A Five Step Guide To Mastering Your Situation
1. Breathe – Take A Step Back
Whenever you’re facing any sort of set-back, challenge or overwhelming time, the first thing to do is take a step back and breathe. During a time of increasing uncertainty and fear, such as our current global climate, it is easy to become overwhelmed and paralysed by the weight of everything going on around us. That is why it is critical - before anything else - to remove yourself from the world for a moment and just breathe.
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress and acts as our built in warning system to get us moving in the face of danger. Increased heart rate, restlessness and sweating are all signs that our fight-or-flight response is kicking in. Although some levels of stress have their benefits, intense anxiety can overwhelm you and inhibit your ability to think or act rationally.
Thus, in order to make any rational decision or response to the challenges around you, you first have to clear your mind and settle your nervous system. Go offline; remove yourself from any further contact with the things causing you stress. Breathe; whether it be going for a walk outside, meditating or specific techniques such as diaphragmatic, nasal and box breathing, the key here is to reduce your heart rate and promote better oxygenation and blood flow. This will allow you to feel less overwhelmed and restricted and more prepared to face any problems.
2. Evaluate – Assess & Be Strict With Your Consumption
Once you have settled yourself and you’re feeling more at ease, you can begin assessing the immediate world around you. During times of struggle, it is especially important to take a hard look at your behaviours and the things you’re consuming - these all play an important role in influencing the quality of your thoughts and actions.
When facing especially challenging times, we are required to make especially challenging decisions. This requires us to be in peak physical and mental state, however, most people unfortunately move in the opposite direction. They tend to start eating more junk food, consuming more negative and toxic content, and indulging in poor social habits such as gossip and fear-mongering. Do not fall into this trap. Keep a clear and level head.
Some important things to evaluate include:
Diet: Double down on your health. As cliche as it sounds, you really are what you eat. The food, drink and supplements you put into your body will determine your physical and mental capability and ultimately the quality of your decisions. This couldn’t be more important and relevant today. With a global pandemic such as the COVID-19 virus currently circulating and cases increasing exponentially by the day, the time to be particularly invested in your health has never been more appropriate. Eat whole and clean instead of processed foods and invest in immunity boosting supplements. Also watch your alcohol intake and seriously consider the impact of any drugs you may decide to take to cope with these difficult times.
News: There is a difference between being well informed and educated versus reading every headline, article, blog post or comment out there. Don’t become obsessed with the narrative or fall victim to fear and panic. Assess your sources of information. Stay up to date with important announcements and warnings from accredited sources and official government statements. Limit or, better yet, stay away from alternative news sites such as social media platforms. The news plays an important role in informing society of current events, however, they also exist to sell stories. Their goal is to get as many eyes to their sites and sell as many papers as possible, and they create whatever clickbait headlines and articles necessary to do so. We suggest you stick to the important facts and try to eliminate all opinion and emotion based reporting in order to avoid being influenced by particular narratives.
Media: Just as you do with the news, assess all the other content you choose to consume and let into your mind on a daily basis. Social media, TV, movies, magazines or whatever else it may be. It is understandable to want to distract yourself and take your mind off of the chaos and so these things can be a great form of escapism. However, just like your diet, whatever you let in will determine the quality of your output. The content which you consume are the seeds that determine the quality of your harvest – or simply put, your thoughts and the habits they form.
Social Influence: As highly social beings, we spend a lot of time in conversation with one another. In order to build an unshakeable mindset we need to stand strong in not letting our thoughts be influenced by toxic social behaviour and discussion. In times of great uncertainty and worry, it is common for people to feed on rumours, fear and panic. It is also common for society to intensify its herd mentality which can lead to unnecessary social trepidation and hysteria. Be particularly mindful of the conversations you participate in; do not engage in rumours or indulge in gossip and be wary of those who spread fear and panic. Maintain an independent mind and consider the influence certain people and topics have on your own point of view.
