Bouncing Back And Staying Optimistic In The Face Of Adversity: The How-To
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2020 has left a lot of us overwhelmed, frustrated, and lacking in positivity.
As a shareholder, a business leader, a banker, a manager, or an employee, losing hope in times of distress will make it more difficult to recover and bounce back. It diminishes our capacity to think objectively and prepare to face the challenges lying ahead.
The ability to be "in the moment" and be fully present for those you are with is a desirable skill to foster. But in times of crisis, an exclusively inward focus can send you on a downward spiral.
As such, at some point, we have to choose to lift our heads. We must begin the ascent upwards, rescuing ourselves from a seemingly hopeless situation. It’s about building resilience– an ability to "bounce back." And it's a trait that can be learned.
So if you identify with pandemic-induced inertia, consider this six-step process to bounce back.
STEP #1: HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
What we have all missed in 2020 is something to look forward to. COVID-19 has crippled our businesses. Lockdown regulations and uncertainty have prevented us from going on holidays, put celebrations on hold, and just generally held us in a state of limbo. But it's time now to look beyond the pandemic.
What is your "beyond stage"? Your vision of the future? Knowing where you need to be is the first step to knowing how to get there. Set aside time to think about where you need to be months from now, a year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. Then work backwards from there, figuring out how to get there.
STEP #2: DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Now, take the four-hundred-year-old advice of 17th-century philosopher, René Descartes, who said: "Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it."
Descartes was talking about evaluating the logic of a statement, but his advice applies across the board. Large, complex problems that are overwhelming can be made manageable by being split into parts.
Here’s a tip: if you're struggling to break your problems down, try the 5 Whys Method.
STEP #3: TAKE PEN TO PAPER
Construct a plan for each problem. Write your plan down, including numbers and any other relevant data, with as much detail as possible. Writing things down serves several purposes. It can:
- help you see the "big picture"
- help keep you grounded in reality
- save you having to remember small details, thus freeing your mind to deal with higher-level thinking like organising and prioritising goals and tasks
- help you surface and process emotions
- help you track progress and provide motivation
- provide a sense of achievement– your first win
There are many innovative productivity apps that can help you with this exercise– take a look at these free mind mapping tools.
STEP #4: ACTIVATE THE 3 Cs
With your vision intact and plans in place, it's now time to activate the 3 Cs: communicate, convince, and conquer.
In his book The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley notes: "At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other animal."
"Collective intelligence" is the most powerful tool we have as humans. And it will be what carries us through any event that threatens our existence –be it a pandemic, global warming, wars, and whatever may come our way.
Capturing this power of the collective will be essential to achieving your vision. So, your challenge now is to communicate the right message to the right people. Get them on your side and pull in the same direction. Whoever your stakeholders are –be it your partners, bankers, employees, or suppliers– they need to be convinced by your arguments, and won over by your energy, determination, and enthusiasm.
STEP #5: PRACTICE RATIONAL OPTIMISM
Throughout your process, maintain a rational optimism. Today, and every day, is the most important to have optimism on your side. Take the positive, future view of every situation, but stay grounded in reality. We've seen firsthand in 2020 how a false sense of positivity and optimism only has short-term benefits for any leader.
Irrationally optimistic people are perceived as lacking credibility. As the saying goes: "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Remember, this is a long game, and you will need people at your side for the full race.
To maintain your optimism, expect the unexpected, focus on the positive, and make your move. The perfect plan is unattainable– don't hold back waiting for it.
STEP #6: BOUNCE BACK AND REPEAT
If you fail, repeat steps #1 to #5. Failure is not the end of the world. Remember this: as long as you live, there is always an opportunity– an opportunity to bounce back.
Practicing resilience, or learning to bounce back, is a skill that will remain with you for life. Imagine it as a coiled spring inside you, just waiting for the opportunity to be let loose– your secret weapon in any crisis.