When The Mountain Seems Too Big To Climb

Part 2 of Facing and Managing Challenge

Sometimes you are facing challenges that seem so enormous, you just want to take a duvet day and hide. We’ve all faced a challenge that is so large in our lives that we have no idea how to tackle it.  Human reaction understandably is to shy away from it. We deem it too big to tackle or think because it is so big we haven’t got the energy to overcome it.  Managing challenge can sometimes seem an impossible and overwhelming task and we give up.

It is a sad fact that 90% of start-ups will fail and they will cite a lot of reasons for that failure. The reasons that the 10% succeed according to Neil Patel in this article from Forbes is

They have a product that meets a need, they don’t ignore anything, they grow fast,

and they recover from the hard-knock start-up life.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/#56d0c21b55e1

I love the quote from Adeo Ressi, from the Founders Institute in the video at the end of this article.

He says there is only one reason a company fails…it’s when the entrepreneur gives up

Lessons learned about managing challenge

One trick I learnt early on in recovery was to take each day as it came. I didn’t present momentworry or think about the day before, what might happen during the particular day I was in or consider what might be tomorrow.  By being in the present moment and accepting that whatever needed to be done right then and there I would do, I stopped looking at the massive challenge in front of me.  As time passed it was then easy to look back and take heart from what I had already achieved.

Working on managing challenge in the present moment does not mean giving up looking forward but more being able to focus on what needs doing right now. It means that the immediate issue is handled and somehow the challenge seems reduced, less overwhelming.

Do not be a White Queen about managing challenge and adversity. In Alice through the looking glass, the White Queen suddenly starts screaming and kicking up a great fuss. When Alice asks what is wrong, the White Queen answers, that she is going to prick her finger… “’I haven’t pricked it yet,’ the Queen said, ‘but I soon shall — oh, oh, oh!’ She then of course does prick her finger and stops screaming. When a challenge seems huge or overwhelming we can sometimes magnify it out of all proportion and imagining how terrible it could be paralyses us into inaction. By dealing with what is now rather than imagining what is to come, managing challenge is made easier and within our abilities.

Managing a challenge that is huge by making it smaller

During the months of May and June in the UK thousands of schoolchildren across the country will be sitting their GCSE examinations. Some may take up to 20 exams in a 3-week period; now that’s a challenge! Revision fever will have swept the country by now and a lot of children will look at their books, notes and the sheer quantity of things they need to learn and feel overwhelmed. Good revision practice is to break down this mountain of work into manageable pieces.

I used this tactic when faced with my own huge challenges. I decided to break the challenge down into bite size pieces and then concentrate on only one piece at a time.  If I then found that the piece in itself was quite large I’d break it down further and refocus on the one piece in front of me.  I would not move on to the next piece until I had completed the one that I was concentrating on.  By adopting this approach, the challenge was no longer looming over me and it was overcome with very little stress or anxiety and, often much quicker than I had originally envisaged.

Business can adopt the same approach. Rather than being overwhelmed by the challenge before them and being paralysed into a standstill; see the challenge as a series of smaller challenges to be managed. Focus on completing each piece, completely and thoroughly and some of the other pieces naturally fall into place. Taking action creates its own momentum.

Next week I will look at situations where it may be better to walk away…

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