In all these areas of life, it is important to develop strong habits. Building an unshakeable mindset isn’t a one time thing. It takes consistent awareness and effort to ensure you remain strong and disciplined with the things you consume. It won't always be easy, but the key is to stay mindful and aware. Know the difference between a nourishing and poisonous diet. The difference between credible and provocative news. The difference between uplifting and low quality content. The difference between positive and toxic conversation. Once you become clear of these things, you will face a repeating choice throughout your day; to do what’s better or worse. On the whole, an unshakeable mindset is one that consistently chooses better.
3. Think – Become More In-Tuned With Your Mind
One of the positives of enduring struggle and hardship is that it exposes your true character. It shows you what you’re really made of. Although this can come as an incredibly uncomfortable and revealing ordeal, it is a necessary experience to go through in order to learn more about yourself and grow as a person. Difficult times expose your weaknesses and inabilities which can be a tough lesson to learn, but is ultimately a blessing in that it gives you the opportunity to improve upon them.
In order to build an unshakeable mindset it is necessary for you to face these hard truths about yourself. It gives you the chance to become more in-tuned with who you are now versus who you ultimately want to become. Take this opportunity to clarify your core values, dreams and aspirations and think about the type of person you will need to become in order to achieve your goals.
During times like these, in which we are constantly surrounded by uncertainty and fear, it can be easy to become buried under intense pressure and emotions. In order to combat this, learn to become skilled in observing and dissecting your thoughts and feelings. Some practical daily habits and rituals include:
Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness is the process of consciously bringing your attention to the present moment. Become aware of the thoughts, feelings, emotions and various sensations you experience throughout your body and mind, and try to look at them objectively for what they are and where they come from. The more you do this, the more control you take back from the very emotions that leave you feeling helpless. In taking a step back and observing your thoughts and feelings, you begin to understand that you are independent from them. You may feel anxious, overwhelmed or angered but by practicing mindfulness and finding the root cause, you develop the ability to intercept these emotions and choose your own response to them. Once you isolate the sensation causing you distress and trace it back to a trigger, you now have the power to look at it objectively and make a clear, rational decision on how to deal with it. Mindfulness is key to building an unshakeable mindset as it helps you to master your emotions and stand strong through intense ups and downs.
Gratitude: Another key habit to learn when facing constant adversity is the act of gratitude. This is an extremely powerful skill as it has an immediate and profound affect on your outlook. It is nearly impossible to remain angry, upset, worried or whatever else it may be, when you begin to think about all the things you are truly grateful for. Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by a situation of misfortune or trouble, try to take a step back and remind yourself of all the positive things in your life. This will open up your eyes to all the good and beautiful things around you, and put you in a more optimistic and grateful frame of mind. We suggest you practice gratitude as much as possible throughout your day but specifically each morning when you wake up. Whether you keep a gratitude journal or just take some time to think about all the things you’re grateful for, doing this first thing in the morning helps prime your mind and set you up for a successful day.
Optimism: When facing hard times it is very easy to fall into a pit of despair and negativity. To ensure positive decision making, it is imperative you resist this as much as possible and make a conscious effort to radiate positivity. Through mindfulness and increased self awareness, begin to take greater care of your thoughts and words. Whenever you have a negative thought or indulge in negative talk, check yourself. Reevaluate. And try again with a new frame of mind. Optimism is not only beneficial to your own well-being, it is also contagious, and has a direct influence on those around you. Be the light amongst the darkness.
In the end, your mind is the control room for your life. It decides the destination you chase and how you plan on getting there. An unshakeable mind is one that is clear and concise in times of uncertainty. One that isn’t easily influenced by external factors and has the ability to control its own internal influence. One that stays positive and forward-thinking even when surrounded by hopelessness and despair. An unshakeable mind knows how to separate subjective opinions and emotions with objective realities and facts and uses this ability to make informed decisions. Become more open to understanding how your own mind works and operates. You will be better off for it and find a greater sense of self-control you never knew you had.
