Accomplish more by going sideways

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Having a vision is important for a satisfying and fulfilling life. With a vision you have purpose, energy and something to focus on when you have a down day. You’re moving toward it because you want to. A great vision is something you think about many times throughout the day. You can feel and taste it.

As a project manager in my first professional job, I was taught new skills to help me become even more adept. Thanks to my upbringing and work in the construction business, we constantly solved problems by creatively implementing new solutions. When you’re in the field with limited resources, your creativity soars. In corporate America I further honed my abilities to do this.

One soon learns the best laid plans by the “experts” is good for a day or two. Life begins to happen. Decisions are changed or postponed, parts show up late, and designs are modified. Rather than get all worked up over these events, I had absolute confidence we would succeed. I viewed them as a challenge and flowed with the new information. To me it was like solving a dynamic jigsaw puzzle — the fun was in seeing how all the necessary pieces could be put together to meet the original goal.

I quickly learned the benefits of asking powerful-versus-disempowering questions.

Empowering questions are:

• How can this help me?

• How can we use this to our advantage in achieving the goal?

• What is the lesson? How can this make me better?

Disempowering questions are:

• Why is this happening to me?

• What else can go wrong?

• What am I going to do now?

You see that disempowering questions quickly put you into a tail-spin and do not help in finding a solution. It’s amazing how many people continue to behave this way even though they have years of experience. They develop a victim attitude. When this happens, they’re basically whipped and have little if any chance of success. Stress levels rise, tempers flare, and blame is thrown about.

Empowering questions put you into a positive frame of mind. Your mind-set is one of “I’ve got this” or “we can make it work.”

During our lunch break in Corporate America, we created a solutions game. We would see how many different solutions we could come up with based upon the current fixed knowns. Nothing was off limits — any idea was valid no matter how crazy it seemed. We discovered that someone’s goofy idea would oftentimes trigger a great idea by someone else. All of this is part of the solution process.

At the time I didn’t realize the importance or benefit in this way of thinking. I viewed it as a fun game to stretch our imagination. It wasn’t until later that I understood we were building our lateral thinking muscles and teaching ourselves to connect the dots in different ways. This “game” is one I still play.

I recently read in “The Obstacle” by Ryan Holliday that in a study of 208 old/new military campaigns, only 2 percent of the successful battles were accomplished via attacking the enemy at its strong point. The overwhelming majority of successful battles occurred by finding new solutions and connecting the dots in different and unexpected ways.

When you find yourself at wits end, when you feel stuck and are out of ideas, when your stress level is sky-high, this is the time to take a breather and connect the dots in a different way. The answer is staring you in the face, but you’re stuck in rigid views of the world. Now is the time to seek new ways to connect the dots and deliver a new solution.

Glenn Bott of Arvada is enthusiastic about life and everything he does. He speaks and consults on Business Aikido which is the art of turning any event you encounter to your advantage. He shares what he learned by successfully reinventing himself after recovering from a severe brain injury.

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