The bad news keeps raining down, drowning us in unrelenting pessimism. In this, the winter of many discontents we have not seen the sun for far too long and there's no relief in sight.
How does that make people feel? The answer is depressed, anxious and fearful. These are not the ingredients of an economic recovery or of courage and resilience for individuals and organizations. Instead, the overall mood is one of hopelessness fueled by the overriding feeling we don't have any control over what is happening to us.
The most debilitating emotions are those of anxiety coupled with the feeling of being powerless. That makes us passive observers, without the energy or will to act.
Anxiety is a shapeless and amorphous feeling of dread that envelops us like a dark fog, creating threats that are too vague for us to take arms against them. It's when we're filled with anxiety that we huddle in the corner of our bed, cuddling our blankey, sucking our thumb.
Anxiety is effectively countered when the amorphous threat is converted into specific concerns because specificity lends itself to problem solving. That converts passivity into an active act with a good chance of being successful. It is is not hard to transform amorphous threats into specific problems and goals; it merely requires knowing that's the task.
Initiate and Succeed
Identify no more than three specific tasks that are important to achieve and accomplish them. Success is what really matters so it is fine if these initial efforts at problem solving involve baby steps, reasonably easy changes in your routine like only responding to email at the beginning and end of the work day, or exercising for 30 minutes four times a week.
Learn to break larger projects into separate parts or steps and prioritize which need to be done swiftly and unusually well. Do not sweat the smaller stuff which are not critical.
As you actively solve problems
you'll discover your anxiety level declines and you feel more competent and in
Get Out of Your Box
Find a new goal that is significant to you and make a commitment to it. In other words, break your comfortable habits in some way so you start fresh in something new that you think might be worthwhile. You might, for example, volunteer to help teach children or adults to read...or you could enroll in a class on ancient history...or you could decide to join a three day march to raise money to fight breast cancer...
In itself, deciding to do something you have never done before and actually doing it, will increase your general confidence and sense of competence.
Know Your Self
Nobody is good at everything.
I love Peter Drucker's advice in which he says, "Work on what you do well and don't put much effort into what you don't do well. If you pursue improving what you don't do well, at best you'll become an average performer. But if you hone what comes naturally, you'll be outstanding."
Wise people draw to their
strengths and as much as possible and avoid their weaknesses. My late husband
Allen was dyslexic and created a very successful career in the Coast Guard and
as a Master Mariner based on seamanship and leadership rather than writing
policy analyses. He was a very wise man.
If you've ever been in a position to select the successful candidates from a large pool, you will have learned how very difficult that can be. The quality of almost all groups of candidates will usually fall into a normal bell-shaped curve which means there are relatively few people in either tail. In other words, almost no one falls into either the-walk-on-water or the why-did-they-apply?! groups. Very simply, the great majority of people fall into the he or she-could do it population.