Thrive Despite Life’s Ups and Downs by Learning to Weather the Storm
I’m fascinated by sailing — you’ve probably noticed that theme on my website. I think it interests me because it’s a highly dynamic activity, so while sailors have to live in the moment it also requires planning and foresight. We’ve learned through life’s ups and downs in 2020 that we can’t control “the weather” but we can learn to use self-leadership tools to navigate through the elements and head in the direction we want to go!
Does it feel like you’ve been blown off course — maybe a little or maybe way off course? It’s difficult to stay inspired day after day, no it’s not difficult. It’s impossible! There are days where we just don’t feel inspired. It might be the world situation or it might be something going on in our personal life. So then what, do we just let the wind blow us in any direction?
No, even on days where we don’t feel particularly inspired we can stay the course. Let’s talk about two things that will help.
The first key is to know which direction you want to go! If you have a destination in mind, rather than a rigid list of to-dos, you’ll be able to stay the course and adapt to any kind of weather!
“When you have big historic changes, there are going to be ups and downs… There are going to be peaks and valleys. Some things are going to go right. Some things are going to go wrong. But as long as the strategic direction is going in the right way, that’s really what you have to judge.” ~ Condoleezza Rice
The second key is to create consistent systems and healthy routines to help you move forward (or know when it’s time to stop and batten down the hatches).
Here are a few routines that will help you weather life’s ups and downs:
- Plan ahead, because you’re going to have some bad days.
Be strategic and try batching tasks. Instead of always playing catch up, this strategy lets you get ahead. This will help you on days when the idea of doing “something” productive is unappealing.
Here’s an example… Maybe your intention this year is to eat healthier meals. It can be difficult to get up the motivation and inspiration to cook a balanced, healthy meal every single night. This is where batching comes to the rescue. Prepare your meals for the week on Sunday. Plan two or three recipes for dinners and use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Cut up your veggies and fruits and put them in the fridge in separate containers. This simple step makes it so much easier to build your salad, have a quick snack or prepare an easy side dish.
- Work with the wind (your energy).
Trying to force yourself to do something when your energy is low is not sustainable. Sailors learn how to use the wind to their advantage. Do the same with your energy. Pay attention to how you feel during different times of the day, different times of the month, and different times of the year.
Here’s an example… Every night you sit down to write your blog and you draw a blank. You sigh and decide you have writer’s block and figure you’ll tackle it again tomorrow. But the next evening the same thing happens. The following day you’re beating yourself up, but when your work meeting gets canceled you suddenly have free time at 8:30 in the morning. You think, okay here we go again, but surprisingly you get it done in 30 minutes. Learn from experiences like that. This shows that your creative energy is higher in the morning (the opposite is true of some people) but the key is to work around your energy — work with, not against, the wind!
- Know when to stop fighting and use your anchor.
Sometimes you have to just stop and reassess. We’ve had an incredibly difficult year, are you even sure you want to head in the same direction? Maybe it’s time for a whole new direction! Don’t just power through… throw out your anchor and give yourself the space to stop and pay attention.
“You change your valley into a peak when you find and use the good that is hidden in the bad time.” ~ Spencer Johnson
When you feel stressed and uncertain there is an NLP anchoring technique that can help. Try these 7 steps to step into a more resourceful state of mind:
- Decide on the state you want to anchor. For example, being calm and relaxed.
- Recall a memory or imagine a situation where you can experience the state. Make it very detailed and vivid, using all your senses.
- When the experience is vivid and you’re in the desired state, connect it with a part of your body. For example, put your hand on your heart when the state is at its peak!
- Now, break state by removing your hand and doing something else. Open your eyes, countdown from 10 to break state and distract yourself.
- Apply the anchor by just placing your hand on your heart and check that the required state, such as calmness or peace, occurs again.
- You may need to repeat the anchoring process a number of times to make the experience sufficiently intense.
- Use your new anchor in the situation where you want to experience the desired state. For example, when you’re feeling stressed during your next business meeting, place your hand on your heart and make sure it creates a sufficiently robust resourced state of calmness.
Learning this anchoring technique is very empowering when handling life’s ups and downs. When you experience a negative emotion, you can trigger a positive emotion and extinguish the negative one. You get to choose your mood or state of mind no matter what the circumstances are.
“The sun will set and the sun will rise, and it will shine upon us tomorrow in our grief and our gratitude, and we will continue to live with purpose, memory, passion, and love.” ~ Brent Schlender
I’ve found that embodiment is a practice that allows you not only to cope with life’s ups and downs but gives you freedom of choice: how to think, feel and be in the world. If you’d like to explore this further, download my free report, 10 Steps to an Embodied Practice. Although I wrote for those interested in a coaching practice, the principles can be applied to anyone who’s interested in excellence.