I have often heard motivational speakers say that the word crisis in Chinese means both danger and opportunity. In investigating the facts, I have found running arguments on the web as to whether or not this is true. I personally do not speak Chinese and am certainly not an expert on this matter.
But whether it's true or not, this I know to be true; a crisis is an opportunity. It's all in how you view it. And how you view it, makes all the difference.
I can only speak from my own experience, so let me share my own story. I recently faced a business crisis. My first physical reaction was one of stress. All kinds of thoughts went through my head and most of them were in the form of questions. Andrew Morrison, founder of Small Business Camp(www.smallbusinesscamp.com) says 'Questions are sometimes more powerful than answers.'
Why? Because the questions you ask will determine the solutions you seek and they can turn a crisis into an opportunity. How so? Let's take the common questions many business owners probably ask themselves.
1. Why is this happening to me?
2. Am I in the wrong business?
3. Why is/are he/she/they doing this to me?
4. What did I do wrong?
5. Why didn't I see that coming?
These questions promote answers that are full of blame, self-doubt, rash decisions and feelings of victimization. They do not lend themselves to quality solutions and promote stress. We all know that stress kills! An article called 'Stress' on the American Diabetes Association's website (www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/stress.jsp) says, 'Stress hormones that are designed to deal with short-term danger stay turned on for a long time'. Another story on Fox News entitled 'Did Sept. 11 Cause Heart Attacks? ' (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,103030,00.html) states 'stress increases the risk of heart attacks and arrhythmia'.
When facing a crisis don't respond with a knee-jerk reaction. Take a moment to breathe and relax. It is more than likely not a danger requiring a fight or flight response. Fight or flight responses have their place. But they should only be used where they are needed like getting out of the way of a speeding vehicle or getting away from some other immediate life threatening danger. As long as you are not facing a situation like this, take a moment! You owe it to yourself.
Now make a paradigm shift, changing your view of the situation. Sometimes we take things very personally. We view a comment or an action as a personal affront. But there can be a million reasons as to why something is happening to you and none of it may be related to anything you have done or said and may be motivated by something going on with the other party. Don't take it personally.
A crisis may be an opportunity for you to change or improve, create better procedures or even make a life change. The events of 9/11 were a terrible tragedy. We all agree on that. However, it became an opportunity for this country to examine its current operating procedures and security, asking better questions of its leaders and requiring people to pay closer attention to what's happening at home and abroad. Many people, once passive or indifferent, are now actively working on making this country and the world a better place.
If the country can face such a devastating event like 9/11 and still pick up the pieces as a whole, make changes and hopefully move in a better direction, then why not you? It all begins with asking better questions from the beginning. Be aware of what you are saying to yourself and change the direction if it's not positive. This is not burying your head in the sand, this is setting yourself up to take immediate action in the right direction.
Now let's look at a list of three solution-oriented questions:
1. What would be the best way for me to handle this?
2. How can I make to prevent this from happening again?
3. What should I do for myself so that I can move forward?
Your self-talk can spur you to success with action or cut you off at the pass and kill progressive solutions. Robert Kiyosaki, of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame, says "Don't say that you "can't" afford it... say, how "can" I afford it." This approach spurs you to a solution. The other approach shuts you down.
A great tactic, if this crisis involves someone else, would be to ask for a moment if possible. Genuinely promise to address the situation and get back to them at a specific time or day. This gives you a chance to regroup and come up with a viable solution.
For me, taking this approach was a chance for me to do something I knew I needed to do. Create more detailed procedures and processes. It opened the way for growth in my business. But the most noticeable personal benefit was that it changed the way I physically felt and created a relaxed, less stressed business owner with a positive attitude toward the future and positive, productive solutions. I challenge you to try this approach the next time you face a crisis and see if it can work for you.