• Jenny Barnes

Have you ever had one of those days?

Maybe it wasn’t just one of those days! Maybe it was one of those weeks, or your worst nightmare materialised in the office one Monday morning, or everything that possibly could go wrong suddenly did. We all know those moments in life where our first reaction is despair, closely followed by hopelessness and then turning into panic.

When things go wrong (spoiler alert: that’s an inevitable part of life), what do you do? It can be anything from turning up to an important meeting without the right paperwork, through to your two biggest customers giving notice on the same day, wiping 60% from your turnover. Sometimes these things just happen. But what is the best way to handle it?

Create some space…

The first thing to say is that panic is not a good companion to take into a crisis with you: tell panic to pack his bags and go home. What you need to do is find a clear space (mentally and physically) in which to think. Whatever the size and imminence of your particular predicament, it will always be more manageable if you are able to see it with absolute clarity, through neutral eyes.

By distancing yourself from the issue for a time (I don’t mean shirking the responsibility), you will always get a better view of what’s going on. How often have you given good advice to others, pinpointed what a friend in need should do, or chuckled at the foolishness of The Apprentice candidates’ actions (or some other reality TV show)? Life is a much easier game to play when you are not at the centre of the emotional action.

Once you have distanced yourself from your own brain-fog, emotional compromise and personal interest – I promise you – that you’ll identify a better solution, faster. Maybe all you have time for is five minutes of purposeful mindfulness in the restroom (sorry to go all American there), or perhaps you could afford yourself a long walk in the countryside. As long as you can find a way to think clearly you will see your way out more clearly.

What is the process?

There are hundreds of events that could go wrong in your business or personal life each day. In each scenario there will be different things to address but, generically speaking, the same principles apply. Once you are in your place of space and clarity, these are the things to remember:

Look at the bigger picture: Firefighting may be necessary in the short-term, but it is rarely the whole answer. Your strategy should include a plan to correct the circumstances that caused the mishap to occur in the first place.

Only do what you can do: Having established your big-picture strategy, revert to step-by-step actions. It may be that you can’t solve the problem overnight – don’t worry if that’s the case – simply do what you can do today!

Ask other people for help: You are in charge of the solution and your initial distance will give you clarity on the direction. As soon as you go back into dealing with it, however, there is a danger of losing focus. So keep returning to a clear thinking space and don’t be afraid to get an external view from a trusted advisor.

At the end of the day it is good to remember that crisis situations are few and far between. In essence, they are just ‘one of those days’ and they are not the bigger picture of our life goals and visions. As each one comes and rapidly goes (thanks to your careful management) you can learn the lessons they present and plan to avoid the same situation ever happening again. ‘Those days’ will soon be a memory and when more appear you will be better prepared to deal with them.

Have a great day…

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