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It happens. Despite our best efforts or intentions, it all goes to S#!+. Sometimes it’s personal matter, sometimes it’s a project or a team, sometimes it’s an organization, sometimes it’s an entire company. So, what can you do when it’s all gone south?

Simple. Ask these five questions. Answering them will help you address the situation head on, eliminating that overwhelmed or ‘stuck’ feeling and allowing you to create a path forward.

  • What’s going well?

This is often the hardest question to answer. The harder it is to answer, the more important it is to answer it. In every bad situation, if you look hard enough, you can find something that is going well.  When I had my skiing accident, and I was nearly dead, there were still things going well.  If I can be almost dead and find something going well, you can find that something is going well in your current situation.  When I was almost dead, one of the things going well for me was that I was in great physical shape at the time and I had amazing support around me.

  • Why is it going well?

Peel the onion of what is going well in the situation to gain a deeper understanding of why it’s going right and you will find things you can leverage to help you move forward.  For me in my situation, I was in good shape because I had been willing to hard work in the months prior to get physically fit and I had perseverance and grit; something I would use again to recover.  My family and friends loved me because I had loved them.  They were willing to help me in my time of need because they loved me.

  • What are you trying to achieve?

Refocus yourself from what happened and the “Why me?” mentality to where you are going and what you want to accomplish by asking, “What Now?”  For me in the hospital bed, I wanted to see my kids again and I wanted recover back to 100%. I wanted my life back.

  • Why is that important to you?

Understand and remind yourself why the objective is important to you. Doing that will reinforce and build your motivation to take the necessary, and sometimes difficult, actions to get there.  For me while laying in a hospital bed with tubes and wires everywhere, I wanted to continue to enjoy life and my family and all the things I was used to doing.

  • Who is going to do what by when?

If it’s just you in the situation, then what are you willing to do? Write down what you are going to do and by when. If you are doing this with a group, get everyone to contribute to the solution. Then, whether you are alone or have partners, start moving! Pick one or two actions and take the first few steps.  For me to recover, the things I could do were my breathing exercises to help my lungs recover and the many other exercises the doctors, nurses, and therapists put in front of me.  I was going to do everything in my power to get better.

I learned this lesson from the book Enlightened Leadership by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug, and it is something that I use when I’m feeling stuck or overwhelmed. I’ve used it in personal situations, I’ve used it with teams I’m leading, I’ve used it to get programs back on track. It’s worked – every time.

By taking those first few steps, even if they are tiny, you create separation from the bad situation and you start moving toward your goal. You will be amazed at how much better you feel after you have laid out a path and achieved some forward motion.

If you are starting your journey of positivity from a low point, this is a powerful place to start.

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