We all have areas of our life that we wish were different:

  • You might wish that your onboarding process was more organized.
  • You might want to have more money saved.
  • You might want to exercise more, or eat healthier.

If you’re like most entrepreneurs I know you’ve been working on this for a long time. You are already frustrated, exhausted and unsure what to do next.

Verily, I say to you: You are already in possession of your starting place.

It’s exactly where you are!

Before you begin to think that I’m just full of uplifting fluff, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Think about your problem. What are the moments when your problem manifests itself in ways that you don’t like?  Find a few.
    ExampleI would like to save money. In order to save money I need to STOP spending money on sh*t I don’t really need.  For example, coffee.  I buy coffee almost every day. That’s between $500 and $1000 dollars a year.
  2. Ask yourself: Do you sometimes take your coffee?  Obviously, the answer is YES. This is called a BRIGHT SPOT.  Take a moment and tell yourself the story of your bright spot.  Be very specific: remind yourself of the Who (was there too?), What (exactly did you do?), When (What time of day? What day of the week?), and Where (did this happen?).
    Example: Yeah, sure, sometimes I take my coffee.  Like last week, on Tuesday, I took my coffee to work. It was great because the thermos I have that keeps everything hot was actually clean!  It was like the stars were aligned!  The coffee was made when I got up, the mug was clean, we actually had half and half and when I went to leave the house I actually took it with me!  That was a great moment.
  3. Analyze the Bright Spot. What do you notice about your behavior? How did you behave differently?  What do you notice about your environment? What was in place that made your success easier?
    ExampleI notice that during my bright spot I had everything at hand: the mug, the coffee, the cream.  I also notice that I remembered to take it. I must have put it with my bag by the door or I probably would have left it on the table.
  4. Clone the Bright Spot.  Pick a day this week where you are going to work to recreate the success you had in your bright spot.  What was the linchpin of your success?  What do you need to do to recreate those conditions?  Make a plan.  You might want to write it down.
    ExampleOkay, I’m going to try to set up the coffee and clean the mug every night before I go up to bed. In order to pull that off, I’m going to have to do it before I go up to put the kids to bed because once I’m up there I’m not coming back down.  Then when I get up in the morning, I’m going to make my travel coffee and put it with my bag by the door and THEN make the cup I’ll drink at home.  Let’s see how that works.
  5. Try it out.  When the time comes, give it your best shot.  After the fact, take 3 minutes to reflect on how it went. What surprised you? What went exactly the way you thought it would?
    Be a student of your change.
    I took my coffee to work today! I was surprised that the coffee was even better than what I was getting at Starbucks. I also discovered that the cup is kind of heavy and it’s annoying to carry it around in my hand- I almost lost it twice!
  6. Take it in stride and tweak the plan.It is unlikely that it will go exactly as you had hoped. Contrary to popular belief, that’s a good thing! This means that you are learning the contours of your problem, finding the rhythm of your solution. What will you keep because it worked like a charm?  What will you change because it just didn’t work out?  Make another plan.
    Okay, for the most part that worked!  The one exception is washing the mug. Because I don’t like carrying it in my hand, I tend to stick it in my bag and forget to wash it with the rest of the dishes and then I’m either taking a less good mug or washing it in the morning, which is never going to last; mornings are too hectic.  I either need to figure out how to wash that stupid mug every night or buy a 2nd one and rotate them.  I’m going to try setting an alarm on my phone at about the time I am doing the dishes  to get the mug from my bag and wash it… we’ll see if that works.

You can make a LOT of progress by simply cloning and understanding your own success.  

Bright spots are amazing solutions because they are tailor-made for your life. In fact, they are tailor-made BY your life!  This is why they are the best place to start.  

In order to solve life’s most complex problems, you’ll need to address A LOT of the moments you identified in step 1.  Eventually, you may need to start thinking about redesigning those moments in larger ways.  We’ll get there, but this is a start.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.