Life in recent times has been stressful and unpredictable but we’re excited to have the opportunity to assist you in taking control of the things that are still within your power to control. Finding ways to remain focused on pre-existing goals will help you to achieve a greater sense of happiness and worthiness. That said, we’re fresh out of quick fixes and silver bullets to make that happen. Thankfully, though, we have three clear steps that will get you on your way to living brighter, sweeter days even in trying times.
Do you ever feel like a cloud is following you around, tracking your every move, dampening your joy? Everyone of us has a “cloud.” For many right now, the biggest cloud is COVID-19 and all of the life-altering changes that it has brought along. What may make coping with these changing times more difficult is the fact that you may have had pre-existing clouds before this one arrived. For some, it might have been the desire to live a healthier lifestyle. For others, it was a longing to make more meaningful connections with loved ones and/or colleagues. And for others, the challenge was more internal as they yearned to better cope with negative thoughts that bring them down. Whatever your pre-existing cloud, whatever the reason for its dreary persistence, the one thing that is certain is that you would love nothing more than to shake it and harness a sense of control in this time of uncertainty.
Okay, Leadership Group, you feel my pain. Now please, tell me, what’s the solution? What’s your secret to being so damn chipper all of the time even during a global pandemic? Well friend, you’re not the first to ask us for the quick solutions, a “silver bullet” to achieving happiness in the face of obstacles. Although there is no quick fix, what we do have for you is far better! It’s a 3-step process that you can apply anywhere, anytime and in any situation to experience more joy. In this blog, we offer three effective steps aligned with reflection questions that will empower you to finally part that cloud, escape from its looming shadow, and swap your clunky, inside-out umbrella for a pair of badass shades amidst the chaos.
Your Joy Process:
Step 1: Self Awareness
Essentially, this pre-existing “cloud” is an unfulfilled need (or needs) and so long as this need remains unfulfilled, you will find yourself struggling to feel a sense of happiness and peace. Normally, before we recognize there is something out of sorts in our lives, we notice the feelings related to what’s misaligned. The ache in your joints before the storm, if you will. Think back to how you felt before news of this health crisis? Maybe you had been experiencing general malaise (headaches, sleeping poorly, difficulty breathing, stomach upset, meh kinda days, etc.). Could this have been your body’s way of telling you that your (mental) health needed your attention? Had you been feeling anxious on your morning commute to work or on your evening commute back home? Perhaps there were relationships in your life that required some maintenance. Had you been grappling with invasive, damaging thoughts? Thoughts like, I’m not enough, I’m an impostor, or I’m undeserving of love. Could feelings like hopelessness and guilt indicated a greater need for connection, acceptance or support? So, have those clouds disappeared or have they compounded to create a single, heavy thundercloud? There is only one way to find out and that is through self-reflection. Before you approach the noble task of dispersing your cloud, find out what your feelings are telling you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I feeling? Remember, a feeling is a single word, and there’s an emoji for it!
- What needs are not being met which might be leading to these emotions? I.e., what would have to happen to turn that feeling around?
- Which aspects of my life are calling for change?
- Which of these aspects are within my control?
Step 2: Courage
Identifying your needs is the first step toward self-actualization but what to do once you know what your needs are? A great sense of peace and happiness is derived from attempting to control only the things that can be controlled. To cope with the present situation, try your best to find a routine that can bring you a degree of balance and normalcy, and for all of which you cannot control, let it be and focus your energy on doing all that you can do to fulfill the pre-existing need(s) you discovered through reflection.
Let’s say you’ve come to the realization that the anxiety you had been experiencing on your way into work is related to feeling on the outs with your boss and/or team. Working in an environment in which you sense you’re unwelcome or under appreciated has the ability to leave you feeling triggered and unless your needs of consideration and inclusion are addressed, you may find yourself leaning toward damaging coping mechanisms.
It is no surprise that some people would prefer to choose diversions rather than diving headlong into solutions. Affairs, addictions and other poor choices may provide temporary relief but isn’t it true that they end up diminishing the overall quality of one’s life? In times such as this, where there is an additional cloud hovering above, it is oh so important to manage our mental health and take meaningful action in all places necessary. It would take true courage to (perhaps virtually) approach your colleagues and/or your employer, your partner, or your parents. And if you are in a position of management, it would also take courage to begin improving the culture of your work environment by inviting a high level of openness and transparency into the workplace. Progress, despite present social limitations, is possible, perhaps even easier! Just the thought of having these conversations may be inciting added stress. That’s normal, for the most part, we haven’t been taught how to understand and express our emotions, nor how to make conscious requests to fulfil our needs. Trust us, when you develop the courage to act on the awareness you’ve gained in Step 1, it can mean the difference between enduring this ordeal or thriving through it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What options exist for me to meet the needs that I identified in Step 1?
- Which of these options would yield the best results for me? (Note: this may not be the most comfortable option, in fact, it often isn’t!)
- Rather than focusing on what I have to lose, what do I stand to gain by taking action? Make a list!
- Am I willing to do what it takes to meet my needs? You can use the following flowchart 🙂
Step 3: Sticktoittiveness
So you self-reflected, analyzed your feelings, discovered your needs, took meaningful action and all you got are crickets, a big, dusty tumbleweed rolling past and, oh ya, there’s still a global pandemic happening! Where is your grand reward for mustering up all of that courage and working toward your goal? Say you were the person who was feeling unwell and you amassed the courage needed to take action, yet, your health is still an issue and the scale is still stuck at an eye-rolling number. What should be your next move? Let it not be that you throw in the towel and cancel your celebration (or gym membership;).
Regardless of the types of changes you are trying to make, be it in the (virtual) boardroom, in your relationships, in your head, or with your health, it will take time. Expecting to see the changes right away can leave you feeling discouraged and in no time you may find yourself backsliding into inaction or resorting to harmful ways of coping. Worse yet, you may blame yourself, the process, or us! Yikes! With continued application of this process, the clouds will start to dissipate, light will trickle in and you will begin to experience the joy of having your need(s) met.
Reassure yourself upfront that meeting your needs and creating meaningful change, within and around you, is a process, not an event. Diligently working toward fulfilling your needs is the only way to reap the positive effects of the soon-coming change (as incremental as it may be). This means that you may have to have more than one conversation with yourself and with others. Anyone with children knows what we’re talking about! Dedication and determination to a regimen is made easier when systems have been put in place to support the changes you aim to make. Such systems may look like regularly held meetings, or frequent conversations with your employers, employees and/or colleagues about roles, workload and healthy work culture practices. Systems for others, could mean that a doctor, therapist or leadership coach has an active presence in their life. Systems could look like daily affirmations to your commitments, a meditation practice and an accountabilibuddy. To help you stay motivated on the quest to fulfilling your needs,
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How will I know that I am succeeding? What does progress/success look/feel like?
- How will I track my progress?
- Who can best support me? Would I be willing to ask them for support?
- How am I going to celebrate? 🙂
Everyone is looking for some sort of change in their life and while they may know how they feel, they may not know why it is they they feel that way. While we may be faced with great challenges that are out of our control, to self-reflect and come to a better understanding of your needs (the ones that likely existed before this time) is the first step toward achieving greater happiness and peace by way of harnessing control. That said, self-awareness ain’t worth a pile of beans unless you have the courage to take action on creating change, and the chutzpah to keep at it! There is no silver bullet and no ultra quick fix to accomplish this change. But take heart, because following these steps will make lasting change possible and give you reasons to celebrate, even in the most trying times!