Getting things into perspective

March 26, 2019

A question that comes up regularly in my executive coaching sessions is how to manage difficult or stressful situations.

The reality is that while we all come up against challenges the impact they have on us generally has less to do with the situation than it does with how we deal with it.

Consider those people who face seemingly insurmountable challenges – only to come back stronger than ever. What makes them different?

Simply put – it’s mindset.

But how can you train yourself to approach challenges with the right frame of mind if you are prone to negative thinking? One of the most effective tools I have found is the 3P’s model developed by positive psychologist Dr Martin Seligman. It’s one of the strategies Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, credits with making her stronger after her husband’s unexpected death.

The 3P’s asks you to step back from the problem you are facing and objectively consider it from three angles.

  1. Pervasiveness – how much of your life does this event impact? Your health, friendships, hobbies, children, marriage, career? To what extent will it effect your day-to-day life? The reality is that most situations directly impact only a small component of our life.
  2. Permanence – how long will this situation effect you? Is this going to be something that you worry about in 10 or 20 years time? Or will it pass in a few days, weeks or months? Those who give into pessimism tend to treat misfortunes as lasting forever or as a sign of permanent issues. “I’m always unlucky”. “Things never work out for me”. 
  3. Personalisation – is the situation your fault? Were you the sole cause or did outside factors have an impact? If you consistently blame yourself for negative situations you will find it harder to bounce back. Remember there is a difference between taking responsibility for resolving a situation and blaming it on yourself.

Why not pick a current challenge you are facing and put it through the 3P’s. Simply note on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being low and 10 being high) how pervasive, permanent and personal the situation is. You will find that in even the most difficult situations it can help you regain a sense of perspective, control and optimism.

I welcome your thoughts and questions. Get in touch by emailing me a

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