When you start a project, you often tend to be overly optimistic about your current status. Before you can be innovative in your approach, you must be honest about the current state.

How We Fool Ourselves

If you are starting a project to increase sales, you might think that prospecting will be a matter of looking harder. It may be that your prospect pool in your geographic region is overserved.

You may think that you need to replace a current technical system is failing to meet your needs. In reality, it is the technical skill required to implement a system that is lacking.

We tell ourselves that the work of a project will help us solve the problem that we see in front of us. But we fool ourselves because we are focusing on the action that we think that we can do, or that seems most comfortable for us.

How To Be Realistic

Jim Collins, in his book, Good To Great, introduces us to the concept of realistic optimism(the Stockdale Paradox). It is a realistic view of the world that understands that the current conditions may be difficult, and almost impossible. Realistic optimism also persists in the understanding that all hope is not lost, no matter how bad it seems. Realistic optimism starts with the knowledge that others in the same situation have failed miserably. There is no guarantee of success. There is no magic bullet that will turn things around by Christmas, or that any new work will have a positive impact on your business. At the same time, this optimism understands that companies can be made better. The optimist knows that there are people out there who can teach you. They are sure that if one other business in your situation can improve, so can they.

Reality Check

For your reality check, answer the following questions. By the time you are done, you will have a view of your current state.

  1. What is the problem I am trying to solve?
  2. Why haven’t other’s before me solved this problem?
  3. Why haven’t I solved this problem before now?
  4. Why haven’t I solved this problem before now?
  5. Why haven’t I solved this problem before now?

Acceptance of Your Current State

The purpose of repeating the same question in question 3 – 5 is to:

  • Understand the barriers you have faced to make the change you are proposing
  • Take responsibility for the problem, and acknowledge the reality of the challenges.
  • It tempers our rose-coloured glasses that may get in the way of seeing the reality of the current state.

Acceptance of the current state is not intended to paralyze your action, but to create a roadmap of what the world looks like so that you don’t solve problems in a perfect world that doesn’t exist.