Today we are facing what can be described as a “long haul” of challenging times.
Economically we are heavily pressured around the world. Environmentally, we are feeling the stresses of a world not looked after well. Culturally and politically, we are facing challenges and conflict on what feels like an unprecedented scale.
Everywhere I look there are statistics in wellness to back this up. Teen suicide rates are escalating. Youth anxiety and stress levels are through the roof. Workplace sick days and mental health days are doubling in many countries, Europe reporting that ‘mental health is the greatest epidemic of the 21st century’ (The Myth of Normal, by Gabor Mate).
We are being pushed to deliver more, with less time and right now, with less resources as supply chains become increasingly challenged and human resources are harder to find.
We are leaning on tools and tricks from productivity gurus and learning all too slowly that many of these don’t work, or aren’t sustainable, simply creating space for more work to come in, as Oliver Burkeman writes about in his recent book, 4000 Weeks, (the horrifying average amount of time we live). When those don’t work, we turn to wellness and self-care and try to do just a little here and there to take better care of ourselves. But none of it seems to be working – at least not fast enough.
When productivity and “self-care” just aren’t enough, where do we turn?
Firstly, we can’t discount that both some basic productivity insight does help, and self-care is essential for energy to be able to actually do the work, and the living in the first place. But we are overlooking the very simplest thing we have to support us during challenging times – our mindset about how we approach it.
The interesting and inevitably challenging ride we have in life is truly like an ocean. The waves send us flying up and careening back down. It can be as rough as a hurricane and calm as a pond. It has wild storms, interesting things to look at along the way, often a feeling that steady land is not far off, and moments where we are totally isolated in the middle of nothing but the sea. Understanding your mindset and truly learning how to work with the neuroplasticity of it, is like having the most incredible and sturdy boat of all time. A vessel that will allow you to ride the waves, experience the journey, see all the sights, but without being thrown around with every change in the weather.
When we learn how our mind works, and for that matter, our energy and our emotions, we can train it to be less reactive to the changes around us. The beauty of neuroplasticity is that we can truly change our perspective, our beliefs and our approach to nearly everything. We can choose to change our responses to the world’s happenings and live in a way that feels fulfilling, more than manageable and energising.
In these times of deeply challenging experiences and circumstances, it is those who work with their mindset who will thrive and carry us to a place of opportunity. If you have never looked in to how this might work for you (which I doubt if you are reading this blog), then start with something small you wish to change. Start with an agreement to change your view or perspective on something small in your life. Perhaps how you feel about traffic, or a challenging colleague, or the way your partner leaves their towel on the floor. Whatever it is, commit to seeing it, then consciously choosing a more useful thought to accompany it. Do it repeatedly. Stick with it.
Over time, your response will change, what you see will no longer be a frustratingly wet towel on your floor, or endlessly annoying colleague or cars that block up your way to work. You will instead see the beauty of your good fortune to have nice towels (and a clean partner who is so focused on the kids they forget to hang it up), or the sadness in the colleague who is just seeking some attention and appreciation, or the fact that you are one of those cars in the road, creating the traffic.
Working with your mind, to stay gently bobbing on top of the waves, rather than rocking and rolling with the storm, is what allows you to be steady, to be present, to be high performing through it all. Whatever that means to you.
There are many ways to work with your mindset. We’d love to help you see what else exists, so reach out or join us on one of our 20/20 Live Linked In calls each month to get some tips.
Until then, enjoy bobbing along in the gentle current of life.