01 Sep 2016 20:19 IST

An opportunity hides in every challenge

Seek opportunities and you shall find them, just as Jill Bolte Taylor, author of "My Stroke of Insight" did

One of the most interesting videos I watched recently was Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk. An incredible 19 million others watched it too. The descriptor on her speech says: “Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.”

Having interviewed her for our magazine, Culturama, I felt deeply inspired to share more with you, the readers of BusinessLine on Campus. Many a time, absolutely astonishing opportunities come to us couched as challenges.

So what should we do when we are faced with a challenge? Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you make the most of it.

Step back

Whether it is a personal relationship problem or a project disruption, it is impossible to think of a solution when we are too involved. Step out of the challenge. Keeping a distance from it physically will help develop mental distance too. When we had a recent client escalation, we could have lost a key account. But we realised there was no point in panicking. We had to go offsite and think about it calmly.

Weigh the pros and cons

When we step back, our mind continues with the processes of blame, accusation, and negative thinking. However, it is up to us to clinically come up with pros and cons of a situation.

We need to make up our mind to analyse this and use the data for immediate resolution and perhaps, for future action too. As a student, if you had two colleges to choose from, did you not carefully think about the college ranking vs. the department you were offered admission in? It’s the same in work and in life as well. There is never an ‘all lose’ situation. There are always ‘lose now, win in the long run’ solutions.

Strengthen emotional intelligence

To arrive at the right decision though, it is this step that is crucial. Building your own emotional intelligence is imperative to remain calm, whether you face profit or loss, pleasure or pain. Finding a stress relief mechanism like meditation, where your attention is trained to focus on what you want to think about (and not let a certain issue hijack your mind) is key.

Only if you have been doing this when you are well and happy can you control your mind when you are at the crossroads. Go for a brisk walk, repeat a calming word or stay still, like Jill Taylor had to do, and call the ambulance yourself. Remember, you’re your own presence of mind. Adopt the right emotional attitude.

Seek special advice

Just as you seek out a doctor in ill health, make sure you ask for advice from a manager who is a specialist in your workplace, or a past associate you know who has come out of a similar situation or a counsellor of some sort. Don’t allow your ego to get in the way. When we accept that we cannot handle everything ourselves and seek help, the first big step has already been taken.

Plan work

Counsel cannot be given. It has to be taken. So, having listened to the reasoning, the next mandatory step is planning, making checklists and setting up milestones to overcome the challenge. A reasonable timeline that is not overambitious has to be fixed. This timeline should be communicated with all people concerned. Then, you must be tough about your deliverables, yet realistic about others’ availability.

Work to plan

The most important part of leadership is execution. As also is working through what has been planned and sticking to it with conviction. Daily reviews are non-negotiable for changing the challenge into an opportunity for success.

When I wrote asking Dr Jill Bolte Taylor for a comment for a book I was doing, her office politely told me that she was working on her next book and was not taking time to write or give comments in that duration. This clear ability to say ‘No’, contributed to where she is — the most read and viewed expert on being whole brained, a sought-after speaker and an inspirational leader. Yet, it is done politely.

When we follow these six steps, we build a new life. Basking in its success, we look back and say, “Thank God I had that difficulty, or I would still have been coasting through life”. Think of all that you have already been through to get to where you are today. You have worked hard, sacrificed, learnt, loved, lost, regained and made it. So nothing can come up that you are not up to. You can handle more than you think.

So go ahead, think big.