Six Ways To Deal With Challenges At Work

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You can have all your ducks in a row, your inbox empty and your priorities in place, but sometimes, despite all of this, things will still go sideways and you are confronted with bad news, a crisis or a challenge. It might be a small thing, or something huge that you can't bluff your way out of- here is how I personally deal with the challenges that I'm confronted with:

1. Take some time to get used to the problem

When you are first confronted with a problem, it can all seem daunting. You panic, your face turns red, you can't think straight, or you start sweating. Don't dive right in when you feel like that. Take a break, go for a walk, ask for some time to think things over, close your eyes for 10 minutes, or even hit the gym. Whatever you do, give yourself some time to get used to the problem. There's the story of the board member who always asked for a bathroom break whenever he was confronted with a problem. It was his way to take some distance and give himself one or two minutes to get used to an idea. If your house is on fire, then you can panic and just jump out the nearest window. But sometimes it helps to stop for a moment, realize the fire is really just a candle that tipped over, and that you are living on the fourth floor of an apartment building, holding a glass of water.

2. Define the problem

When you first hear about the problem, it might seem overwhelming and complicated. Start with finding out what the problem really is. Ask people to explain it to you a few times. Keep asking questions to really get to the root of the problem. Then go ahead and explain the problem to someone else, just to make sure you really understand it. Often times, simply formulating the problem and explaining it to others can help you understand it better. And that is the first crucial step to solving a problem.

3. Put things into perspective

No matter how awful your situation may be, rest assured that someone else has been through the same thing. It is important to realize how your situation compares to the rest of what you are doing, and how bad it really is compared to all the good things in your life. Is your house still on fire? Well, that sucks. But, luckily, your family is already safe outside, your house is insured, and you wanted to clean up the place anyway. See, this isn't a problem at all, but a great opportunity.

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4. Make the problem worse

This may sound like bad advice, but sometimes when you can't get out of something, you might as well dive all the way in. Did you just get fired? Well, there's no solution to that, so you might as well embrace your new situation and also sell your house, plan that trip around the world, and write that book you've always wanted to write.

5. Divide the problem into smaller pieces

That one big problem you've just been confronted with is usually a combination of smaller problems that require small steps and easy solutions. Start with finding out what the best- and worst-case scenarios are. Then think about what the most realistic scenario is. Then divide up the problem into smaller problems and find a solution for every little thing. As you are going through these motions, you'll slowly turn your focus to the solutions, rather than being blinded by the problem.

6. Look at it in a positive way

My last piece of advice is to just take the pain and enjoy your problems. It is very naive to think you can lead a life without problems. Problems are just part of what you do, and the bigger you dream, the bigger the obstacles will be. The best writers, artists and entrepreneurs have led lives filled with personal challenges and problems. And despite all those problems, or because of them, they were able to do great things.

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten will be speaking at The Next Web Conference, an international event that brings together the world's tech leaders, venture capitalists, startups and entrepreneurs to Amsterdam in May 2016.

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