I was inspired this week by a series of videos from Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan, who put out a “Scary Times” Success Manual for entrepreneurs. In it, he offers 10 strategies to transform our current anxieties into strategic growth, progress, and achievement. (I’d recommend looking at the free resources he offers if you own a business and want to figure out how to be more effective now.)
One thing he talked about was how he always asks people about the future - seeking to understand what drives them, what they get excited about, and what fears they deeply want to avoid. Getting clear on these things is at the heart of making sure you can add value and genuinely help, even if it isn’t related to something you are trying to sell. One thing we can all do to feel better about what is going on is to shift your focus to how you can be of service to others. (For more tips on what science tells us about how to feel happier, check out the Today, Explained podcast on How to be Happy.)
But this one question he asks has more broad appeal for everyone seeking to find their footing in this strange time:
What did you do during that time that your future self is happy with?
Which skills did you acquire?
Which habits did you maintain?
Which relationships did you tend to?
Which projects did you start?
What did you stop doing?
This sneaky question broke through the lethargy I was feeling and gave me instant clarity on how I want to use this forced slowness. I was immediately able to work backwards from my goal and create a series of milestones that would ensure that I get there, helping me to feel the progress as I go. That doesn’t mean that the constraints I feel now - the lack of space, the intrusions to my concentration, and generally maintaining a household with everyone home and feeling cooped up - instantly went away or feel any less real. But my thinking about that reality shifted somehow. Before I asked myself this question, everything felt so confusing and fuzzy for weeks. The clarity this question brought created an instant energy to take the next right step. Isn’t that amazing?
That is the power of doing thought work. Switching your focus from uncertainty or loss to an attitude of “I can handle this!” is a function of not trying to change the things you don’t have control over. Often, the reality is that we are looking for instant relief from our pain, but that is never how we evolve and grow. Usually those things that provide instant relief or buffer our pain keep us stuck in a pattern that causes pain. Trials like the COVID-19 outbreak can be useful for the very reason that we don’t get to choose them. There is no escape hatch. We have to figure out a way through.
The goal of coaching yourself is not to feel better right now. It is about cleaning out the thoughts that are not serving you, which frees you up to achieve your goals and create the life you dream about. Life will always be a mixture of ups and downs, but your ability to be resilient is a function of how your mind works. You can train yourself to weather a storm and maintain your equilibrium, even when everything around you looks like it is falling apart.
The path forward is to pay attention to what you are thinking about. Understand the impact of your thoughts on your life. Work on consciously and deliberately choosing what you want to create in your life. Not in a wishful thinking kind of way. Not in a spiritual bypass or think positive kind of way. But in an open willingness to feel what is coming up for you and examining the thoughts that are driving those feelings. Over time, you will build the resilience that makes it less painful to feel those intense feelings.
So I’m curious how you would answer that question. What would you like to do during this time that your future self is going to be happy with? Please send me an email or DM me on instagram if you want to chat about it.