Smash challenges and turn them into opportunities.

My thoughts keep circling back to last week’s Q&A question about how to keep the entrepreneurial fires burning. It was a pretty open question on a vast subject, so I tried to keep the answer to a few key points that felt most poignant to me. Here I want to expand on how focusing on your challenges can help you come up with new solutions. Unless you write down your business dilemmas, you can become indecisive because your focus is constantly shifting from one problem to another, which leads to procrastination and simply not making progress in any of the areas you struggle with.

Irritations can bloom into ideas
New ideas can bloom from irritations, we just have to listen to them. Many new inventions and innovations have grown out of circumstances where someone was unhappy with a situation, and couldn’t find a ready made solution so had to invent one themselves. When thinking of which challenge you feel most pulled towards tackling, try to think of how resolving it would benefit you. Would a successful solution mean more personal happiness, money, new skills, recognition or sense of achievement? Do the benefits outweigh the cost in time or energy? Knowing that finding a solution would be rewarding enough is the only way to fully commit to coming up with a solution and having some skin in the game.

Keep a list of problems
You know by now that I’m a huge advocate of keeping a journal. I’d encourage adding keeping a list of problems you feel interested in resolving into your journalling routine. Having a list of challenges worth solving written down helps to break them into items that can be researched, checked, and restructured. Here are some possible questions to help you get started with pinpointing problem areas:

  • What would you like to accomplish with your business?
  • Which idea would you like to work on next?
  • What could you be better at?
  • What do you wish you had more time for?
  • Do you have any goals you haven’t reached?
  • What do you complain about the most?
  • What excites you about your business?
  • What kind of vendors do you wish to have a good relationship with?
  • How could you cut the costs of producing your product or providing your service?
  • How could you better deal with customer feedback?
  • How could you better differentiate your product from others?
  • What would you like to organise better?
  • What depresses you?
  • What takes too long to do?

One of the things our minds are pretty clever at, is making connections between things where there seemingly is no connection. Often this happens at our peril, for example, when the mind connects a previous experience not related to something we’re wanting to do, and creates an unfounded fear based on this previous unrelated experience. However, we can harness this desire of the mind to connect things to work in our advantage. Writing down all the different challenges we’re working on might trigger our brain into filling a gap between unrelated problems, and help us come up with surprising solutions.

Dig deeper with a why
Anyone who has come into contact with children knows how good they are at utilising the word ‘why’. They are curious about everything, and because their minds haven’t yet developed the ‘logical’ connections, or rather patterns, they also question every answer. To our stuck-in-pattern minds it can be quite frustrating having to answers countless ‘obvious’ questions, but there’s a lot we can learn from the way kids question things. When you are working on a challenge, dig deeper with a ‘why’ at every stage of the process. For example:

Let’s say the challenge is: ‘How could I sell more engagement photography sessions?’

  1. Why do I want to sell more engagement sessions? ‘Because they could lead to wedding bookings.’
  2. Why do I want more wedding bookings? ‘My business would be more profitable.’
  3. Why do I want my business to be more profitable? ‘So that I could enjoy a better lifestyle.’

From here you can restructure the challenge in different ways, such as:

  • In what ways could I sell more engagement sessions?
  • In what ways could I achieve more wedding bookings?
  • In what ways could I make my business more profitable?
  • In what ways could I enjoy a better lifestyle?

When you abstract your challenges like this, you can start seeing other solutions. You can come up with completely different ideas for how to better your lifestyle that wouldn’t require for your business to be more profitable for example. By asking questions such as ‘how else could I conduct engagement sessions?’ or ‘what else could I do to be more profitable?’ you would open up an infinite world of new opportunities. When you are able to to see the bigger picture, you are able to connect with a much wider array of solutions. I hope this exercise might help you see the opportunity within challenges!

Marianne Taylor is the creator of Beloved Magazine and founder of Her Lovely Heart