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Get “Unstuck” and Move Past “Overwhelmed”
As an ambitious person–either as an entrepreneur or someone working in a startup–it’s probably not unusual for you to feel overwhelmed. All hope my seem lost when you’re in a business project above your level of knowledge and skills, when you’re in a partnership that collapses, or when you lose a key client account.
In times like these, it’s a good thing to remember the words of Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
With that in mind, here are three things you can do to find new solutions for feeling overwhelmed:
Step #1 – Clarify
You have to hit the pause button in your life and review what happened. Often you may be in such an emotional or fatigued state that you are not able to clearly articulate the problem. You’re only aware that things don’t look very good right now.
By acting when you’re not clear on what’s not working, you’re only making the situation worse. Effective action can only take place if you have a clear idea about the problem. Clarity comes from careful analysis.
Assess the problem with six questions:
1. Who created the problem? Who does it affect?
- This is not about finding who to blame, but identifying the players involved in the problem, tracking the causal factors, and tracing the probable consequences.
2. What is problematic?
Why do you consider a certain situation a problem? What negative impact does it have?
3. Where is the problem?
What areas of your life does the problem affect? How is it affecting other people?
4. When did the problem occur?
This is about finding a chronological history. By finding the roots of the problem and noticing its development, you might find clues on how to resolve it.
5. Why did the problem occur?
What intrinsic and extrinsic factors caused the problem?
6. How have other people resolved this type of problem?
Here you are looking for prototypes. It’s possible to find that other people have not only had the problem but also successfully resolved it.
Step #2 – Disentangle
A problem is usually upsetting, and this emotional aspect of problems makes them difficult to resolve. Even if you did manage to clearly define the problem, you may still be left with negative feelings.
If you caused the problem due to an act of carelessness or ignorance, you may be inclined to feel remorse. However, as a risk-taker, remorse is even worse than guilt. It slows you down and serves no practical or existential purpose.
One tip for emotional healing is to simply do “Zen” things like experiencing the feelings fully until you can simply observe them with detachment. Feelings are strongest and most debilitating when we are actively involved in avoiding them.
Essentially, when you “stare” your feelings down, they tend to dissipate. It’s only unacknowledged feelings that make you feel awful.
Step #3 – Regroup
Now that you’ve got mental clarity and found emotional relief, you’re ready to regroup. This means marshaling all the resources you can to resolve the problem.
This is a time for making long to-do lists, sorting through priorities, and even talking to those who might be able to offer some meaningful advice.
Two Common Causes of Stuck States
Most problems in business are due to one of two causes. One is plateaus, the feeling of not getting anywhere with what you’re doing. The other is that you have reached the upper end of what you know. You’ve reached a point where you don’t know what you don’t know, but you do know that you don’t know enough to resolve the problem.
- The best way to handle a
- is to just stay the course. It’s part of the journey toward the 10,000 hours toward mastery popularized by Maxwell Gladwell in Outliers.
The best way to handle a learning ceiling is to learn more. You could, for instance, take a course in the subject you find difficult or ask the advice of an expert. Again, you might need to do a great deal of learning that can’t be covered in a few days or weeks. In that case, you should consider going to grad school. This just might be the ticket for a quantum leap in your life.
In order to go to grad school, you will need to pass an entrance exam like the GRE or GMAT. Although this may sound intimidating, prepping for standardized tests with companies like Barrons Test Prep is easier today than ever because of the advent of lesson videos and adaptive learning technology.
Although feeling stuck and overwhelmed is an uncomfortable position to be in, it’s not a hopeless one. It actually means that you’re making progress because you’ve just bumped into your own self-imposed glass ceiling. You can see what’s possible, but you’re just not sure how to get there. Using these three strategies will help you to overcome your problem. Often, your problem may be due to a plateau or learning ceiling.