Chocolate Covered Cherries

Three Cordial CherriesMy Grandma Duncan loved chocolate covered cherries. To say I did not would be a sizeable understatement. Every holiday, as she opened the dreaded candy box and urged me to have one, I just knew that ball of syrupy sweetness was going to get bigger and bigger in my mouth as I chewed, threatening to totally gag me. Looking back, I’m fairly certain the fretting beforehand was much worse than the candies (although my throat still tightens at the mere mention of them). Call it the “chocolate covered cherry effect” . . . the anticipation — and angst — of a looming challenge has caused many a leader to choke.

We’ve all been there. Expert predictions/trends/new rules foretell of significant disruptions to the way your organization functions . . . and stewing about the looming shadow of uncertainty only causes it to grow in your mind. Chocolate covered cherry effect. The more you chew on it, the bigger it becomes.

Certainly, you should identify and carefully consider the challenges before you. The key is how you approach it. The chocolate covered cherry effect happens when you get stuck on what the challenge is going to do to you. A much more effective, and energizing, leadership strategy is to identify what you will do to move past the challenge, and maximize the resulting opportunities.

The thing you focus on grows. Do you want to focus on the challenge — the chocolate covered cherry — or do you want to focus on what you can accomplish when you move past it? A few tips for those interested keeping their challenges in perspective:

1) Thoughtfully consider the challenge, gather input from multiple viewpoints, and then make a decision. You will rarely have all the information you would like. Get enough and then decide. The longer you chew on it, the bigger the challenge feels.

2) Remember, you know how to do this. I have eaten a number of chocolate covered cherries in my life, and none of them killed me. You have faced, and conquered, challenges before. Recognize that you have the skills to move through it.

3) Take it a bite at a time. Part of what can make challenges seem so overwhelming is that you often can’t see how you’ll get all the way through at the outset. That’s okay. Start eating away at the challenge. The path will become clearer as you go.

4) It’s worth the effort. In the grand scheme of things, the chocolate covered cherries were a small price to pay compared to the joys of holidays with my grandparents. I would have missed so much if I couldn’t see past that challenge to possibilities that came with it.

The thing you focus on grows. And I certainly don’t want that to be the chocolate covered cherries. What about you?

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