Gather Up Your Bright Spots

Dec 29, 2022

When facing towering problems, focus on what’s working instead of what isn’t by identifying successful efforts worth emulating. Worthy efforts often emerge from real-world experience. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of the #1 New York Times Bestseller “Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” call these successful efforts “bright spots.”

Bright spots are valuable because they provide a sense of direction and feelings of hope and motivation.

Wired to survive

Towering problems leave us feeling terrified and deeply shaken; this is where our innate wiring becomes problematic. The amygdala cannot tell the difference between a real or perceived threat and has no sense of time.

In tough times, we often see problems everywhere and consequently find ourselves mired in unrelenting “analysis paralysis,” which wears us out mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Bright spots are different. By remembering them, they help us act with confidence grounded in successful life experiences. What seems impossible looks different when viewed through the lens of recent wins. A fresh look can help us put big problems into perspective and tackle them more effectively and efficiently.

Bright spots might seem counterintuitive to some business leaders, but to turn our attention toward successful efforts worth emulating, is to ask ourselves, “What’s working, and how can we clone it?”

Make a move

Looking for bright spots is not about waiting, worrying about what might happen, or formulating the perfect solution. Instead, it’s about accessing our curiosity, trusting the process, and staying active in the unfolding moment we are in.

When you come face-to-face with a towering problem, don’t obsess over what will be and what is to be because it will look different once you get there. Set your sights on a solid beginning and a compelling destination, and make a move based on skills you already know you’ve mastered (the bright spots!).

What are the big problems you’re facing?

Form a mental picture of the biggies in your life. What present-moment bodily sensations coexist with the image in your mind’s eye? Does your heart begin to beat a little faster? Have your shoulders crept up to your ears at the thought of your biggies? Has a knot started to form in your stomach? These are all examples of fight-flight-freeze responses, which signal you are oriented more to threat than curiosity.

Try calming your nervous system by asking, “Is this unsafe or just uncomfortable?” Notice what changes. Does your body feel just a little bit more relaxed? Do you get a different answer when you ask, “What’s working, and how can we clone it?”

The greatest fear

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear blinds us to possibilities, but curiosity reveals possibilities..

With a viable bright spot available to clone, it’s time to script your next critical move. Critical moves are the ones that translate aspirations into specific, sustainable behavior that brings you and your team closer to the compelling destination.

Script critical moves clearly and carefully. Anything less than that leads to costly confusion and delays.

Mining successful efforts from the past that can be reproduced to solve today’s big problem is a dynamic way to avoid feeling fearful or frozen. When we take incremental, calculated risks, and harvest what we learn from them, we move through life with less stress, more confidence, and a brighter outlook..