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The Wisdom to Know the Difference: Part Three of Three

The folks who seem to be coping well during this time are making the most of what they can control and letting go of the rest.  Your mindset is key to coping well, enabling you to summon the courage you need to move forward.

In the absence of information, we often jump to conclusions and assume the worst just to have a sense of certainty.  Unfortunately, many of us are wired to focus on threats and to underestimate our ability to handle them.  If you focus on what is outside your control, your negative emotions and stress grow and your performance suffers.  Alternatively, focus on what you can control, and you will feel a greater sense of personal efficacy that ultimately will enhance your performance.  Where do you focus your attention?

Our mindset during this crisis is critical.  So please add “mindset” to your list of things you can control.  In fact, your mindset is perhaps the most important thing you can control right now.  You have faced challenges in the past and you have survived, even thrived.  This situation is no different.  Panic, worry, and fear do not help you.  Quite the contrary, they drain critical energy that you could be using toward something productive.  Focus your mindset on what you can do despite the lack of certainty. 

When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
~ Viktor Frankl

Can we really let go of our need for certainty? The answer is yes: the right mindset enables us to cultivate courage.  The truth is, we have always lived by probabilities, not by guarantees.  With the right mindset, we thoughtfully assess our circumstances, make our best judgment about how to proceed, and then summon the courage to move forward.   Instead of giving into the fear and uncertainty, you may benefit from compartmentalizing, or putting guard rails around, the worry and the areas over which you have no control and, instead, take constructive action with the things you can control.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Those executives who are coping well through this time appear to know that the only thing they can control is their mindset and the courageous decisions they make based on the evidence available.  These folks are staying level-headed despite the extreme circumstances.  In essence, they are saying, “Here’s what we know, and here’s what we don’t know; now let’s make the best decisions we can and move forward.  If we make mistakes, so be it.”  Notably, they don’t aim for perfection since there’s no way to make a perfect decision in uncertain times.

So, contrary to what your brain might be telling you, work on developing the mindset that you can trust that you will be able to handle whatever comes your way. You’ve courageously faced tremendous challenges before, and you will get through this one too.

By: Lee Smithson Burd, Ph.D.