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Problem or Project? The Choice is Yours

Jan 08, 2022

“In the study of truth, we talk often about the power of words.  It is important to put into words only the verbal statements you want to see manifest in your life.  For instance, the word ‘problem’.  You say, ‘I have a problem.’ A much better word to employ when referring to some sort of challenge is ‘project’.  Note what happens when you say, ‘I have this project.’  It makes all the difference in the world.  The word project suggests a positive endeavor of development…..We tackle a project with vigor and imagination and with the conviction that it will be done.”

                                                                                                    - Eric Butterworth


It had often been said that it is not what happens to us that matters, but the meaning we put to it.


Each of us went through our own unique set of challenges in 2021.  For many of us, this was once again, the most challenging of years, with several of our most difficult trials continuing into the new year.   


However, what many have come to realize is that regardless of obstacles that present themselves in our lives, it is how we deal with these circumstances inside of ourselves and the action we then take from our perspective, that has the greatest impact on making positive or negative change in our lives.


Per usual, during the holidays, I connected with serveral of my closest friends.  Each of us gave each other an update on our last year.  While each of us shared our personal challenges that arose, when we got truly honest with ourselves, we saw that there were many blessings we experienced in the last year. 


Interestingly enough, in many cases, had it not been for our lives being altered due to the ongoing pandemic, there are many paths we would not have taken, and as a result, many gifts and blessings we would not have experienced.


This reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Wayne Dyer, who eloquently stated,


“When you change the way you look at things,

the things you look at change.”


That brings us to the distinction shared in the opening quote by Eric Butterworth of looking at something as a problem versus a project.



Think about it.  When we are encountered with a problem, there can be a natural reaction of feeling despair, dread or worry for how we will deal with it and the unseen terrible consequences that may arise. 


When we are in this state of fear, we don’t make our best decisions, our creativity is stifled and as we default to our instinct of simply surviving, we take ourselves out of the physical, mental and emotional states of thriving.


However, when we view something as a project, there is a sense of excitement (unless it’s cleaning the basement) that infuses us.  We see possibilities and improvements from the current state of things.  We get motivated thinking about the contribution we will make to ourselves, our family or our team.  We roll up our sleeves, begin to make plans for diving into our tasks and are excited to begin our work.


If this is the case, what would happen if the next time we are confronted with what we consider to be a problem, we took Butterworth’s advice and reframed it as a project?


Here are four ways I believe each of us can embrace to transform even our most challenging problems into projects we can courageously and enthusiastically dive into.

 1) Ask yourself what is REALLY happening? – If you are like me, when a challenge arises, especially one I was not anticipating, it is easy to go into protective or survival mode and create a story for the worst thing that can happen. These egoic responses of protection are natural; hard-wired into our psyches and not necessarily bad.  In fact, these types responses are probably what kept our ancestors alive when the possibility of being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger in the wild existed.


When fear arises, it is absolutely fine to experience the feeling.  In fact, it is important to let it come forth rather than trying to suppress it.  However, after the initial stage of fear has passed, we are not served by projecting our pain, discomfort and possible demise into the future.  Rather, pause and ask yourself what the real circumstances are before you – WITHOUT YOUR STORY.  This will allow your rational mind to kick in and help you identify what needs to be done to address the challenge.


2) What WANTS to happen? – As we saw in 2021, some of our best made plans never materialized, as we needed to adapt to new ways of living our lives and running our businesses. Those that remained committed to forcing things to be the way they always had been or the way they had planned, struggled.  Conversely, those who were flexible and saw these new circumstances as opportunities for growth and expansion, thrived. 


In many cases, these circumstances that necessitated us to “pivot” caused us to look at things much differently than we did before, adjust our strategies, and as a result, produced positive outcomes we may have never imagined.  Said another way, by surrendering to what wanted to happen in these circumstances and taking action from that point, we produced positive results.


3) Identify the FIRST right move and take it. – When problems arise, they can seem overwhelming. We look at the enormity of the challenge before us and we simply don’t know where to begin.  As a result, we freeze and do nothing.


However, think about the last time you had a building or baking project.  You simply pulled out the directions or recipe, found the right tools or ingredients, and went to the first step that you were instructed to do. 


There is great power in getting into action, even if it is incredibly small.  Just like taking the first step in a building or baking project, that initial action begins to create momentum and gets us on our way.  This movement can also unveil to us other opportunities and unknown assistance we didn’t know existed.  Or as one of my teachers once told me,


God meets us at the point of action.


4) Take the NEXT right move (rinse and repeat) – While the most efficient of projects will come with directions or a plan of action, sometimes we are not afforded this luxury when challenges arise.


In this case, check in with yourself and simply take the next right move available.  After that, take the next right move and the next right move after that.  When the plan or future is uncertain, keep yourself attuned with what needs to be done in the present moment, letting go of worry about the future and its unseen obstacles. 


It is my experience that when we do this, our plan of action will be unveiled to us and the path to completing our project will be made clear.


So, get to it, my friend.  You have some exciting projects to get to.



Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching


PS:  If you have a challenging "project" you would like to bring into reality in 2022, click here to learn more about my 2022 Strategic Planning Power Package.


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