Real estate is not for the weak of heart. It’s a business where practitioners are constantly confronted with stress-provoking situations.

The question is, to what degree do you allow the stresses, strains, and tribulations of the business to influence the other areas of your life?

Byron Van Arsdale, a master certified coach and my partner at, has trained more than a thousand professional business coaches since 1996. When he first starts working with any coaching client, one of the first questions he asks is this:

“Which one of these three descriptions best describes where you are at this moment? Are you in major chaos, minor chaos, or are you at the point where you’re saying, ‘Life is great and I want more!’ ”

Which one of those statements best describes you at this moment? Depending which one you select, the way that you approach your business and what you can achieve will vary dramatically.

Major chaos

Major chaos refers to those times in your life where you are facing the most difficult of challenges. It may be that you’re going through a divorce, a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or you discover you have heart disease and you’re going to have to make major changes in almost every part of your life. You could also face a disaster such as a hurricane, snowstorm, tornado, flood, or earthquake that destroys your home.

You can also experience major chaos in your business. A past client becomes angry and files a major lawsuit against you and your company. Or the IRS decides it’s time to audit everything you have done for the last five years.

When someone is in major chaos, their business and personal lives are so topsy-turvy that making any sort of headway is very difficult. They are often so overwhelmed that almost any type of action is impossible.

From a coaching perspective, when people are in major chaos, they operate in reaction mode. While many types of the most severe chaos result from forces outside our control, others could have been prevented.

For example, someone who doesn’t exercise, doesn’t eat right, and has a history of heart disease in their family, can end up facing dire consequences.

Once the disaster hits, they move into reaction. The stress and the consequences are so severe that it’s like riding a roller coaster. All you can do is to hang on until it’s over.

If you are experiencing major chaos, the first step to take is to find an anchor that makes you feel stable and secure. The anchor can be a good friend, your clergyman, a therapist, or a coach. It can also be a physical place that has a calming effect on you.

Second, to start climbing out of this situation, take one baby step at a time, no matter how small it is. It’s the combination of these baby steps that will lead you out of the major chaos.

Minor chaos

The person who is in minor chaos has a big chunk of their life and business under control, but may be struggling with one or two issues that are holding them back. For example, you may have an assistant that you need to fire, or sellers who are driving you nuts with all their unreasonable demands.

In your personal life, it could be your unruly teenagers who are acting out and making poor choices.

Unlike those who are in major chaos, people in minor chaos are not in crisis mode. Instead, they are seeking solutions. Rather than reacting, they are able to move to “response.”

Reaction occurs when individuals are stressed, have little time to examine alternatives, or are experiencing fear. In contrast, when individuals respond, they take time to consider what could happen, make plans, and in many cases, can avoid the problem completely. As Benjamin Franklin observed, “An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.”

Life’s great and I want more

Everyone has challenges they must face. The person who is in the mode of “life’s great and I want more,” generally has taken a proactive approach to prevent problems before they occur. As a result, they rarely encounter problems in their lives and when they do, they have taken as many steps as possible ahead of time to cope.

To help you implement this approach in your life and business, begin by identifying one problem you handled well. What strategies did you use? Did you have time to plan a response prior to the occurrence of the problem? Did you respond in a levelheaded way because you expected a positive outcome? Did you feel confident because you had handled similar types of challenges in the past?

Determine the three to five most important factors that assisted you in creating an effective solution.

Next, compare a problem you handled poorly or that had a disappointing outcome. How did your strategy differ? Did lack of planning, time, or fear influence the outcome? Did rushing to a solution create a negative outcome? What thoughts and actions would you have changed if you had known the outcome ahead of time?

By answering these questions, you now have the foundation for moving from chaos to solution.

While you can’t always prevent problems, knowing the strategies that support you to be in prevention mode will help you to cope better with whatever occurs.

As a dear friend of mine used to say, “Pray for sunshine, be prepared for rain.” You may be pleasantly surprised how soon you move to “Life’s great and I want more!”

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at You can contact her at or @BRoss on Twitter.
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