Good morning everyone
Everyone I speak to is motivated to make the best of the lockdown. Yet, this is an entirely unique moment and we all know that motivation is a fickle friend (remember your New Year’s resolutions?). We need more than motivation; we need a plan and actions.
The future is uncertain. Uncertainty creates anxiety. The Economist recounts Wuhan residents’ struggles with anxiety, claustrophobia, and depression during lockdown. Having a plan and taking intentional action will help.
Many of us are combining our professional and personal lives for the first time. We are going to have to toggle between our business leader, parent, and spouse identities in seconds. More uncertainty. More anxiety. There will be frustrations. Acknowledge it, so that they can be managed.
Today’s letter focuses on strategies to help.
Acknowledge where you are
Kessler says “There is something powerful about naming this (moment) as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, ‘I’m telling my co-workers I’m having a hard time,’ or ‘I cried last night.’ When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”
So, stop and acknowledge this moment for what it is. Then, add purpose. Think about how you can generate meaning at this time.
Victor Frankl, psychologist, Auschwitz survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning identifies three sources of meaning:
- Purposeful work;
- Love; and
- Courage in the face of difficulty.
Set time aside with your family and teams to define your purpose for this period.
One of my clients reflected that her teams were anxious about children interrupting conference calls. She decided that this period would be about deepening connection. On Friday, she led a conference call in which everyone’s spouses and children met each other. The result. Deepened connection.
- Acknowledge this moment and its toughness.
- Define a purpose for this period.
- Align a set of actions against it (see below).
As tough as this moment is, it also brings opportunity. Research by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun identifies five forms of post-traumatic growth:
- People become more open to new opportunities.
- They have an increased sense of inner strength.
- Their relationships deepen.
- Their appreciation for life increases.
- They often report a renewed interest in spiritual life.
With that sense of possibility, I thought it was worth sharing this recent article from Jeff Immelt, which draws on his experience as a CEO of GE leading through four major risk events and three recessions. It’s a great practical guide for those running businesses.
Adopt a tiny habit
This is an unprecedented time. Keep your plans small. Do what is achievable. You’ll be astonished at the change you can generate.
I love this little exercise from BJ Fogg, founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits. He calls it his Maui Habit. “After I wake up and put my feet on the floor, I will say ‘It’s going to be a great day’. To wire the habit into my brain, I will immediately smile”.
You can adapt this for yourself by replacing the italicized words with ones that align with the purpose you have defined for this period. For example, my purpose is to remain ‘grounded and connected’, so I use that phrase.
Then find small actions that you can do that will support that intention. Fogg introduced the habit of doing two press-ups after each time he went to the bathroom. I simply pause each time I want to pick up my phone. It reduces unnecessary screen time.
Have fun, what will you and your family do at this time? Some of my clients have initiated a family exercise hour, others are doing a formal dress-up dinner once a week. Please email me. I’d love to hear the ideas.
Take time with yourself, your family and your team to do the following exercises. They will build real connection, which will be an invaluable resource as we navigate the strangeness of this moment.
Ask the question and then give each person the chance to respond. Listen deeply and respectfully to the answers.
This is a tough time, so acknowledge it. Reflect on the questions:
- What are you finding hard in this moment?
- What fast-food are you missing most right now? (it’s also important to smile).
This is also a time of learning, so take it. Pause and reflect on the questions:
- What am I learning to appreciate about myself in this period?
- What do I appreciate about others at this time?
If you want to deepen this, you can select a different team member or family member each day of the week and the rest of you can each share one thing that you appreciate about that person.
The late Dr. Theodore Rubin said, “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom”.
With that in mind, I have included this link to a Loving Kindness meditation. Do it, or a variation that you are comfortable with, with your family. The whole world is facing what you are facing. Keeping everyone in mind will help alleviate all our stress.
Next week’s letter will include more to help during this time. If you need support in between letters, please feel free to email me. I will do my best to help you.
Yours in Solidarity