I had the most interesting dream last night and it wasn’t even from bad pizza. I was on this sidewalk, but it was right next to a field that had a split rail fence. There were different levels to the fields and each level had an animal on it. One level had a gorilla. Another had a bull. There were other animals but after waking, certain parts of the dream became a bit foggy.

One of the most curious aspects of my dream was how I saw those animals. You know how you can hold down control and spin the wheel on your mouse to make web pages zoom in and out? Well, for some strange reason, I was doing that in my dream and the size of the gorilla and bull would change dramatically. Even though I was responsible for the size of them changing, I became quite anxious and afraid when they looked really huge to me.

I woke up feeling a bit nervous, but then I realized how much this paralleled how we lead many times. We see something and for whatever reason we can over-inflate its size or importance and cause ourselves a great deal of anxiety…not to mention the hell we cause for those we’re leading. The actual problem or issue can be not that big of a deal, but because of our perception it is what we believe it to be.

We set unnecessary goals and timelines because of how we see the issue; all the while destroying our credibility with others. So, here are a few tips on how to avoid creating a 300 lb. gorilla…or the 5 ton bull. Whatever suits your fancy.

  • Take your time – Unless someone has lost a limb or you’re losing like $5,000/hour, it’s most likely not so urgent you have to solve a problem at the very moment you notice it. Take some time to sit back, take a deep breath and realize the world isn’t ending just yet.
  • Ask around – Talk to other leaders or those you’re leading and survey how they feel about the issue. Take the temperature of the team around it. If they aren’t all up in arms, ask yourself why you are and they’re not. Don’t let this become an opportunity to practice your holier-than-thou routine like you care more than anyone else. Genuinely take inventory of the situation.
  • Be realistic – Unless you’re some rogue French trader, your life isn’t going to end within the next couple of days. Understand what is the most realistic scenario and not the scenario your over active imagination can concoct for you. Also, don’t over dramatize or sensationalize things. It rarely happens the way we imagine it anyway.
  • Laugh – Even if there is a justified reason to be concerned (notice I didn’t say “have a nuclear meltdown”), take a second to laugh at it. It’s not that you’re indifferent, but you can see the difficulty in it and laugh anyway. Then work together with others to see what may be the best course of action

At the end of the day, everything is possible. It’s just not everything is beneficial. What else have you done to keep things in perspective?