A Plan for Working Through Personal Challenges

Posted by Todd Smith

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I write this lesson as I reflect on some of the most troubled times of my life. Because we all go through these challenging times—no one is exempt—I want to share some ideas and insights that will help you get through them and come out stronger and wiser.

Step 1. Seek to Understand the Problem and its Cause

The first step in addressing any challenge is to make sure you clearly understand the problem and its cause. By gaining a clear understanding of the problem, you will be better prepared to find the right solution.

It is also important to backtrack. Look at the decisions you have made that led to the situation in which you find yourself.  Refuse to blame anyone. You are where you are largely based on your decisions.

If we don’t take the time to understand what decisions led to the problem, we will likely repeat them.

Step 2. List Your Options

Once you have a clear understanding of the issue and its cause, the next step is to consider all your options.

  • If you lost your job, you have two obvious options. One to wallow in self-pity, play the victim role, and blame someone or something; or two, suck it up and get your butt out looking for a new job.
  • If you said or did something that hurt another person, you have two evident options. One, make excuses and try to justify your actions; or two, apologize, ask for forgiveness, and restore the relationship.

Whatever challenges you face, there are always options to address them. Take some quiet time and consider ALL your options, as well as the pros and cons of each. You might want to review the best post I have written on the subject: How to Make Critical Decisions

Step 3. Make a Decision

The fastest way to get out of your taxing situation is to make a decision as to what you are going to do about it. When I reflect on my challenging times, the most difficult part of each experience was not knowing what to do. This is the danger zone. Because you are not making any forward progress, you are prolonging your pain and damaging your self-image and attitude.

A close friend, who is going through a challenging period right now, called me yesterday for some advice. She explained the situation and said, “The most difficult part is not knowing what to do.”

Together we reviewed all her options. After selecting the best three options, we discussed the pros and cons of each one. Then I challenged her to make a decision and not to allow this process to drag on any longer.

When I spoke with her later in the day, she had made her decision. I could tell she felt better and was smiling by the tone in her voice. By making the decision, she was one step closer to putting the challenge behind her.

Step 4. Put Together Your Plan

Once you decide what you are going to do, your next step is to put together your plan. Look at your decision as a goal; put together a plan to achieve that goal. Your plan is as simple as writing down the steps you will take and the things you will do to achieve your desired outcome.

Depending on the severity of your situation, it may be wise to review your plan with your spouse or a respected friend. The more refined your plan is, the greater your odds will be of achieving your goal in the shortest period of time.

Step 5. Execute Your Plan

After you have your plan outlined, use your personal initiative and discipline to execute it immediately. When you procrastinate and delay executing your plan, you are making a decision to drag out your pain longer.

If you are going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to go through this process. Think about it. What do you have to lose?  Make the decision right now that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH; you are going to take control of the situation and bring an end to it.

At times, you might feel like you are trudging through quicksand, but don’t stop. The fastest way to get through this period is by working through it—not avoiding it or procrastinating. We all go through difficult, painful times. Some wallow in them and play the victim role; others accept responsibility, put together a plan, and fight through them.

I urge you to grab yourself by the collar with a tight fist, look in the mirror, and accept the challenge to step up to the plate with courage and conviction.

There is a positive side to facing those painful, challenging times. They provide us the greatest opportunity for growth. If you are thoughtful as to how you navigate through life’s challenges, you will grow and become wiser from each one you experience.

What has helped you work through difficult periods in your life?  Please share them in the comment section below this post.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.


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