The unique approaches people use to overcome challenges

Self-help manuals might tell you to visualise your goals, to think positively and get rid of the haters to overcome challenges. But what can we learn from the approaches people who face real obstacles every day use to beat them?

Think on your feet

Put simply, says chef Jean-Luc Sainlo, “in a hot kitchen there’s no time for self-pity or gnashing of teeth.” He adds, “There are just some days when things are going to go wrong in our business – deliveries delayed, a sauce separates or some other spanner in the works. On days like this there’s no point stewing (pun absolutely intended) over the let-downs. We always try to problem solve on the move, thinking about what we can do to mitigate the circumstances.” He adds, “Some of our now best suppliers have come out of a 5:30am scramble to get hold of something that the usual supplier hasn’t delivered.”

Take it a step at a time

Work iteratively, says Helen Plaice, educational consultant and former maths teacher: “It’s the golden rule for maths – all you need to be able to do is the next step. If you keep on doing the next step then you’ll get there in the end. This is how I teach solving complicated algebraic equations. It seems to cut out the panic and then the students find that they can do it after all…”

Believe in yourself

“My main challenge – that occurs daily – is believing I make work that is good enough,” says Rob Walker, signwriter and owner of Signs By Umberto, “It's a really difficult barrier to overcome. I'm my own worst critic and full of anxiety about if the work is executed to the level I expect from myself.” However, says Walker, “while this can be a huge burden it also seems to be what drives me forward. I often feel dissatisfied with my outcome and obsess over the 'quality' of it and this ultimately creates a situation where I try to refine what I do, daily.”

Re-assess the problem

Revisit the constraints and assumptions which apply to the problem, says business growth consultant Isla Wilson, “For example in solving the problem of serving food quicker, have you assumed that the menu needs to stay the same? Are you sure it does?” Refocus on what you are trying to achieve rather than how you'll achieve it, she adds, “If you are trying to increase profit you may be focused on cost and efficiency but you could also achieve your aim by increasing sales or prices. Make sure you are considering the goal not just the method.”

Don’t give up

Plumber Peter Booth swears by dogged determination to get over a challenge: “The other day I did a job and I had drained down the central heating system on a boiler that was kind of working but wasn’t working great. I drained it down to do a repair and then filled it back up. It still wouldn’t work. I’ve been doing this job for 18 years and I’d thought of every possible thing I could think of but I could not get this boiler to circulate. I rang a couple of friends, they suggested I do what I’d already done. I was there the whole day. Eventually I took a part out that I wouldn’t normally take out and inside it I found a tiny piece of plastic that had worked its way into the system and blocked the flow of water. I could have just told the customer they needed a new boiler. But I didn’t…”

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