If Plan “A” didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay Calm.
In the documentary, “The Impossible Flight”, two pilots attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a solar-powered airplane. The odds, weather, politics, engineering, and morale however, continually place a dark cloud over their project. When it looks like the trip would have to be stopped because the engineers said they couldn’t make it work, pilot, Bertrand Piccard, kept moving forward. He said, “I believe that each of the problems can be solved.”
We are in unprecedented times right now and it isn’t fun but most of these problems will be solved. While the chance of discomfort, pain, hurt, angst is high, so is the chance of survival. And as I tell my kids, we will come out of this stronger and more resilient.
I recently interviewed 100 CxO’s, founders, and ultra-distance endurance athletes for a book I am working on (Reach Your Peak through EPIC Performances) and asked each person how they keep moving forward when the shit hits the fan and it looks as if the end is in sight. This is what they told me.
1. Focus on the little things and what you need NOW
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs puts food, water, warmth, rest and wifi at the foundation of the pyramid. Granted, wifi wasn’t in his original hierarchy but I’m sure it would be now. While our favorite cereal may be out of stock, we can likely survive with another brand even when our kids are crying and screaming because they think they will die without Cap’n Crunch. They won’t. Continue to work your way up the pyramid to make sure you have safety and security, so your basic needs are met.
And as we move higher up the pyramid, what psychological (belonging and love) needs do we have? While we shouldn’t go over to friend’s house, we can call, video, or text them. And in the meantime, give your spouse, kids, dog, cat, or whomever you are quarantined with a hug.
What do you need now and how will you get it?
2. Focus on what you can control
There is a reason people are buying up all the toilet paper because that is what they can control. Yes, it is irrational, but it happens. When I coach executives through major change initiatives, I explain how people have difficult times adapting to change because they lack Clarity and Control (See: Got A Major Change? Try These 2 Things). Once we start to increase these two areas, we will feel better. Here are four questions to ask yourself:
- What could I GAIN through this situation? Lose?
- Since I can’t control the situation, what can I influence?
- What information do I need and where can I get it?
- What next steps should I take?
3. Put things in perspective
Is this the worst thing you have been through? Maybe, but most likely not. While older people are more susceptible to the virus physically, mentally they may be more prepared. They have likely seen so much more in their life that they know they will get through this. I was talking with a friend the other day whose wife has cancer. It made me realize that my situation wasn’t that bad.
When have you been in a situation that was worse? Did you survive?
4. Keep moving forward
What small activities, if accomplished, will get you through the day and into tomorrow? Our kid’s school closed yesterday so my wife and I scrambled to put together a plan of what their day will look like. That was Plan A and 24 hours ago. We are now on Plan D as new information comes in hourly. We adjust, tweak, and move forward. But then I put things in perspective and realize I only have to deal with two kids versus our Superintendent who is responsible for 15,000.
What one thing will help you get through the day?
5. Figure out what makes you happy
What activity, picture, movie, song, etc… makes you happy? I cycled 4,000 miles across the United States when I was 20 years old and knew there would be some very hard days. For me, the right song will put a smile on my face and change my mood. On that one day when the road was steep, the weather was cold, and my legs were done, I pulled out my favorite Elton John cassette (ask your parents if you don’t know what that is) to make sure the sun did not go down on me.
What makes you happy?
I realize that it sucks now but I am optimistic that it will be better in a few months. And, in a few years we will look back and say, “We got the problem solved and I’m stronger because of that Spring of 2020.”