We’ve All Got a Problem

Have you ever used a personality test to try and understand a personal problem? Maybe you’ve used the Meyers-Briggs or the Enneagram, hoping to learn something new. It’s true that such tests give our stressed-out minds the explanations they crave. They provide comfort, a feeling that we understand our problems and why we do what we do. (Here at Leadership Reality, we’re big believers in the DiSC Work of Leaders, and we believe it works.)

But these tests can also leave your head in the clouds. In reality, questions like, What’s wrong with me? and Why am I so stressed? are very limited. Though they sound specific, they can actually distract you from your problem. Therefore, when we’re in real pain, it’s better to ask targeted questions: What challenges are you facing in your personal and professional life? What’s holding you back from success? Where are you stuck, and what do you need in order to move forward? In short, What’s your (real) problem? 

We all hope that understanding our problem will make it go away. But every good story needs tension to keep the plot moving. In fact, the problem you’re facing today provides that tension. Instead of viewing them as obstacles, learn to see them in the way a bird meets wind resistance: without wind, there is no flight. Similarly, without tension, there is no story. 

Below, we’ve provided a list of common personal and leadership problems that help our clients clarify and drill down into the deeper issues that mark their stories. Take time today, and review the list for yourself. Does anything stand out?


What’s Your Problem?

  • I feel like garbage. 
  • My back is killing me.
  • I’m exhausted.
  • I’m overweight.
  • I hate the way I look.
  • I’m angry.
  • I can’t think straight.
  • I’m letting my emotions cloud my judgment.
  • I’m struggling to make decisions.
  • I’m paralyzed by fear of failure.
  • I have no time to think.
  • I’ve lost my edge.
  • I’m not learning and improving myself.
  • I’m not challenged to think differently.
  • I’m stuck with old models of thinking.
  • I feel empty.
  • I’m constantly worried.
  • I’m terrified about the future.
  • I feel like my life lacks purpose.
  • I struggle with guilt.
  • My spouse and I haven’t been alone together in months
  • Every interaction feels like a fight
  • We haven’t been on a date in years
  • The romance is gone
  • The kids are exhausting us
  • I never see my kids anymore.
  • My teenager won’t put his phone down and talk to me.
  • My adult children hate me/won’t speak to me.
  • My kid’s life is going off the rails.
  • I feel like a failure as a parent.
  • I have unresolved tension with family.
  • I’m struggling to forgive a family member.
  • I feel inadequate in my parents’ eyes.
  • My family members feel intimidated by my success. 
  • I hate family get-togethers.
  • I have a predictable and boring social life. I’m lonely.
  • I don’t have any deep friendships.
  • I’m not involved in or contributing to my community.
  • People only talk to me when something is broken.
  • I don’t know most of my employees’ names.
  • I’m not thriving in my current job.
  • My colleagues are out to get me.
  • My team members don’t respect me.
  • I feel ill equipped to lead right now.
  • I don’t know how to move us forward.
  • I’m deep in debt and can’t find my way out.
  • Retirement is coming and I haven’t saved.
  • My lifestyle has taken me hostage.
  • I can’t stop trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  • I’ll never make enough.
  • I feel like I don’t know what “rest” means anymore.
  • Going to the gym seems useless.
  • I can’t remember the last time I read a book or watched a movie for enjoyment.
  • If I did have free time, I don’t know what I’d do with it.
  • My house (apartment, condo, etc.) doesn’t feel like a home.
  • I don’t like the neighborhood/city I live in.
  • My out-of-date house has got me depressed.
  • I don’t have a place to focus and do my best work.
  • I don’t have a place to retreat for rest.


Don’t “Solve” Yourself; Practice Your Presence

In our Navigator Executive Coaching process, the questions above lay the groundwork for radical behavior change. When leaders receive targeted suggestions for new habits, they surgically address, the heart-and-mind problem that is holding them back the most on that day. Though everyone’s journey is different, we’ve observed some patterns that we hope can help you where you’re at today.

Therefore, we are going to suggest to you some common, deliberate, habitual practices. Ask any major leaguer how he learned to hit a fastball and he’ll answer with one word: practice. When that pitch comes across, the batter isn’t relying on the latest theory in swing management. Rather, he’s trusting his body to react to a situation it’s been in countless times. Similarly, your everyday leadership is also a product of your practice. Every meeting and every round of feedback reflects a lifetime of real-world training. Growth, too, isn’t just about reading books, writing plans, and thinking better thoughts. It’s also about retraining your heart and hands to do the things your head’s decided are important. Since we assign the following practices with such regularity, we recommend them to anyone and everyone:


Basic Behaviors for Presence

[5 min. Daily] Feel Your Thoughts. Take 5 minutes every day to ask yourself the following: are you facing a difficult decision right now? What do the facts and data say about your next move? What is your gut telling you to do? If there’s a gap, why do you think that is? What would happen if you trusted your gut on this one instead of your head?


[5 min. Daily] Mind Your Emotions. Take 5 minutes every day to ask yourself the following: are your emotions pinging right now? Are you anxious about an upcoming meeting? Does the market have you frightened? Are you excited about a new product? Instead of pushing down your emotions, dig deeper into what you’re feeling right now. What are your emotions trying to tell you?


[1/day] Just Do It. Leadership is more than thoughts and emotions. You need to act. What decisions are you putting off right now? Is your analysis keeping you from action? Is your soul-searching preventing you from pulling the trigger? What would happen if, instead of stressing about “making the right decision,” you chose to focus on making a decision and then making it right? Once a day, make a to-do list and then commit to doing the Three Most Important Things on your list. Decide on these early, and count the day a success so long as these three things get done.   


[1/day] Providence, Performance, and Gratitude. Warren Buffet worked his tail off but still believed “luck” was the glue holding his success together. According to the authors of Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck (2012), Buffet’s attitude probably made him even “luckier” than he would have been without it: “Some people believe in Luck—and this belief makes them luckier. Luck is a part of their optimistic outlook and openness to new things.” If you believe in God, you likely attribute your “luck” to His wise providence. Recognizing that there are forces outside us that influence our outcomes in life doesn’t mean we slack off; it means we work harder. The only thing we can do is put our heads down and do the work. Once per day, preferably as you wind down for the night, take 5-10 minutes and write down things you were grateful for throughout the day that you had no control over. Reflect on how you can better place yourself in the path of such providential joys and opportunities. 


[1/week] Let Go and Let Grow. Every week, take 25 minutes to reflect on the following: How are you doing with your 90-day plan? Have you started yet? What’s working? What isn’t? Where have you encountered the most resistance? Where are you feeling discouraged? If you’re not seeing the progress you want, don’t withdraw. Reframe your hypotheses, adjust your habits, optimize your action items, and keep doing the work. Commit to your plan and trust the process.


[1/month] Get a Coach. Practice can only take you so far without a coach to watch your swing and let you know how you’re doing. Check in with an accountability partner, or seek out others who can give you specific or expert insight. Then, ask them to watch you practice. Let them speak up when they see you make even little mistakes. Trust them to keep you from developing bad habits.


Play Through Your Problem

As you go on your way, remember the major league batter: when he walks up to the plate, he’s present in every important sense of the term. Even the slightest lapse into absence means that a 90-mile-an-hour fastball is going straight into the catcher’s glove. That kind of presence requires you to integrate your entire humanity into every action, decision, and emotion. It demands that you bring your whole self into everything you do. We hope these exercises train your heart, mind, and body to show up wherever you are.


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