How to turn obstacles into opportunities

How stress can affect eyesight featured, opportunitiesOften, people can feel the only constant in life are hurdles to overcome, with every challenge dredging up feelings of self-doubt, frustration and anxiety – never more so than at present.

But, what if each struggle is flipped on its head and seen as an opportunity to thrive, learn and build resilience?

Founder and MD of Scriba PR, Katie Mallinson, believes that for many people, it’s this hardiness that sometimes holds the key to progression and success. Here, she looks at five ways to view obstacles as opportunities. 

Last year, I read a report that found almost 80 per cent of the population think ‘feeling stressed’ is a way of life. But importantly points out that stress in itself is not a mental health problem. In fact: “The stress response is a survival strategy to keep us safe. It was a vital adaptation when looking to survive being eaten on the savannah.”

This point really resonated with me, in the sense that it’s perhaps by harnessing these emotions – which could easily become a negative – and recognising the ‘tells’ in our own thinking, that we can begin to view the unexpected within our lives as a tool for growth.

  1. Everyone has their own tipping point

Of course, what constitutes a ‘challenge’ can vary significantly from person to person – often depending on what is happening elsewhere in their lives. One person might have weathered a certain storm in the past, but for those experiencing that for the first time, it might be a particularly tough road to travel down.

Remembering this, and developing this sense of empathy, helps you give yourself a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and should also mean you’re able to better support others too.

Transfer this to a business context, and those firms that have an innate sense of empathy and camaraderie as part of the office culture will instinctively react in a way which protects the person/client/project, and helps everyone work together to find a suitable solution to any test.

  1. Find a trusted coping mechanism

I think it’s perfectly understandable to feel miffed, sad and/or discouraged when something goes wrong – it’s a completely natural human response. When times get tough, I often find solace in allowing time to have a moment of ‘argh!’  before resetting and going again.

Personally, things that I find helpful include turning off my phone for an evening, spending time talking things through with my someone I trust, and enjoying time with my family. Music works wonders too.

I know others who – under normal circumstances – would head for the gym and ‘decompress’ with the help of a treadmill. Whatever helps with your CTRL+ALT+DEL, make peace with the fact you tried your best, before looking at what you might have done differently – if anything – and considering what comes next.

  1. Look for the lessons to be gained

Even though it might feel as though something has gone catastrophically wrong, there’s always at least one thing you can take from it – even if it’s as, and admittedly cliched, as learning from experience.

I believe that reflection can be a helpful tool when it comes to moving on from your mistakes, and it can dissolve any feelings of regret or remorse, too. Plus, if you’re a company owner – or in a leadership role – it’s often the case that you simply can’t stew on things that have already taken place. People will look to you for ‘what next’ so, while it’s not about being fake, why not set the tone about how difficult times can be dealt with?

  1. Prepare to be unprepared

In business, it’s notoriously hard to plan for every eventuality – and COVID-19 has certainly reaffirmed that on a global scale. But, whether scenario-planning is your thing or not, an innate sense of preparedness will stand you in good stead to deal with the unexpected.

While no one could have predicted how 2020 was going to pan out, I genuinely believe that it’s possible to prepare for the unexpected happening in life – whatever form that make take – by having a ‘crisis plan’. It may only exist in your head, but it’s important to be clear who needs to know what, and when, and surround yourself with a team who can support you if the proverbial unfolds.

  1. Protect yourself

Finally, all of the above can go out of the window if you’re not in a strong place, mentally, before having to face down an almighty headache. There has been a huge focus on mental wellbeing as well as physical health in light of this pandemic, and it really does go to show that protecting your own wellness has a significant role to play in how you deal with unplanned stress. It’s never too late to start either, as a fantastic 30-day resource from The Extreme Leaders reminded me recently – recapping on the fact that resilience can be trained.

At times like these in particular, it can be notoriously hard to ‘switch off’ when you need to – whether you’re a business owner taking every day (or hour) as it comes, or an employee wondering what the future has in store.

Although, for many, our office is doubling up as our home, it’s still important to allow yourself the headspace when the working day is done – both literally and figuratively.

So, enjoy some downtime, try to refrain from aimlessly scrolling through social media while the news is on in the background, and keep up the conversation with friends and family via video calls. This will all contribute to the ability to – hopefully – emerge from this challenging time as a stronger individual, team and company.

About the author

Katie Mallinson, MD of Scriba PRCIPR member Katie Mallinson is Scriba’s founder. An Outstanding Young Communicator winner with a gong from HRH Prince Andrew also under her belt, she steers the Scriba ship and maintains the lead on all new business enquiries.

Her passion for communicating and eye for growth opportunities means she still loves to be hands-on with several of our technical clients. She is also an advocate of workplace wellbeing, staff development and young entrepreneurialism, which sees her frequently deliver pro bono support to youngsters in education and starting out in business.

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