4. Act – Focus & Work Hard on The Things Within Your Control
"Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within your control, and some things are not." – Epictetus
A global pandemic such as the one we face today, forces us to learn this lesson. The more you think about this the more you understand that there's no value in worrying about things outside our control. Because regardless of our efforts, the result will always be independent of our actions. No matter the amount of blood, sweat and tears we dedicate, the outcome remains the same. So why bother? Why not focus our resources - our time, energy and effort - on the things we can control. And more importantly, the things we can control that actually matter.
Whether in isolation or not, we’re in a unique period where time seems to have slowed down. Use this opportunity to work on all those things in your life which you actually have control over. If you're running a business, unfortunately times are tough and chances are things aren’t going well. There is a lot you can’t control but there are also opportunities to capitalise on. Focus on that. Become creative in your thinking and innovative in your approach, and double down on everything that can possibly make a difference. In the end that is all you can do.
If you’re in lockdown, your usual options are limited, but choose to see the opportunity amidst the chaos. Instead of falling into poor routines and habits, double down on yourself. Become a healthier, stronger, more resilient version of you. Read more, write more, learn more. Exercise your creative muscles, explore ideas and dream big. Your body may be confined but your mind is infinite. Let it roam free. Take some time away from social media and the news, put some music on, grab a notebook and let loose all your thoughts and ideas. Never before have you had the chance to dedicate this much time to focus on yourself. Use it to clarify your purpose and define your dreams. Then get to work on building a strategy and game-plan to turn it all into reality.
The diamond in the rough here is the opportunity to do what is often so difficult for many of us; take advantage of time off and time alone. With an increasing number of us around the world being forced into isolation, we have the choice to look at this situation one of two ways; as a hindrance, or as an opportunity. An opportunity to strengthen our business model. To become more transparent and connected with our customers. To create and innovate. To explore dreams and ideas. To start that book, that podcast, that personal project. To practice our craft and exercise our passions. To learn more about our loved ones and get to know our friends, family and partners on a deeper level. This pandemic may obstruct us from doing a lot of things, but there is still a lot more we can do yet. Don’t use this time as an excuse to sit still, use it as motivation to get up and get going.
5. Lead – Independent Thinking Trumps All
Building an unshakeable mindset requires you to - amidst all the chaos - pause and reflect, review the influences around you, become more observant and familiar with your thoughts, and dedicate yourself to all the things within your control. It also calls on you to step up and become a leader.
In times of uncertainty and unrest, the common sentiment within society often reflects its current climate. People are anxious, afraid and restless. Understandably, they are shaken up. An unshakeable mindset however, stands steadfast during these times. An unshakeable mindset breaks free of the herd mentality and holds true to its own independent ideas and values. It maintains a clear vision for the future and remains forward-thinking with hope and optimism. It doesn’t lose its composure, instead it stays calm and collected under pressure. An unshakeable mindset is a guiding light amongst the darkness. A leader for the lost.
Becoming such a leader not only sets an example for those around you, it also sets an internal standard within yourself. You become your own guiding principle. When taking up the position of a leader, you gain a greater sense of responsibility over your actions. Use this as added motivation to stand firm in your beliefs and conduct yourself with purpose. Do as a great leader does; don’t incite panic, instead be calm and level-headed in your approach. Build others up, show kindness and empathy and support those in need.
In times like these it’s always small, independent businesses and individuals who suffer most. Be a leader within your family, workplace and community and support local establishments, charities and people. When everyone around you focuses on nothing but problems, lead the charge in spotting opportunities and creating solutions. And above all else, be clear and conscious of your ‘why’. The core values and principles that keep you moving forward in the midst of mayhem. The rooted motivation at the heart of your thoughts and actions. The reason you do what you do. Staying closely connected to your ‘why’ will give you the strength to carry on and overcome these turbulent times. It will give you the clarity and composure necessary to stand up as a leader. And ultimately, it will help you build a mindset that does not crumble under pressure but instead, stands resolute and confidently towards the future.