The difference between the goals we set and the outcomes we get is something I call “The Gap” – the sometimes obscure landscape between what is and what could be – our reality vs. our desired future. Everyone has Gaps. They’re a part of life. Gaps can be unrealized dreams, unmet goals, underachievement, missed opportunities, disappointments, or sometimes flat-out failure.

Gaps come in all sizes and flavors. And if you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t have any Gaps in your life let’s do a spot check. Ask yourself if you’re dealing with any of the following symptoms on a regular basis: frustration, fatigue, stress, stagnation, worry, anger, sadness, disappointment or bitterness? If so, there’s a Gap you need to deal with. It happens all the time and you’re not unusual or abnormal if that’s you. Everyone deals with it.

So let’s take a look at the bad news fist – Gaps can take a very real toll on us in terms of time wasted, money lost or health compromised – that is, if they’re not dealt with effectively. Whether personal, relational, or business related, the problem is not so much that they can be harmful, but how ineffectively we think about them and confront them. Despite the fact that Gaps (translated problems, challenges, roadblocks, setbacks etc.) are pervasive and will always be a part of our daily existence, examining how we think about them holds the first key to success. This should make you very happy because by this point hopefully you’ve thought about at least one or two Gaps of your own, and the not-so-pleasant implications that go with them. The reason you should be so (perhaps uncharacteristically) happy is because one of the gifts of being human is the ability to control your thinking! Yes, you can choose to change how you think, which changes how you respond, which delivers different outcomes. Getting excited yet?

Until we choose to think differently, our Gaps will frustrate us, embitter us and ultimately defeat us without proper perspective. Peter Bregman notes in his intriguing book “18 Minutes” that “…most of us spend tremendous effort trying to avoid even the possibility of failure (because) failure is proof of your limitation. But if you believe your talent grows with persistence and effort, then you seek failure as an opportunity to improve”. In other words, choosing to look at our Gaps as opportunities, and in turn, becoming aware that our present distress is a useful reality rather than a roadblock, changes everything. So why don’t we do it? …because we’re afraid. Stopping long enough to stare a Gap in the face and boldly confront it can be overwhelming. Ironically though, confronting Gaps is exactly what those who move on and succeed in life and business do – and it’s what sets them and their companies apart from the status-quo.

Now, you’re asking, what’s the big secret I’m missing? Well, as you’ve probably guessed (maybe even with a touch of cynicism), there is no magic wand that will make everything turn out all right.