We all know life is full of opportunities. It’s also full of obstacles.

Sometimes the obstacles are hurdles that can be leapt over, hoops that can be jumped through, potholes that can be swerved around or mountains that can be scaled to reach new heights. It can be exhilarating.

But sometimes they feel like a full body slam, you’re down on the canvas, feeling powerless.

  • You may have lost a founding partner in your business, you may have discovered someone copied your idea, you may be drowning in orders or lost a good supplier, a major funder may have pulled out. Your health or the health of a loved one may need to take priority, you crashed your car, lost all your contacts, had your bank account frozen. These are all instances that people have used to shape their business differently and use to create different opportunities.

Things you didn’t anticipate or plan for can be tough to look at as opportunities, but that’s what’s needed and that’s what gets most people through these situations.

One thing is certain, no-one sees obstacles in the same way.

Each person constructs their own version of reality.

How you see a situation depends on what you are capable of doing in a situation.

Perception is a generative, creative act. One person’s mountain really could be another person’s molehill.

How we view, frame and deal with things is crucial. For everyone it will be different. We all have different circumstances and levels of personal comfort or discomfort that can be the difference between relishing a challenge and feeling overwhelmed.

When Andy Boothman introduced this topic in one of our meetings he outlined three things he need to solve in order to move on:

  • Finding a tailor for his newly launched Dress Code Shirts when he had no knowledge of the industry.
  • Finding a way to deal with the overwhelming number of communications with the growing number of clients and team members in his Busy as AB branding business.
  • Finding a way to stop his body from deteriorating from too many hours sitting at a desk.

He overcame all of these obstacles and turned them into opportunities in every case by asking his network for help.

Here are some other ways to turn a smack around the head with a baseball bat into a launchpad for something new:

Get some perspective

How big is it really? To you, an obstacle may seem insurmountable, but to someone with a different view point or different experience it’s an easy fix. Instead of pushing harder you might just need a lever.

Give yourself space

If time allows, instead of diving into fix-it mode step back and let things settle. Often our best ideas come when we’re not thinking about what to do. Go for a walk, bake a cake, draw a picture, make some music, play a game. You’re almost certain to have a brilliant insight.

Panic, worry and fear can cause us to freeze and do nothing at all or run full speed ahead with dozens of ineffective solutions and unaligned ideas. If your emotions are triggered, get curious about why, and try to get some understanding about what they’re telling you. Are things really as bad as you think or is this an opportunity for re-invention?

Stop the blame game

Blaming anyone for a problem never solved it, and blaming yourself is like trying to find your way through a maze in a blindfold. Just stop.

What can you control?

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Instead of letting your brain focus on the things beyond your control, first get clear on everything that is within your control. Make a list of everything you can control right now. You’ll be surprised as opportunities you hadn’t even thought of naturally start to present themselves, and you feel confident in your ability to overcome your obstacle.

Give yourself some credit

Running a business on your own is tough. You need skills and resilience that most people who are employed would be amazed at. It can sometimes feel that every day is a new challenge and a new series of problems. Just keeping a business going, providing a great service, earning your own living and doing a good job for clients, not to mention being a good family member, friend, neighbour and whatever else is going on in your life, is work that only a few people are cut out for. Take a bow. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re not an ordinary human – you’re super-human!

Conclusions and take aways

Everyone who took part in this discussion agreed that having the right support systems around you in business is crucial. These systems will vary dramatically from person to person, but they all come back to three keys things

Perspective – what’s big or small and how you break the big things down into manageable chunks

Support – the people who’ve got your back

Ask for help – there’s a wonderful thing that happens when you do this, people help you. It’s super powerful – for them as well as for you.