A Simple Solution to Taking Things Personally and Overreacting

When you are facing an issue, just ask yourself a simple question before taking any action.

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By Stephen Key

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My business is almost always on my mind. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. That's because I care about it deeply. I'm fine with that -- more than fine, actually. I love what I do. I wouldn't have gone into business for myself if I hadn't wanted to be immersed in my work. And early on, I discovered a simple truth: If I worked harder than anyone else, I was bound to get ahead.

There is no doubt in my mind that my dedication has led me to become successful. But it also used to cause me to frequently overreact. My emotions were so tightly wound, it felt like a challenge not to.

Related: How to Solve a Problem In 3 Steps -- Define It, Redefine It, Repeat

How could that have happened? I would wonder. Who was responsible? Sometimes I made rash decisions. Ultimately, I realized that getting upset was damaging my professional relationships and keeping my business from moving forward. I was letting every little issue that came my way completely derail me. To put it simply, I was taking things too personally. That's no way to run a business.

To be a more effective leader, I needed to learn how to manage my immediate reactions, not give in to them. I needed to focus on my vision, not petty everyday trials and tribulations. Thankfully, I recently stumbled upon a new way of thinking about things that is helping me gain some much-needed perspective. Like most great ideas, it is simple and straightforward.

These days, when a conflict arises, before I do anything else, I ask myself, "Is this a small problem or a big problem?" The answer is almost always that it is a small problem. When one of my team members comes to me with an issue, I ask him or her the same question.

Related: In the Entrepreneur's Mind, Problems Are Only Hurdles in Front of Goals

There are a lot of benefits to looking at potential sources of tension this way. For one, doing so helps me focus on what matters -- which is not how I feel, but how the issue is going to affect my business. Does it really warrant a whole ordeal? The answer is probably not.

The truth is that most problems are very easily fixed! They are even more quickly fixed when I haven't wasted any time raising my voice to discuss my frustrations. I want my team to feel comfortable being upfront with me, not wary. I don't want to risk letting any problem fester.

Problems that are truly capable of affecting the long-term success of your business are more likely to lurk beneath the surface. You may not even be aware of them. Addressing big problems requires strategy and a lot of thought. If you're letting yourself get worked up about minor conflicts, you'll be less able to notice one taking hold -- and therefore less able to root it out.

Caring less isn't really an option for me. If I'm being frank, I don't even think that being a workaholic is an inherently bad thing. But there are consequences. Make sure that your passion and enthusiasm are being put to good use -- and not simply turning into an obsession about things that don't really matter.

Related: 6 Skills Remarkable Leaders Execute Better

Stephen Key

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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