For so many of us, 2020 has been the year that won’t let up.
Every day, it seems, we hear of another tragedy or shocking event. As if a deadly global pandemic, devastating natural disasters, and increased social unrest and racial tensions dividing our nation weren’t enough, we’re also adapting to COVID-related changes in the way we live, work, and educate our children. We’ve come to expect the unexpected and wonder if our future holds even more uncertainty.
I’ve recently faced a bit of a health scare unrelated to the Coronavirus. For someone who prides herself on maintaining wellness, this threw me for a loop. Suddenly, my imagination was running wild, culminating in that age-old question: “What if?” The mental gymnastics my brain executed over this query was enough to earn me an Olympic gold: What if it’s serious? What if I have to stop working for treatment? After my initial freak-out, I had a realization: my answer to that question directly linked to my future; I had more power than I first believed.
In these crazy times, the same sense of anxiety continues to plague us in business and our careers and can be crippling—or empowering—if we allow it to be. Here are some reminders to help you navigate the uncertainty of a “what if” world:
You can’t control what happens; you can only control how you respond.
No one asked for the year that 2020 has been and continues to be. Rather than ponder why this is happening and lament circumstances affecting your career, remember there is one thing you can control: your response.
If you’re a keynote speaker, your 2020 gigs dried up. Instead of throwing in the towel, you could conduct virtual events. If you had to shut down your brick and mortar business, you had an opportunity to move your operations online. Was your job downsized due to COVID? Perhaps this is the perfect time to strike out on your own, using your experience and transferrable skills to consult.
Be mindful of what you consume.
“You are what you eat” doesn’t only pertain to food; the same can be said in terms of the information you consume and its effects on your mental and physical wellbeing.
If you feed yourself a steady diet of sensationalized professional drama, never-ending stories of a gloom and doom economy, and worst-case scenarios, you’ll be stuck in a loop of despair that’s difficult to escape. Instead, be aware of your environment and how you take in information. Are you spending time with negative people who bring you down? Are you endlessly scrolling social media to go down rabbit holes of conspiracy theories?
Be mindful of the people and sources you allow into your orbit, limit your exposure to those that trigger you, and seek additional points of view and perspectives that provide a balance of encouragement and positivity.
Perspective is everything.
Asking “What if?” tends to bring out extreme anxiety around career-related matters. Horrific nightmares of self-doubt plague nearly everyone at some point, especially when we genuinely care about the outcome. But remember, when answering the “What if?” question, you always have two choices: What if everything goes wrong/falls apart/the worst happens? or What if everything goes right/comes together/the best happens?
Remind yourself that perspective is everything. You can choose the worst-case scenario and be consumed and paralyzed by fear or shift your mindset to the best-case scenario where you allow yourself to imagine the possibilities and become empowered by the potential of good.
One of my favorite quotes on the topic comes from Australian poet Erin Hanson, whose words are particularly poignant:
“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
In a year like 2020, here’s hoping we’re all “flying” soon.