Regardless of your political affiliation, there is one thing that the 2016 election proved to the American public. Anything is possible at any time, and it helps to prepare for all outcomes. In order to perform during chaotic times, we need to learn to counter our natural tendencies. Quite often, when humans are confronted with unpredictability, we become physically and emotionally tense. Once we start to feel our muscles tighten,, our thinking changes as well. Our thought patterns become concrete and we focus on the worst case scenarios. Unfortunately, these responses do little to help us during an upheaval. During these periods, we need to be open minded and psychologically flexible, as opposed to close minded and concrete. If we can find ways to remain open during rough times, we can learn to find the inspiration to navigate problems and respond productively.
Often, my patients will describe to me pattern when they are confronted with bad news and uncertainty. They start to become fearful of not just the subject at hand, but go down the road of "what ifs." During difficult times, it is natural to consider the worst case scenario. However, what many of us forget, is that the worst case scenario is only one possibility, and in most cases, an unlikely outcome. Every personal and professional situation has infinite conclusions, and rarely does our biggest fear become a reality. As Mark Twain once said "I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened."
The trick to navigating chaos is to first realize when you are in the midst of it. When you feel your body become physically tense and your thoughts start to race, it means you have left your happy place. You might recognize different voices in your head busily examining all the negative possibilities, concluding the worst is yet to come. However, if you listen closely, there is another voice. It might not be the loudest, but it is almost always present. I am referring to the quiet voice of reason. This is the encouraging, wise voice reminding you that you are going to be okay, that you have had difficult times in the past, and you know how to get through this. Direct your attention to this voice. Your brain might not cooperate, and continue to distract you towards discouraging scenarios. There is no need to fight this tendency. Unfortunately, it is how we are wired. It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint to consider the worst case scenario. How else could our ancestors survive living amongst dangerous predators who could outrun, out smell, and out see us? Although you cannot stop your mind from firing off these possibilities, you can learn that you do not need to respond. Continue to search and redirect towards the encouraging voice. Recognize that this is the one that will lead you out of difficulty, anchor your mind, and help you find productive solutions.
When faced with a challenge, ask yourself the following. During what period did you have the most personal growth? When were you able to prove your technical skills? When did it become evident that you should be in a leadership position? Almost all of us would say that we learned the most about ourselves and our potential after navigating a difficult problem or facing a chaotic period. Remind yourself that hard times are often our best teachers. When you meet chaos with a measured mind, you are able to prove your talents to yourself and others. The results are not always immediate. However, if we remain cool and cultivate a calm mind, we can begin to plant the seeds that will later reap positive results.
All highly successful people have one thing in common. They confront difficult times with a steady mind. They learn to maintain an inner compass and productive edge when life is turbulent. Next time uncertainty and problems rear their head, view them as a chance to prove your strength of character and commitment. Remember, although certain problems produce unpleasant feelings, they might also become a springboard for personal growth, leadership and creative solutions.