Your greatest challenge is also your greatest opportunity

Surfer preparing to surf large wave

Identifying more options for responding to situations brings us flexibility, puts us back in control, and makes us much more likely to find the inspiration that is so important in a time of change.

In any crisis situation there are five ways we can choose to respond: five types of outcome we can choose to create.

Perhaps even more important than this, there are also five sets of options for how much we can choose to learn and grow from the experience.

Ten years ago the challenges you face today probably would not have arisen for you: you were likely in a different role and didn’t have the skills or experience to be able to do what you can do now. In the same way, situations you once found challenging in the past are probably routine for you now.

The abilities you have today have grown directly out of the challenges you faced in the past. This means the challenges you face today are opportunities for you to develop into the kind of person you want to become in the future.

As before, you have a choice. And the five options for how much you choose to learn from any situation are:

  1. Apply / Maintain your existing leadership skills
    Apply the leadership abilities you already have (and use them to fix, improve, ignore, exit, or transform the situation).
  2. Develop / Improve the way you lead yourself and others
    Use the situation as an opportunity to improve or develop your skills and abilities, perhaps by learning to address a larger or more complex situation than you have done before.
  3. Transform your leadership
    Acquire the leadership skills that could have prevented the crisis from arising in the first place. If you can’t think of what those skills are, think of a leader who would have been able to prevent the crisis from happening. Ask yourself what they would have done and learn to copy that.
  4. Ignore / Delegate the situation
    Make the choice that, even though you could apply your existing leadership skills to address the situation, you will choose to ignore it or live with it — either because it is not a priority for you or so that others can learn and develop their capabilities.
  5. Remove your leadership skills to somewhere else
    Actively shift your leadership skills into a different role, perhaps one that has more meaning for you, that better matches your needs, or will develop or reward you better.

Listing these options will help you find the the opportunities in a crisis. It will put you back in control of the choice you make between whatever options are available. It also increases the likelihood that you will find the inspirational way forward that is so important in a time of change.

Approaching the situation in this way also means that what seems to be your greatest crisis also contains your greatest opportunity to learn.

Are you facing an apparently difficult or crisis situation at the moment? What kind of person would be able to handle that with ease? What kind of skills would they need to be able to do that? How can you use this situation to acquire those skills?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building emotional engagement in times of change.

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Photo By Mike Sutherland via

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