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Everyone gets stuck. It’s part of life. It’s part of business. We all have blind spots, energy slumps, personal and professional limitations and challenges that often we might not seem to be able to get over.
But getting stuck can be especially frustrating when you are a CEO and everyone looks up to you for leadership and guidance.
Surprisingly, in situations like this, 95 percent of us think that if we just try a little bit harder, it’ll all work out and we will be able to resolve our challenges and eventually ‘get unstuck.’
When I work with executives who are ‘feeling stuck’ I usually tell them a story that goes something like this: “In a quiet room, on a hot day in July, a small fly burns out the last of its short life’s energy in a futile attempt to fly through the glass of a window pane.”
The fly’s strategy is simple: ‘Try Harder!’ But it’s not working.
The desperate effort of its frenzied flying offers no hope for survival. Ironically, the struggle is part of the trap! You see, it is impossible for the fly to succeed in breaking through the glass, no matter how hard it tries. Nevertheless, the fly is hoping to reach its life goal (to get out of the room) through raw struggle and determination.
In reality, this fly is doomed. It will die right there on the windowsill.
Now, little does this fly know that a few meters further away is an open window that leads directly to the beautiful outdoors and with only a fraction of the effort the fly can be free from its self-imposed trap.
Now the question I usually ask is this: Why isn’t the fly trying an alternative approach?
How did that fly get so locked into the idea that breaking through the glass was the only possibility for success?
What logic is there in that fly continuing to attempt the same thing over and over again until finally, exhausted, it falls onto the windowsill and dies?
The lesson the fly teaches us is that trying harder is not the solution to achieving more. In fact, more often than not, trying harder is part of the problem.
If you’re staking your hopes for a breakthrough on trying harder than ever before, then you’re killing your chances for success. Maybe you are acting like that fly and it is actually time to try an alternative approach.
The worst thing you can do when you are stuck, is keep yourself in the office and try and work things out by staring at your computer screen or taking advice from the a leadership team that might have been flying against the same corporate window themselves.
When you are in a situation like that, when you find yourself acting like the fly, detach yourself from the situation. Walk out of the office and ask yourself: “Where is the door that I am not seeing?”
Keep asking yourself that question, keep looking at your situation from different points of view and sooner or later you will be able to see the way out.
If you fall within the group of people that ‘see the door’ but resist walking through it, then ask yourself what is the cause of the resistance: Is it fear of making an incorrect decision? Anxiety? Lack of clarity?
Maybe it is lack of willingness to leave what is known, your comfort zone. If you find yourself, keep flying against the same glass window, then ask yourself:“Am I willing to do this?”
It is the answer to that question that actually determines whether you get unstuck, whether you succeed or fail.
If you want to have something you haven’t had before, you need to do something you haven’t done before. So ask yourself: are you really willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals? Are you really willing to find the open door and venture out in the unknown?
Doing whatever it takes doesn’t mean you will have to do something illegal or immoral. It means that you will need to accept that you will have to make some sacrifices. And that’s where most people give up. They are not willing to do what it takes, not only because this takes additional effort but also because they do not realize that a sacrifice is not about giving up something you like or love.
Making a sacrifice is about letting go of something that you do not need anymore (e.g., an old habit, an ineffective way of being) in order to make room for something new and of a higher value to you.
So next time you find yourself stuck, think of the fly and ask yourself: What is it that I am not giving up? What is it that I keep on doing that makes me act like the fly against the closed window?
Stop being the fly that hopes to break through the glass by mere effort and determination; getting unstuck and becoming successful requires you to leave your comfort zone and, unlike the fly who died on the windowsill, get to fly out to the beautiful outdoors.
Sophia Fromell – Performance Coach, Speaker, Writer, Sophia Fromell Executive Change Management