I am one that likes to plan, have clarity, and feel in control. Well, 2020 certainly has challenged me in these areas. Regardless, I still have a choice. One option is to feel like a victim, get angry, be annoyed, complain about the situation, and feel sorry for myself. Been there, done that! Not fun or productive.
A second option is to embrace the pain and uncertainty I am feeling knowing that I have the opportunity to experience growth. As a former athlete (I stress former and question the term athlete), I experienced painful workouts and practices to prepare for big games. I look back on that pain and realize I experienced growth. So, if we look at pain and uncertainty as a time for professional and personal growth, we are on the right track. Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer, wrote: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
Here are ways I challenge myself when going through pain and looking to learn and grow:
- Ask for help: Don’t be shy to seek assistance. This may come from mentors, peers, friends, family. Have a personal board of advisors from whom you regularly seek feedback. Tell them you are experiencing pain and need help. Self-awareness is powerful, especially when we are willing to ask for help.
- Listen with a growth mindset: So many times, especially in times of controversy, we focus on our responses vs. truly listening with the desire to grow. When we are experiencing pain and uncertainty, listening with a growth mindset is key. Coach John Wooden stated, “In my opinion being an effective leader requires being an effective listener. Success is more often attained by asking ’how’ than by saying ‘no.’”
- Control the controllable: Focus on where you can have an impact and let go of things you cannot control. Don’t let uncontrollable factors rent space in your head.
- Trust your instincts: During times of uncertainty, we tend to over-analyze everything. Follow your gut and march on with confidence. Don’t focus or be afraid of making a mistake. Remember FEAR is simply False Expectations Appearing Real.
- Stay positive: Henry Ford said it well: “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Bestselling author James Clear stated, “Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile.” People enjoy being around those with a positive attitude. When I am in pain and experiencing uncertainty, I search for my friends that I know are positive; they help me change my outlook. As an extravert, I often say it is dangerous for me to be alone with my thoughts. I feel energized when I am around people with a can-do attitude and a positive outlook of the future regardless of the situation. Seek those people out and become one of them yourself. Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
- Curious mindset: Ryan Hawk, author of Welcome to Management states, “Think of curiosity as a high-octane fuel. For that fuel to burn productively, you need an engine to pour it into that can transform its power into momentum. You’ll need to build a machine in your mind.” Ask a lot of questions and look for ways to feed your curiosity. Reading and listening to podcasts is a great way. Also, learn to ask “why.” There are many times we may be embarrassed to ask “why” during a conversation because we feel we should know the answer. Don’t hold back. Ask “why” frequently in your daily interactions. For example, if someone recommends a book, ask “why?” It is interesting to hear their why and it helps me to understand if this is something that will be personally impactful for me and allow me the opportunity to grow.
We continue to live in a time with much uncertainty and this can be a catalyst for pain. Remember, you are not alone. Let’s unite to make each other better and come out of this pandemic stronger. I am confident we will. Let’s enjoy the challenges along the way, because we are growing and getting better.
I will end with a quote from Jay Shetty, host of the podcast On Purpose, “Swap ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘What is this trying to teach me?’ It will change everything.”
Additional content by Doug Meyer: