How will you look back on 2020? Glad to get it behind you?
As we await an effective vaccine, we experience continued travel disruption, work-life patterns that are altered for good, we find ourselves still in ever-changing circumstances. It has always been this way though—circumstances that ever change.
So, how have you managed yourself with those changes this year?
Many of us have had to stretch ourselves in ways we didn’t plan. What have you learned about yourself? If there were another pandemic next year, what would you do differently?
All of us will have our own version of the story of 2020. We have our own thoughts about the circumstances we have found ourselves in—circumstances which are factual and neutral: there was a pandemic. The stock market went down and back up again. Flights were cancelled. Schools were closed. People got sick and many died.
It’s our thoughts about these circumstances that matter. It is our thoughts that drive the feelings that we feel and, in turn, drive the actions that we take.
At the extremes of thought, people will have been very afraid and now driven not to mix with other humans ever again. Others think that the world is resetting itself for a new beginning and are waiting for more positive signs to verify this is true.
And so, again, I ask: how have you managed yourself?
The skill of managing yourself is why you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first.
You can’t help others until you help yourself first. Managing your thoughts about any circumstance is the first step in helping yourself.
Whether it is a relationship, your work, your body, your money, your health, an event, a crisis, a new discovery, here is a six-pack of questions to help you process and manage yourself in any circumstance:
1. What are the facts?
Clue: these are the news headlines. Everything else after that is usually someone’s thoughts and opinions.
2. What thoughts are you having about the circumstance?
>> Are you judging it to be “good” or “bad?”
>> Is the circumstance driving you away from something or toward something else?
>> Are you trying to find a category in your brain to fit this circumstance into?
Sometimes I think our brain is like using an old-fashioned Rolodex. Ask further:
>> Where is the last reference I had on this?
>> Where does it fit in my experience?
3. What effect on your emotions are your thoughts about this circumstance having?
How do you feel now that you are thinking what you are thinking? Happy, frustrated, angry, inspired?
It’s good to know which thoughts drive which emotion in you.
4. What action do you need to take?
If you are being told to put on your life jacket or oxygen mask, the adrenaline rush gets you ready to act. It’s your thoughts that will drive you to fight, take flight, or freeze.
Do you need to lead others or roll your sleeves up and help?
I used to fly a lot and I had rehearsed confidently in my mind that I would try to save people if we landed in water. This thought helps me balance any thoughts of impending disaster that may pop into my head from time to time.
5. What emotion do you want or need to feel now?
Courageous? Brave? Calm? Certain?
What thoughts do you need to think that will drive the emotion you are seeking?
Bridging thoughts like, “I have done this before and I can do it again,” and “I’m resourceful, I will figure it out,” help drive emotions that have a more positive vibe than anything else.
6. What’s your daily practice?
In these ever-changing circumstances, it’s easy to build momentum around a set of thoughts that don’t feel good. If the first thing you do in the morning is look at the news or your email and all you see is headlines that alarm you then you are setting yourself up for the day in that way.
If, instead, you take time first thing in the morning to run a routine of “feel good” practices like meditation, walking the dog, exercise, reading some uplifting text, connecting with loved ones, or just your favorite coffee—anything that really works for you and gets you into the best mood—that is what you will take with you into the day.
As you build positive momentum from the inside and you commit to looking for the good in all that you see then this will be the circumstances that you find yourself in.
Manage yourself. Don’t let the circumstances of life dictate your thoughts. Let your thoughts dictate your life.