The biggest challenge that we’re facing right now as creative pros is not necessarily economic or physical, it’s psychological.
I believe that those who come through this season not only having survived, but ready to thrive, will be those who are able to adopt a mindset that is realistic yet focused on possibilities and not limitations. Yes, current circumstances are hitting everyone in different ways and are much more challenging for some than others. And, I want us to focus today on a few beliefs that I find creeping into the mindset of many people I’m chatting with these days, and hopefully identify them and learn to counter them before they rob us of our focus, our goals, and our sense of curiosity and possibility.
I’m tired of not being tired.
That sounds like a strange thing, no? But really, it’s very normal and natural.
As humans, we are wired for rhythm, which means that we thrive in cycles of tension and release. One of the dynamics that’s been causing grief among many friends and peers that I’ve been chatting with is that all of our days seem to run together. Every day is very similar to the last. There is no rhythm, no tension and release, no ups and downs.
As a result, I want to challenge all of us to consider a few “lies” that I’ve been believing – or allowing to limit my thought process and approach to this season – and see if perhaps they might be affecting you as well.
Everything is subtraction.
This is a phrase I used with a friend who asked how things were going. What I meant was that, unlike in normal times, in the midst of this pandemic there is little opportunity for adding anything new and good to life. Instead, it’s mostly just subtraction. Good things are being taken away without the opportunity to add new things to the mix.
This is a lie, but not obviously so. In fact, this is very much what it feels like. For example, in the core part of my business, which is traveling and working with clients and speaking to groups, I’ve only experienced the removal of opportunity, but not the possibility of new ones. In normal times, even when things were dry there was always the possibility of something good just around the corner. Now, it’s just subtraction.
However, if I step back and look more holistically at life, it’s easy to see why this is a lie. So many wonderful things have been added to my life in the midst of this time that I didn’t even realize I was missing. We’ve been having very long family dinners each day where we get to re-connect with our kids without the rush of “I need to get to my homework.” My wife and I have been taking long walks in the evening. We’ve been able to connect with friends via virtual happy hours in a way that we just didn’t when everyone had so much going on.
So, when I say “everything is subtraction”, I really mean that only in a business sense. If I were to look at life as a whole, there have been many opportunities and gifts during this season. Yes, it’s hard, and I hope it ends as quickly as possible, and it’s certainly taking more of a toll on some than others, but it’s important that we be able to step back and consider the entire set of our experiences, and not just the painful ones.
Where have you seen some semblance of good in the midst of this time? Spend a bit of time reflecting on it, even writing a few paragraphs about it, and see if you can find something to be grateful for even in these difficult times.
This is the new normal
We hear this all the time in the media, so much so that I’ve largely stopped paying attention to what they’re saying. There is no such thing as “the new normal”. Throughout history, humans have had to endure seasons of hardship and adaptation. Our great grandparents had to walk through a global depression, both world wars, multiple economic collapses, political revolutions, and much more. Each time, they didn’t say “well, I guess this is the new normal… we’ll be at war forever.” Yes, those events shaped them and changed their worldview, but it wasn’t like they emerged into a completely new way of living. They adapted and moved on. They innovated.
We will do the same. There are many people who make a living from preying on your fears and planting seeds of mistrust and worry. Don’t let them do it.
Own your mind. Protect it. Don’t allow others to warp and twist and distort your perspective. The only “new normal” is the one that we will make out of this. This is a season, and someday we will look back and say “Remember when we all had to social distance for a while? That was weird.”
Neither of these lies are helpful to you. They only serve to limit your ability to be present here and now, to leverage and take advantage of opportunities that are right in front of you, and to rob you of your very life.
James Stockdale was a Navy Admiral and the most high profile prisoner in what later became dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp in Vietnam. He once stated that the POW captives who survived their experiences weren’t the optimists. Most of the optimists died. And, it wasn’t the pessimists. They died too. Instead, it was the realists. Those who survived were those who were able to be realistic about the difficulty of their present circumstances, but who also maintained hope for a better future.
It is possible to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time. It’s a difficult time, and it may get even more difficult before it gets better. It’s important during this time to maintain a clear head, to acknowledge the challenges, and also to maintain a sense of hope in the midst of it all.
Set small goals and hit them. In The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile demonstrated the importance of small, consistent progress for maintaining momentum and engagement. Don’t aim for big goals right now. Hit the goals you set.
Engage in unnecessary creating. Make something just for yourself. I’m working on an album of new music, just for me and my family.
Take time to connect with others. Find ways to help them and support them. Get outside of yourself.
Most of all, don’t buy into the lies that will keep you trapped in a place of stasis and inflexibility. Stay curious, stay hopeful, stay realistic.