OK. So, here is the news. Brace yourself folks.
Last year (2020) we witnessed the beginning of a global pandemic.
From that time, we have been bombarded with a constant stream of updates about the horrors inflicted by the virus, the misery, the deaths and the loss, and 18 months on we’re still a very long way from reaching the Bright Side.
What? You were expecting to hear something else?
Well, I could have included the fact that a number of effective vaccines were brought to market and made available to the global populus in record time. Did you see the heart felt gratitude expressed to one of the scientists involved in the development of the Astra Zeneca vaccine after they were recognised at the Wimbledon tennis tournament? The crowd stood to clap their appreciation. There have been many unsung heroes who have poured their heart and soul into finding an effective treatment. Along with the frontline health and essential workers who put their lives and wellbeing on the line every day to look after their fellow citizens.
I could also have mentioned that despite everything, there have been a number of upsides resulting from the pandemic, including the rapid uptake of new technologies enabling us to communicate even more easily and more effectively with each other, Zoom meetings, Microsoft teams meetings, Skype and Facetime providing a lifeline for remote workers to remain feeling connected and part of a team, family members separated by time zones and countries able to connect and speak. Information and courses have come on-line for almost everything, whether learning to cook with Nat’s What I reckon or doing PE with Jo or watching David Attenborough sharing his love for all things on Planet Earth. You could even have a consult with your GP via Telehealth. Hurrah.
And have you noticed how many people now appear to have a greater appreciation for their environment, relationships and taking better care of themselves physically and mentally. Being forced to work from home has changed so much but we all adapted really quickly. Because we could and because we had to.
Better still, that even in the face of massive adversity and challenge we can still find happiness, joy and hope. Because as humans we are massively adaptive.
It’s been over 12 months since I first delivered a new keynote called “Working with What’s Possible” at a time when many people I was speaking with were terribly anxious about their future, grieving for what they had lost and finding the level of uncertainty unbearable.
Our challenge of dealing with adversity isn’t new. As a species we have lived though many previous pandemics, natural disasters and war and not only survived but thrived as a result.
Because of possibility thinking.
Because these experiences and their associated stress can work as a catalyst for growth.
For one thing stress results in an increase in the amount of DHEA hormone produced by the body. This leads to increased brain neuroplasticity, safeguarding you against future stress associated with similar events.
In other words, we’re wired to cope with stress and use it to our advantage.
In her 2013 Ted talk How to Make Stress Your Friend Dr. Kelly McGonigal shares how we’ve mostly got stress wrong and how it is only harmful when the stressful event feels out of our control, when you believe it’s doing your harm and has no meaning. Our mindset has a huge impact on our behaviours and outcomes.
The paradox here being what provides us meaning can also feel stressful. For example, being a good parent or running a successful company can provides us with lots of meaning but also create a great deal of associated stress!
How can you include greater possibility into your life?
- Challenge your thoughts
It’s easy to get sucked into the downward spiral of negativity and hopelessness when things go wrong. After all we have a well established negativity bias. If you continue to stoke that fire with more negativity briquettes, you can build a raging fire, but miss out on the embers of new growth and restoration.
How can you reframe your thinking by asking a different question?
For example, instead of thinking “This next lockdown is going to drive us to the wall” ask “what can I do now to shore up the business for the next few months?”
- Work to your strengths
You’re way more resilient than you give yourself credit for.
It’s true! Resilience is your ability to bounce back following an adverse event. Sure, you might have sustained a few knocks and bruises, we all do. But, and here’s the kicker. Every time you face a challenge and come out the other side you will have drawn on your strengths to help you get through and come out stronger as a result.
Try asking yourself – “what am I really good at and how can this help?”
- Share your story
As a classified failure who has lived through severe burnout, lost a business and had several bouts of anxiety and depression I know how the associated guilt and shame can hold us back. We get embarrassed to share our vulnerability. But it’s in that moment, that you reveal your humanity, and your strengths. It takes courage to speak up, so step up and be proud. Your story serves as a reminder of what you have learned and will also help others.
- Be curious
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it helped the cat stay alive and thrive. Curiosity gives you permission to explore all options and alternatives and find the best path forward. It makes you an explorer, willing to set sail without knowing what your final destination might be.
- Choose to improvise.
One of my husband’s greatest fears when Covid-19 first burst onto our doorstep was the threat that there wouldn’t be sufficient ventilators to provide oxygen for “older Pertharians,” so he decided to build his own. From scratch. He started with the motor from a car windscreen wiper, added a few other bits and pieces including a tennis ball cut in half and purchased an ambubag and guess what? After a few false starts, his “Last Resort Mark One Ventilator” works beautifully providing a little bit of additional oxygen via the mask.
Bravo for ingenuity and improvisation!
Working with possibility helps to allay fear, quieten down the mind, create the quiet optimism to help you find the momentum needed to move forwards and stay future focused.
How do you stay possibility oriented?
How do you remain curious to “what could be?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Jenny’s new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life is now available for pre-order. Pre-orders made through Booktopia or other Australian online book retailers before July 31st puts you in the running to receive a second book, one of 250 numbered books signed by the author. Simply send your proof of purchase and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.