Eileen Mulligan is the author of Life Coaching: Change Your Life in Seven Days. The book is designed to help readers reassess their lives, redefine success, and set new goals. Mulligan says that “problems are a useful and necessary part of your development. They can reveal things that you might not otherwise see.” Losing your job in this economy is indeed a problem, and Mulligan presents ways to make room for solutions in your life and career.
Mulligan says that problems, big and small, make us feel out of control. We all spend an enormous amount of energy trying to figure out what’s coming next – trying to know what the outcome of a situation will be. It’s the impulse to read the last chapter of a novel when the suspense gets to be too much. Once you know how it ends, you can relax and enjoy the story. And possibly pick up on more clues along the way, noticing details you might have missed if you didn’t know the identity of the killer.
In my experience, it’s the same for many jobseekers. They struggle against uncertainty. They want to read the last few pages so they know how their story turns out. But sometimes, the future is simply unknowable. Here’s how Eileen Mulligan suggests you cope with the uncertainty of your situation.
Her first suggestion is to change what she calls the “running order” of your thought process. The running order of thoughts is unique to every individual, and it’s in part why what’s a problem for one person is not a problem for another. The more rigid your running order, the more problems you’ll perceive to be in your way. Say you decide to take up running to get into shape. It’s going fine until you develop a stress injury. That’s a problem if you want to keep running. But if you open your goal to be “get into shape through exercise,” you can consider swimming as an alternative. The problem melts away, or is at least less problematic.
Is there a blind spot you might have developed without knowing it? Many successful products have been developed out of failures. The Post-it® note was developed when a failed glue experiment produced such a weak product that it was easy to peel paper away from a surface it was glued to. Bad for glue, but great for another purpose. 3M employee Art Fry thought the weak glue would be a great way to hold his bookmark in his hymnal on Sunday. It would stick through the service, but peel away easily without hurting the pages when he was done. The “problem” of the weak glue inspired the invention of a product that has produced billions in revenue since its launch in 1980.
Mulligan also believes that most problems can be solved faster if they are repositioned so that the responsibility for the problem rests with yourself. Sounds like it would make the problem worse, doesn’t it? But it can be an exercise that helps you look at the problem differently. For example, if you view your problem as “no one I meet at networking events ever has any good leads for me,” it will be hard to find a solution. You’re at the mercy of the people you meet at the event, and the guest list is out of your control. If you restate the problem: “At networking events, the way I present my skills and goals is not resulting in strong leads,” the solution lies with you. If you can improve your presentation, you may get more useful leads.
Think of the possibilities. “No one returns my calls” turns into “I need a more compelling way to leave a message.” Mulligan calls this process being “a spectator AND a player.” You’re no longer passively observing other people’s (bad) behavior; you can take action to change the outcome. What problem could you reposition today?