Chaos leads to opportunities for those able to still their mind and rationalize the future. The most common response for humanity is to cling to the past versus adapting to a new reality. Do you want to survive, or thrive, or both? Of course, we all are desperate to survive, and it is the focus on the desperation that prevents us from thriving. To thrive, we must embrace change and adapt to circumstances early on. Most people resist change, and it is in resistance that they suffer. Think about when you experience the most significant suffering. Is it when you are proactively pursuing a worthy cause or lamenting losses?
We fear that which is unknown to us. Why? The unknown is scary, risky, potentially dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable, etc. It is always in our imagination, and rarely in reality, where our fear takes hold. We become paralyzed by a vision of a loss that makes it impossible to consider a better future. Inaction becomes the norm for most people. They immerse themselves in the news so that they can justify their lack of action. How about you? Are you consuming more than 10-20 minutes of updates each day? During uncertain times, the wise will embrace the uncertainty, but most of us use the desire for comfort as justification for our lack of action.
How to survive? Do Nothing!
- Focus on consuming as much information about the current crisis as possible. You will survive as long as your food storage does not dry up.
- Justify not working because of the current situation.
- Justify not studying because of the current situation. After all, there is too much media coverage and social feed to keep up with.
- Don’t move. Who can think about their health when the world is ending? We easily justify not doing that which we desire not to do.
- Don’t help. How can you help others when you are trying to survive?
- Contribute negatively. Post your sarcastic and senseless rhetoric on social media.
How to thrive? Take Action! Get off the couch and turn off the news.
Only consume the media that is necessary to keep you informed and only do so from credible, non-biased sources. MSNBC, CNN, and Fox are not the news. These are propaganda machines. NPR is a little better but still has an agenda. If the media you are consuming is offering opinion over facts, turn it off because it will not help you to thrive. Stay informed but not overwhelmed.
Seek news from professionals. Consider using Twitter as a source of real-time news. The key to Twitter is that you follow experts that share wisdom and not opinion. Our society has grown to consider opinion as news, and everyone has an opinion! Always look at the source of an article you are about to read. Was it written by an expert in the field or someone that is attempting to move their agenda forward? Always consider the source.
Double down on your work.
“But Russ, I can’t go to work because they told us to shelter in place!” Yes, you can. Think about your work. Think about the future of your work. What do you think it will be like after this current crisis has subsided? Every day is an opportunity to think about each step in your work, the customers that receive your products or services, and your working environment. What will be most necessary to ensure success in your work? Will your job be relevant when the crisis is over? The people that thrive after the crisis have prepared themselves by thinking about the new reality of their work. They are ready to adapt or even pave the way into the future of their business. The people that focus on how it used to be will get passed by those that seriously consider what the future holds and prepare for it.
Get a pen and paper and ask yourself the following questions: What will the future of my work be like? How can we better serve our customers now and in the future? What changes for my product would make it better based on my vision of the new reality? Think forward and stop looking back. How can you contribute in more meaningful ways for your customers? We must stop obsessing over the way things used to be and create a new reality. A crisis is the most excellent time for reinvention. The new norm is in our hands.
Study, learn, and grow.
Since you are consuming less unnecessary media, you will have more time to study. Study your craft, read books, watch YouTube videos about your craft. Keep it positive. Don’t consume negative things that will poison your mind. If you want to thrive over the long-term, you must study. All your life, be a student.
You are continuing to think about your work (how you will contribute in the future). What lessons will help you serve better after the crisis in the new world? What content is available to consume on the subject? Online classes (LinkedIn, Coursera, Lynda, etc.), books & audiobooks (Audible, Scribd, YouTube, etc.), free content (blogs, YouTube, etc.), and group learning. Doesn’t exist for your vision? Get others together in a weekly group chat to discuss the future and get feedback on your vision. In a group discussion, be cautious; there are many dream killers out there. They will pretend to have your best interest in mind while they tell you why something won’t work. Listen without judgment and use the negative feedback as a point for consideration but not a reason to give up. Take it all in but discard that which is not helpful.
Energy conservation has been a part of our ancestral heritage since the dawn of time. We did not know where and when our next meal would be, so we conserved our energy for the hunt. Unfortunately, we have not evolved beyond a tendency to lean toward inactivity. Maintaining our health is critical in times of crisis. You will need stamina because much work will be required of you to thrive in the future. Get to work on your health, and don’t allow chaos to justify a lack of activity.
Find an accountability partner to help ensure you do the work. Get outside. Make a plan for your health. Remind yourself about how you are a healthy person and the importance of maintaining health for your better future and your family. Who is counting on you to be there for them over the long-term?
The best strategy for avoiding self-absorption is to put others first. You make the world a better place by serving the world in meaningful ways. I have said it many times – gratitude is selfish. I believe that helping others is a form of gratitude that is self-serving in a healthy way. It just feels good to make a difference in the lives of others. There is no lack of need in the world, but I recommend focusing on those that deserve it. Needing and deserving are two different concepts. The need might mean a person or group has done nothing to help themselves. Deserving is a form of need that has been earned. What does that mean? It means a person has made an effort to put themselves in a better position, or in other words, they have attempted to help themselves first. People that pretend to deserve help without effort are lazy and should not be rewarded with your service. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and you should be mindful to apply your efforts in serving those that deserve it, versus just filling a perceived need. There are wolves dressed up as sheep. Eyes wide open is the best plan.
What is a cause in which you believe? Where is the most substantial need that correlates with the best use of your skills? When you can use your skills in the service of others fully, you will be energized. Serving others is selfish and feels amazing! Do it often!
The world needs belief in a better future. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut. If you aren’t willing to do the work, keep your mouth shut. If you are bad-mouthing someone because they have different beliefs than you, keep your mouth shut. I realize that “keeping your mouth shut” has a negative connotation, but I am attempting to make a point. Our society has made a sport out of throwing rocks at the people in the arena. For more perspective on this subject, read The Man in the Arena, written by Theodore Roosevelt.
Each day, think of who you could share your gratitude with and send them a message (call them, text them, etc.). Write a letter of appreciation. It is a real joy to let someone know you are thinking about them and highlighting how they make the world a better place. Be kind to strangers. At the gas station, smile and compliment the cashier. You can make a difference with a simple smile.
What is your choice – survive or thrive? Does one look more appealing than the other? What is your mindset? Professor Carol Dweck discovered that there are only two mindsets: fixed and growth. The people with a fixed mindset will focus on surviving and attempting to get back to the past. The growth mindset people, when applying the points above, will thrive in chaos. Take action in pursuit of your better tomorrow. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Millions of people will use this chaos and uncertainty as an excuse to do nothing. They will be inactive and complacent about the future. Be the exception, and you will ensure your better future. The people that stay active, learn, contemplate the future, serve others, and stay positive will thrive regardless of the circumstances. How will you show up? Your future is your responsibility.