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How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost

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how to move forward
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A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.

Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Why Problems Overwhelm Us

As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?

Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.

How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.

Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.

Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

How to Take Action in the Face of Problems

Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”

In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”

To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:

1. First, I acknowledged the feeling

Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”

Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.

2. Next, I prepared for the worst

We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.

In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.

The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar

3. Lastly, I examined the situation

Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.

I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.

Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.

The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.

Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.

Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.

How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!

Vishal is the founder of Content Sutra, a content marketing agency that helps businesses and brands leverage thought leadership. He’s also a Top Writer on Medium, and his work has amassed over 5 million views across various platforms.

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