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Banish that Helpless Feeling When Trends Turn Negative

Mar 3, 2008
People who feel helpless often react that way because they cannot locate any acceptable alternatives in their own minds. A good way to circumvent that problem is to find others who have had similar problems, and ask them what they would do in your situation. Undoubtedly, you'll get some ideas, and then you can test the more plausible ones on a limited basis to find out which ones actually work.

Alan G. Robinson and Sam Stern report that the Japanese national railway company was building a tunnel through one of the many large mountains in that country. Construction was delayed by enormous quantities of water that poured through the rock as the tunneling proceeded. Pumps were set up everywhere, and engineers were engaged to find a way to cheaply draw off all of this unexpected water.

At one of the meetings, a tunnel worker suggested that, instead of helplessly viewing the water as a nuisance, it be bottled and sold to consumers. Why? The worker had tasted the water and found it to be delicious.

Encouraged by this experience, many of the workers had been routinely drinking the water. This ingenious observation led to a way to use the water that generated millions of dollars in profitable revenue annually from the tunnel, while reducing the cost of eliminating excess water.

The irresistible force you can rely on here is the individuality of perception. Finding out more about the problem will usually stimulate someone to see the problem differently, perhaps even as an opportunity. The best way to do this is to experience the problem firsthand, and to try out some alternatives on the spot (like tasting the water in the tunnel).

You should always view every situation as being one where something positive can be done. You'll be much more effective in adopting that viewpoint if you can first identify what is causing you to feel helpless and then determine how to eliminate that cause.

What assumption or belief causes people in our organization to feel helpless in this circumstance?

Those assumptions will usually prove to be at least partially untrue when looked at more closely. For example, many people are concerned about driving on mountain roads because they fear that their car will be thrown over the edge if a tire bursts.

As youngsters, many people learned that concern from their parents. However, tires today have been much improved, and you can buy tires that will probably never burst under any condition (some will even allow you to drive safely for 50 miles even after you experience a massive puncture).

If you have to do a lot of mountain driving, you can eliminate a good deal of your anxiety by learning more about these tires and purchasing the ones that are most appropriate for your type of driving. By knowing under what circumstances the tires can burst, you can then adjust your maintenance of the tires and avoid serious driving hazards resulting in very low risk.

What can be done to eliminate the causes of the feeling of helplessness?

One of the best ways to find new alternatives is to involve lots of people with a variety of backgrounds. Chances are, someone already knows of a solution.

Howard Gardner points out that each person is uniquely gifted to perform at a high level along some of a variety of types of intelligence. Since many problems uniquely lend themselves to forms of intelligence other than those that are primarily reinforced in schools, you should deliberately select these diverse resources.

For example, a problem may not be solvable if everyone only looks out for their short-term interests (such as who will earn the most money from the first transaction). But someone with great emotional intelligence may see that the problem lies in helping everyone to shift their focus to the best long-term mutual interest (such as how everyone will earn the most money from all of the transactions over time). With strong communications intelligence, another person will perceive a way to explain this perspective so that it can be quickly grasped by the other parties involved.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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