Stressed? Your Problems are Opportunities—Here’s Why

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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You probably encounter problems every day in your life. But what can you do about them? And how can you adopt an attitude that will let you learn from your problems, and recognize that problems are opportunities?

You can start by shifting your paradigm. Whether a problem is in your job, in a relationship, or something else, you can see that problem or conflict as an opportunity to develop better communication and better habits. If you look at them the right way, all problems are opportunities to grow and change and build better habits.

Turning Problems into Opportunities

In a relationship, turning problems into opportunities will empower and deepen that relationship. In this way, any problem with P (the emotional, organizational, or other benefits that the relationship brings each person) is a chance to build PC (the healthy relationship that fosters P).

If your child comes to you with a problem, rather than being annoyed or burdened by it, consider it an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. The time and energy you spend working through that problem will make a major deposit in your Emotional Bank Account. Additionally, you and your child will likely both develop a better understanding of each other that will benefit your relationship moving forward, and your child will learn that problems are opportunities also.

This is also a critical concept in business: When a customer comes in with a problem or complaint, don’t be resentful or defensive. Instead, remember that problems are opportunities: show a genuine desire to resolve the issue and go the extra mile in treating the customer well and providing excellent service. This response creates even greater customer loyalty and satisfaction that eclipses the initial problem. You’ll also show your dedication to customers and the business by turning problems into opportunities.

Other Perspectives Can Help Turn Problems to Opportunities

To foster synergy, you must view a person’s differences as assets — rather than roadblocks — to creating something new and innovative. Remember, roadblocks, like problems, are opportunities. You can even view these communication barriers as turning problems into opportunities. Someone who has the same view and opinion as you adds nothing to your knowledge and perspective, but someone with a different view gives you the opportunity to expand your perspective and come up with solutions that would never have occurred to your otherwise. Problems are opportunities, but so is how you approach the problem.

Everyone sees the world through their own paradigms; that means no one’s view is objective, including yours. If you believe problems are opportunities, you must first understand your own paradigm, and its limits. If you think you see the world objectively, then you’ll think that anyone who sees things differently is wrong. But if you understand that your — and everyone else’s — lens of the world is determined by individual paradigms, then you can value and appreciate that other people’s views can broaden your (admittedly limited) understanding of the world. Turning problems into opportunities can be easier with multiple perspectives.

In fact, if you truly understand that your view of the world is limited by your lens, then it’s easy to see why you need to consider and integrate other people’s perspectives so that you can approach life with more complete data. If you really believe that problems are opportunities, you’ll seek out any and all help to find that opportunity. For example, if you were trying to map the stars and were confined to the view from where you live, would you reject images of the night sky that someone sent you from another part of the world because they looked different than the photos you took? Or would you use them to expand your map?

If you think about the fact that problems are opportunities for growth, you’ll give yourself more space to grow and change, and also help you encounter less stress over your problems. Each problem is a chance to develop better skills and habits, and shift your paradigm in a positive way.

Stressed? Your Problems are Opportunities—Here’s Why

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Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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