Some people believe that you can bulldoze your way to a solution.

I prefer to tackle problems by coming at them sideways. And this is why: some stumbling blocks—such as disorganization or procrastination—persist not because we lack the will to change but because they satisfy a need we may not be consciously aware of.

Here’s a personal example.

Like so many other people, I dread dealing with my personal finances. Even though I know better, I often put off balancing my checkbook. As you can imagine, this causes me a lot of trouble.

Here’s the thing, I don’t put off balancing my checkbook and generally being fuzzy about money because I’m intimated by working with numbers. I actually really like math. I always have. Heck, I even really, really like playing around in Excel, working with functions and pivot tables and charts.

It took me a long time to understand that the reason that this problem has persisted for as long as it has is because my being fuzzy about my personal finances has a hidden benefit. One that I didn’t see until I started asking this question: How does X serve me? (X standing in for whatever problem or behavior I was struggling to change.)

Taking a page from the traditional “pros and cons” list, I created a list where I identified the specific ways that being fuzzy about my personal finances was causing problems and benefiting me at the same time. The results were surprising. Here are just a few examples.

Problem Problem it causes How being fuzzy about my personal finances benefits me
Fuzzy personal finances Can’t go on vacation somewhere cool I avoid traveling by myself and the need to pretend that going solo was what I preferred.
Fuzzy personal finances Can’t save up for the downpayment on a house I don’t have to admit that I’m a bit nervous about the idea of living in a house by myself. Plus I don’t have to deal with repairs or maintenance issues.

This duality is the reason why certain stumbling blocks persist even though on the surface dealing with the problem (in this case, balancing my checkbook) should be a “no brainer.”

Now that I understand that this problem was protecting me from a very specific pain, I’m in the position to make informed decisions. For example: I can decide that I can live with the idea of maybe never seeing Paris, but I can’t live with the idea of never owning my own home. This frees me to brainstorm ways to work around or mitigate the perceived threats that have kept me from making progress in the personal finance arena.

  • Since I feel ill equipped to deal with big repairs, I can focus on saving enough to buy a townhouse or a condo where the association will take care of the big issues like replacing the roof or landscaping, that as a lifelong city dweller, I don’t want to cope with.
  • I can make sure that I get the name of a great handyman to take care of issues that come up inside the house.
  • I can also get a dog, or two for that matter.

Now it’s your turn.

Make a list of the problems you are encountering that keep you from creating the marketing content you need. Just because some may be beyond your control—such as budget allocations—doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with ideas for how to get around them. In fact, your manager may be grateful that you took the initiative!

For example, let’s say you’re putting off segmenting your email list.

Problem Problem it causes How not dealing with it benefits you Possible work around
Not segmenting your email list You are not getting the kind of engagement you hope to see You don’t have to figure out how to segment the the list which can be a laborious manual process. Send your subscribers an email asking them to re-sign up for the list but this time indicating what their interest areas are.
Not segmenting your email list You are not getting the kind of engagement you hope to see You don’t have to spend time figuring out how to create and keep track of more content. You can ask your subscribers for suggestions of the content they want to see. You can put your various newsletters on completely different schedules (one can be monthly while another quarterly). You can actively solicit user-generated content to take the pressure off creating everything in-house

Creating workarounds requires patience and creative thinking. But as a marketer, you already have these qualities. It’s part of the job description.

Today’s question is a three-part question. (Yes, it’s like being back in school!)

Pick one problem that you’ve been avoiding dealing with.
A) Identify how not dealing with this problem has hurt you.
B) Identify how not dealing with this problem has actually served you in some positive way.
C) Brainstorm a couple of alternatives that allow you to either wholly or partially resolve the problem you’ve been putting off.

Share your experiences in the comments below. And if you know someone who is looking for ideas to feel more confident about their ability to create effective, engaging content, be sure to share this post with them!

Pin It on Pinterest