By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
We all go through periods when the waters are calm and other times, sometimes seemingly suddenly, when we can’t imagine the waves crashing any harder or unpredictably in our lives. Moments of crisis can bring on panic, but they also tend to bring great clarity to what is most important. If one is literally underwater, all they can think about is getting above water so they can breathe. Nothing is more important than gaining oxygen and it’s really that simple. Right now there are many people in tough spots given the impact of Covid19 and perhaps other challenging circumstances that are existing simultaneously for many people. If you lost a loved one during this time, due to the virus or not, it adds to the sadness. If you’re unemployed or your business is tanking due to the current economic environment, that stressful uncertainty makes it tough to stay upbeat. If you were already in a stagnant company or vocation or sector you didn’t enjoy, it might be a tough time to transition to another career or life path especially when you just need to ensure the mortgage gets paid next month. Maybe working from home is not an ideal setup for you. Maybe you have to stay home to watch your kids because they’ll be at school online this fall and that interferes with your ability to be productive or earn income. Times are strange and tough, there is no getting around it and the uncertainty of how long this will last can be mentally debilitating at times and those thoughts can be relentless. Ok, I know you’re thinking “this blog is not doing much to cheer me up” and I’m sure that’s correct, but I’ve only mentioned some of the challenges out of our control.
Our reality is shaped by our own perceptions of what is good and what is not good. We can CHOOSE to accept that the environment around us is too powerful and just accept the fate handed to us OR we can accept that the current conditions are difficult and rise above them anyway. The key is to focus on what you can control or at least influence, and make mental health and self-care a top priority. Some actions within your control include:
- Practice gratitude every day. Yes, you have some difficult circumstances you’re dealing with, but plenty of others have far more difficult scenarios to navigate. Be grateful for what you do have vs. focusing on what you don’t have. You’ll be happier.
- Instead of saying “I can’t….”, replace it with “How can I….?”. Don’t say “I can’t be a multi-millionaire”, instead ask yourself “How can I be a multi-millionaire?“. This is simply “can” vs “can’t” and whichever dominates your thought pattern wins. Opening your perspective to the possibility vs negating the possibilities with self-doubt changes everything.
- In concert with the last bullet, believe in the power of YET. Angela Duckworth, author of GRIT, talks about children’s learning styles and the fixed vs. growth mindsets. Instead of saying “I’m not a multi-millionaire”, say “I’m not a multi-millionaire YET”. YET indicates assumptive achievements which will actualize. This attitude toward growth through hard work and effort is a giant separator of successful adults.
- Change your physical environment. Move furniture around and the room looks different. Stand on the table and the room looks different. Organize your desk or email format or CRM reports or whatever you interact with every day. Find new angles.
- Change your physiology. Do 45 minutes of vigorous cardio or strength training and your perspective becomes more optimistic and your thoughts become more clear. Exercise like this 5 days a week and you’ll notice a significant shift in clarity and outlook.
- Meditate. It’s amazing how accessible quality meditative content is for all of us, a lot of it is free. 10 minutes a day in quiet meditative focus can really shape ongoing beliefs, attitudes, and inspiration. There is so much waiting for you.
- Read. Not your Facebook feed or the constant negative news and opinion news seemingly everywhere. Instead, find topics of interest in or out of your vocation; read inspiring autobiographies; read self-help books. And if you’re one of those people who think “self-help” has some sort of negative stigma or makes you weak, grow up…..there’s a reason “Think and Grow Rich” has sold over 100M copies, interestingly initially published during the Great Depression.
You might be thinking, “yeah, Brian, I get all that and they’re good reminders but nothing new” and I’d tend to agree. But just because people know these practices are effective doesn’t mean they actually do them with any consistency or conviction. Consistency and conviction – that is the key and the intangible force that resides in us via “intrinsic motivation”. Intrinsic motivation is personal, it comes from within and nothing can deter the drive to ‘win’ whatever outcome is being pursued. It’s simply DESIRE. In challenging times, this makes all the difference. We either succumb to the pressure, the competition, the storms, or we accept those conditions and work through it, intrinsically motivated to achieve our objective. Maybe the objective is simply survival, getting to air to breathe, and that’s more than ok! When our attitudes are in line with the bullets above, we look at the rough conditions differently. We want more than not to drown……we want to figure out how to navigate and WIN despite the conditions.
The beauty in this state of mind is it removes the mental paralysis, enabling us to grind through the analysis of what is in front of us, the ability to evaluate our options, to develop strategies, to plan, and to execute. And the path to our objectives will be fraught with missteps and unanticipated hurdles that set us back. But with ongoing self-care and intrinsic motivation as a core part of who we are, we are able to push through the despairing external challenges and focus on what we can actually control. We can control our attitudes and our actions so we are either steering through the turbulence or we otherwise allow the winds to blow us wherever they dictate. Don’t let that happen. This is a time of challenge, but opportunity tends to emerge during challenging times as long as we are mentally prepared and have the will to influence our own mindset towards desired outcomes. Where do you want to be standing when the storms around us start to calm? You can’t control everything, but you are in control of your actions and inactions. Resolve to WIN regardless of your circumstances.
“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”