Last week I spoke with one of my coaching clients, a CEO who several months ago was in an excruciatingly tough and stressful spot. She was facing overwhelming challenges on all fronts, but fought against the odds and moved her company to a position of strength within only a few months. She came out ahead by chipping away at a ton of small problems and I credit her for hard work, commitment, perseverance and intestinal fortitude.
The conversation reminded me that large problems that seem insurmountable are always made up of smaller challenges that are far more easily managed. Whether it is turning a company around or losing a lot of weight, it starts with taking the overwhelming problem and breaking it down into the problems underlying the problems. In the case of my client, we broke down cash, customer, product and sales problems, but if the goal was tackling a serious weight problem (no easy task), one might look at consumption, food choices and exercise, then decide what is wrong in each of these areas and set a plan to address. Often it is easier to start doing a little exercise and see progress than contemplate how you will lose 50 pounds. Sometimes you have to go several layers down, for instance maybe you have a massive debt problem, and you know overspending is the problem, but even that seems overwhelming to address because of the way you have structured your life. So then you break the overspending problem down into the many causes of the overspending and tackle those smaller problems one by one.
By looking at big problems as a bunch of smaller problems throughout my whole life, I have always avoided that paralyzing fear of a massive challenge or goal.
My friends chuckle because I want to travel to the moon, a huge goal to be sure, but really if you break it down, it’s not that crazy. At some point in the not too distant future, space travel will be common and safe for the average person. If I stay in shape, I will live a long time and hopefully long enough to see space travel that is as common as a transatlantic flight is today. All I have to do is stay in shape, live long enough and set aside some cash to buy a seat and presto, I am on my way to the moon – I’ll send you a postcard when I go, if of course, you don’t happen to be on the flight with me!