It’s 2020—Bring on the Problems

Closing out last year (and the last decade), a lot of us probably spent at least some time planning out what we want 2020 to look like. Whether that meant building a full-blown plan or just jotting down some high-level thoughts about the next quarter, you probably have at least some vision for what the year will entail. And, given it’s the first full week back to work after the holidays, there’s an excitement to it. The year seems new, and it feels like we can do almost anything. We feel good, and refreshed, and hopeful.

What we’re not so excited about, though? The problems bound to come our way.

I’m writing this blog on a Monday and it’s set to go out to the world on Thursday. Right now, I’m so excited about 2020. We just finished a round of quarterly planning about three weeks ago. We’re doing the things that we should be doing. And we have goals that we’re looking forward to working on over the next few weeks.

But, I really don’t want any problems to come my way.

I want us to have a plan that works flawlessly, a plan that leads to happy clients—ones that are progressively getting better because of the support we provide them. And I want us to have a happy team, a team that loves their jobs and loves working at GAN.

But, this isn’t going to happen exactly as I want it to, which is, well, a bummer.

If we’re being honest, we all feel this way in some shape or form. We’re probably all spending so much emotional energy afraid of what those problems will be and what they’ll mean for us. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the best way to approach the impending future. It’s anxiety-producing and, if you’re anything like me, it sends you straight into “fix it” mode. What can I fix? What did I do wrong? What does this person need and what do we need to change?

Changing the Tapes

So I’ve been thinking about my typical pattern around this a lot lately—my initial responses and how draining it is to fear what’s ahead—and I’ve come up with a few ways I’m trying to reframe all of the things that feel so scary and all of the problems that will inevitably come my way this year. Here’s where I’m at:

1) I’m acknowledging that problems will happen if we’re taking action on anything.
One of my favorite quotes is from Billy Jean King, the professional tennis player largely responsible for forging a path for women’s rights in sports. She once said, “Pressure is a privilege. It only comes to those who earn it.”

Whatever you’re up to in the world, you’re probably in a role that’s “important” to someone. You’re leading a team or building something that the world needs. Anytime you do that, there will be issues. The people working for you aren’t always going to be happy. You’re going to drop the ball on your project plan. Not everything will be perfect and, because of that, you’re going to feel some pressure.

Not only is that okay, but it’s also a privilege. It’s a privilege that you get to build something that matters, that you get to lead, and that you and I get to do something that causes some anxiety from time to time.

2) I’m making sure I know the data behind each problem that comes my way before I try to fix anything.
Before jumping on an issue, I’m stopping and asking, “What’s really true here?” When a client comes to us with an issue, before changing everything we’re doing to support all of our clients, I want to understand what’s really going on. In the past, we’ve had clients that ask to leave the community and we get really, really sad about it. But then, a few months later, we’ll see them go out of business. So, when it seemed like it was all about us and what we weren’t providing, it was actually something entirely about where they were at.

Or, if someone on my team is struggling, before changing the entire company, I’m taking a lot of time to dig into the root issue. Is it really something that I’m doing wrong? Is it something our executive team is doing wrong? Or is there something going on in that person’s life? Or is it a mix of all of this? One data point is just that—one data point. As an example, I heard that individuals on our team were feeling overworked and stressed sometime toward the end of 2019. So, I went out and found OfficeVibe. It’s a tool that helps you anonymously understand how your team is doing during any given week. What did I find out? Only a couple of people were truly feeling a bit worn down and now I have a clearer picture of what we might need to do in order to address it.

3) I’m not acting on each problem immediately.
When problems come up, I tend to think they need to be worked on right away. My brain, when there’s a situation that puts it in fight or flight, feels like I need to act on that “stimuli” immediately. But, that’s just not true. No bears are actually about to eat me, but our brains have not evolved (or at least mine hasn’t) to see common, everyday issues and conflict as different than an oncoming attack from a bear. It tends to believe that any negative issue is life-or-death when it really isn’t.

So, I’m doing a ton of meditation. Why? It does two things. First, it helps me easily see that a negative stimulus is simply a thought that’s causing me anxiety. It’s not a direct attack that I need to act on at that very minute. And secondly, it keeps me focused on the present, not what’s going to happen in the future or what’s happened in the past. It’s keeping me very focused on what’s happening right now, at this very minute, which is the most important thing I can be focused on.

If you don’t meditate, I highly recommend you download the Headspace app and pick a meditation. You’ll be so surprised how much 10 minutes of meditation a day will change the way you think about problems in your life.

4) I’m accepting that each problem is telling me something important.
I listened to a great podcast about a year ago where Kristen Bell talked about anxiety. During the show, she made a point of saying that every time anxiety happens, it’s data—a piece of info that tells us something about ourselves and our needs.

Each problem tells us something.

When two people told me they were overworked last year, that told me something. When we have clients who are saying that they need more of something, that tells me something. When my body is telling me it’s tired, that’s telling me something.

So, instead of trying to bury problems, I’m trying to accept them. I’m not acting on them immediately and, instead, I’m digging into the truth and data that lie behind them before I begin to act.

With that in mind, here’s to more and more problems coming our way in 2020.