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How to Gain Perspective When Challenges Arise

In our book on Thriving in Business and Life we mention the story about villagers discovering a baby floating by. They rescued her… then noticed another, and another. The villagers were caring folk so they took care of these babies.

More came. Eventually, they had to build a school and new homes to house them. Finally, someone asked, “I wonder where all these babies are coming from?” And one wise community member said, “Let’s look upstream.”

This introduces a powerful strategy: finding the cause of the effects you are concerned about. The challenge, of course, is that it’s easy to lose perspective when you are dealing with those effects. I (Will) still recall a piece of graffiti I saw years ago: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s hard to remember that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

One simple strategy we can use to regain a more objective viewpoint is to reserve time for thought. Some of the most successful business leaders believe strongly in the constructive power of day dreaming. While most of the day may be occupied by highly focused activities, taking a dream break… relaxing for even a few minutes to muse, contemplate… to day dream, could yield big gains.

Why? Because we’re using a different part of our brain.

We advocate becoming detectives. Make a game out of finding clues that help you understand why something is happening. Obviously, you need to keep dealing with the immediate needs – those villagers continued to care for the babies that floated by – but you can also travel upstream in your strategic thinking to wonder about reasons why.

“What if?” is the question we often use, simply to jar ourselves out of conventional thinking and engage the imagination. It’s remarkable what novel, lasting solutions we can discover for nagging problems when we shift perspective this way.

Here’s your Thriving tip for the week:

“Ask why. Deal with emergencies AND go ‘upstream’ to discover the cause.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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