There is a lot of bad news about at the moment. It is easy to get influenced with constant updates that can be seen as negative. One way to attempt to keep balanced is to take a few moments to focus on what went well at the end of each day. We take a lot for granted until it is threatened. Briefly reflecting on what we have can help us adjust. Our mind has a natural inclination to look for problems or threats as its job is to keep us alive. It scans for threats. This can get tiresome if we don’t try to create a balance. Big events will seem as highlights and these can be positive or negative. Actually, they are neither until we label them. We miss a lot of little events if we just wait for the big events. The holiday overseas. The serious accident. Small events can also be awesome if we look closely. If you are fully present, something as simple as a brief conversation can be a pleasure. A take away coffee will taste better if you focus on the coffee rather than distract yourself while drinking. “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. Look for openings to an awesome present in unlikely people and places.
If doing your best means minimising mistakes, when do we learn from mistakes or try new ideas? How do we improve if we don’t try anything new and stick to what we know? When we do our best we are performing. This is different from learning when mistakes don’t matter so much. If we are always doing our best, we can’t improve. If we deliberately practise something new, we can improve our best. We are also likely to make mistakes. We need to do this when the consequences of failing are minor. Ideally, anyone seeing you try new activities will know that you are practising and be supportive. There is a time for performing and a time for learning and rehearsing. Most high performers take time offline to practise new skills. Even Roger Federer took time off to improve his backhand when he was at his peak. Make sure you spend at least as much time practising as you do performing or doing your best. This way, your best keeps improving.
Who do we blame for the spread of the coronavirus? Will blaming an individual, a State or an entire country help us to deal with the present situation?
If we play the blame game we need to identify and then punish. We are coming from a negative place and our thinking and solutions will be infected with anger or fear. This approach may cause the problem to return or go underground.
If we accept the situation rather than resist it, we will be able to think more clearly and create better solutions. We will also be able to encourage everyone involved to assist rather than protect themselves from punishment.
Acceptance does not mean that we won’t have a thorough enquiry when the crisis has passed. It means that we will focus on the best solution and also ensure that the situation does not occur again.
Blame and shame won’t help to solve any problem. Immediate acceptance of that is happening and a rational approach to problem solving is much more likely to be helpful in solving any problem. Even people who caused the problem are more likely to assist if they are not blamed as the first step to finding a solution. They can be part of the solution rather than continue to be seen as part of the problem.
Imagine you ask someone to do something which they have done already. They make take offence and hear your request as criticism. They may think they don’t need to be reminded to do what you asked. They may even react as if you have called them stupid or unreliable. Maybe their reaction surprises you as you thought you were only trying to be helpful. You have obviously touched an existing bruise. What next? You could react yourself as if you are being attacked. Now we have two people reacting and out of their minds. An alternative is to pause and put space between their reaction and your response. This gives you a chance to consider a response that will calm the situation. You also have a chance to examine your first responses or thoughts. You can thank your mind for coming up with a response so quickly. You don’t have to accept it. Before delivering the first response consider whether it will help the situation.This pause will help you choose the best response rather than shoot from the hip and have to apologise in the future. They may even see their reaction more clearly if they don’t get resistance. This won’t happen if you push back. Try a question.
Try asking this question when people tell you they have a problem. Emphasise the word NOW. Maybe insert ‘At the moment”. I find that most problems are coming from the past or haven’t happened yet. For example, someone could be worried about something they did in the past or are worried about an uncertain future. If you encourage them to be present you can follow up with ‘Is there anything you can do NOW?’ If there is nothing they can do immediately, suggest that they move to accepting the situation until they can act. In truth, the only time anyone can act is at the present time. Usually the problem is not the actual problem but rather thinking about the problem. If you don’t think about the problem, it goes away. A good way of not thinking about the problem is to focus on your internal or external situation. Focus on your breathing or focus on what is happening around you without any labelling. Try it next time someone tells you they have a problem.
Imagine you lost your mobile. Do you now have a stream of negative thoughts like ‘My memory is failing’.’This shouldn’t be happening’.’I am having a bad day’ ? This is the daisy chain. Misplacing your phone has happened. The daisy chain often follows and makes the situation worse. It is very difficult to stop the negative thoughts especially if you are tired or stressed. Something you can do is to identify that it is your mind that is churning out the unhelpful thoughts and not you. This is the pause that helps. Try saying ‘Here goes my mind again.’ Let the thoughts pass by without engaging them or believing them. They are seldom true and not coming from you. They are background noise. You are the person who is aware of these random thoughts. Try it.