Think your real problem is lack of resources, of time, money, or skills? It may be even bigger than that.
The biggest problems are usually the most invisible (and therefore the hardest to solve too). And when you do start to see the forest through the trees, they can seem insurmountable.
But for those of us interested in impact, these problems are also the ones worth taking all the risks to solve.
Perhaps you know what I'm talking about. Whether your organization is working to improve health outcomes or change social behaviors or to take groups or markets in new directions, you know you have your work cut out for you and you're in it for the long haul.
In the daily toil toward such audacious goals one of the greatest temptations is to drift into "if only," to focus on what appears to be holding you back.
I've found that when encountering problems, invisible or otherwise, a much more empowering and productive thought is "what if." For example, what if your "if only"s weren't dead-end thoughts that leave you feeling hopeless, but were actually glimpses into possibilities?
Let me show you what I mean. Here's some examples I hear frequently:
- If only this partner, coworker, boss, or employee would do what we want them to . . .
- If only we could control this process or these consequences . . .
- If only we had more skills, more time, more money . . .
Here's some good news: it is all possible.
Here's the catch: it requires discovering and working on the real obstacles, not the ones that seem to be described here. It requires addressing more persistent, more invisible problems. Those of you who think the ones I listed above are your persistent problems may be in for a surprise.
You see for everyone I've met who had one of these "if only"s, theres been plenty more who didn't have them. Plenty who have the team, the process, the skills, the time, even the money. And guess what? They still have problems! What sorts of problems? You guessed it, the invisible ones.
So what are the problems I'm talking about exactly?
They are simply communication problems.
Let me show you what I mean . . .
Think you can't find a way to engage with an ally (or adversary) or stakeholder? That's a communication issue.
Think your processes aren't working as well as you'd like them to? If there are humans involved, it's a communication issue. (And even if it seems that it's just the technology, guess what? Humans developed it.)
Think you don't have the funds to take your work to the next level? That's also a communication issue. (And a marketing one.)
Think that time is in just too short of a supply? Even that is a communication issue. (Told you you were in for a surprise.)
How do I know? I've personally had all of these problems (and then some) and guess how I solved them? Communication! It takes persistent effort to tackle persistent challenges, but believe me, it is possible!
And of course, it's always worth it. Because when your "if only"s can become "what if"s, when they can cease being thorns in your side and can instead be wishes and goals, your big audacious one will become not only possible but inevitable.
All that’s required is the willingness to begin to see what seems to be invisible.
Because the ultimate problem, in fact, is the persistent belief that we lack something, that there's something we just don't have. In truth, it may be that there's just things we aren't yet sharing.