. A turning point is a key obstacle that, if overcome, would open new opportunities that weren’t available before. 

So use the statement:
If only i could… (achievement) then I’d be able to… (the new possibility).

And, with that, you can create your opportunity statement:
I have an opportunity to… (new possibility) by… (the achievement).

Once you’ve found your hidden opportunity, it’s time to get started on pursuing your new goals, and having the right kind of motivation is key to sustaining this progress, in particular, Intrinsic MotivationIntrinsic Motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding.

In this case, you’re now doing something for your own sake rather than the desire for some external reward or factor. You’ll be more likely to carry through with your goals as a result of that!

Featured photo credit: Adi Goldstein via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun: Post-traumatic growth: conceptual foundations and empirical evidence

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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