Saturday, February 22, 2020

Tough Minds for Tough Times

What goes up must come down.


We’ve all heard that saying before, but no one says: What goes down must come up. But we all experience this as entrepreneurs, as business goes up one year and down another. The sales process is going well one day and not so well the next day.


In our lives and business, facing challenging times is not an option, but overcoming that challenging time is an option. I am sure we have all heard of stories of how Steve Jobs weathered through hardships before becoming successful, or how Colonel Sander was rejected over 1000 times before convincing a business partner to create Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 60.


Was it skill or resilience that made these people successful? Resilience is the ability to keep moving forward in times of adversity and to see challenges as opportunities for growth. Resiliency is when Steve Jobs get fired from the company he founded, only to go on to create Pixar and re-take over Apple.


We all have the ability to be resilient. In fact, we were all quite resilient as children. When we were toddlers learning how to walk and fell down, what did we do? When we were learning how to ride a bike and we kept falling, what did we do? When we faced setbacks as children, we may have cried. But after the crying, we regained our composure and looked for another way to achieve our goal. It worked then, and it can work now.


While reading this, there are probably some people who are thinking: be positive and you can overcome anything. But let me ask you: is being positive really enough to overcome challenges? In the same vein, is telling yourself Yes, I can do it enough to become successful? In Learned Optimism, Professor Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) writes


We found that merely repeating positive statements to yourself does not raise mood or achievement very much, if it all. It is how you cope with negative statements that has an effect.”


Being resilient goes beyond changing your thinking because you must also change your behavior. Here are a few simple steps to help you develop your resilience during challenging times:


Stop and breathe


Instead of reacting to the situation, take a step back and a deep breath. Perhaps go for a walk. What matters here is we do not take action when we are in a stressed state. When we take immediate action, we react. Reaction is action taken in response to a stimulus/event. It is usually not well thought out, and is based on short-term thinking. When we take a pause and force ourselves to think before taking action, we will then generate a response – an action towards a favorable outcome. For situations where we cannot walk away, take a pause and stop speaking, and invite the other person to speak more.


Change your state


Our body is a reflection of our mental state and our mental state can be affected by our body. Professor Amy Cuddy describes in Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges that our body language may shape who we are. She gives examples of how people stand in power poses, such as Wonder Woman or Superman for two minutes before an important meeting, and it boosts their confidence levels going in. In business settings, our knowledge is important when interacting in others – yet, our presence will speak louder than our words.


Try it yourself! Stand up straight with shoulders back and head up high for a minute, and watch what it does to how you feel. If you are in private, stand like you just won the Gold Medal at the Olympics and the world is celebrating you as a world champion. Hold that pose for a few moments. How does that change your energy level? For those of you who cannot step aside when needing to boost our mental strength – sometimes, a simple change of our facial expression can impact how we are feeling, and that makes us ready to take the next step.


Find another way


Ask yourself this – when you last failed at handling a crisis, were you focused more on what you could or could not control? Were you focused more on what you had, or what was missing? Were you more focused on finding fault or entirely focused on finding a solution?


If you want to get a different result, you’re going to have to take different action. The next time you are facing a challenge, consider what you could do differently, who else you could work with, or perhaps what you can fundamentally change about the situation. Look for resources which could help improve the situation. If you’re lost as to where you could begin, reference examples of how others successfully made it through similar challenges. The important technique here is to adjust our focus because what we focus on is going to affect how we feel.


Some years ago, David Beckham had a commercial with adidas. In that commercial, he talked about how he went through difficulties in his football career. Representing England, he failed his fans with his sharp temper, leading to the  loss of a World Cup match. For the years after, he received death threats and jeers from football fans, yet he still found a way to become a football hero for his country once again. His final words in the commercial were this “You will go through tough times. It’s about coming through them.”


About the Author

Donald B Ma is an Executive Consultant at Milestone|3. As a facilitator/coach, he delivers change to his participants’ lives – inspiring them to perform at their exceptional best. Donald specializes in sales and executive communications, and is often invited to be a keynote speaker at corporate events worldwide. By making personal development fun, attainable and relevant, Donald consistently leaves participants with a new sense of achievement. Originally from New York and now residing in Hong Kong, Donald travels across the world to continually seek new perspectives. Donald is a graduate of Rutgers University – School of Business

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