How to Emerge From This Crisis Better and Stronger
How are you doing these days?
Some people are on what one of my clients calls “the struggle bus”. Others are relatively unscathed. But we’re all feeling the effects somehow.
While it may feel like things could drag on indefinitely, and there’s unlikely to be a clearly marked “all clear” signal, the current situation will not go on exactly as is forever.
Whatever way this COVID-19 situation is affecting you and the ones you love, as the saying goes: this too shall pass.
We will emerge from this, even if we don’t know exactly when or how.
So, what’s the best way to weather the proverbial storm?
How to Weather the Storm
There are two main strategies for dealing with environments like these.
The “Do Nothing” Strategy
On the one hand, it’s tempting to hunker down, endure the discomforts for the time being and wait it out.
This is the path of least resistance. Think of it as the “do nothing” strategy.
But when there’s no quick fix, that hunker-down mentality can backfire. When things eventually do get better, you could emerge as if from a time warp: as you were before, but further behind because the rest of the world has moved on.
Like Rip Van Winkle, or the World War II soldier who was found years later, hiding out on a remote island thinking the war is still going on.
The “Silver Lining” Strategy
On the other hand, the most successful people will be those who look for the opportunity in the situation. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining… you just have to look for it.
This requires keeping a cool head, seeing the bigger picture and finding a way to make lemonade when the world gives you lemons. It means being able to stay calm and constructive while showing empathy and lending a helping hand to others. And finding a way to renew yourself and stay positive even in the face of negative people and events.
Which path are you headed toward?
Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste
As a junior associate experiencing my first financial crisis, I remember one of our senior managers saying, “never let a crisis go to waste”.
It was his way of reminding us to get out of our narrow view of the world and look at the bigger picture – to see beyond the immediate panic in order to identify future opportunities and make the changes needed to take advantage of them.
We all know that it’s hard to change, especially when things are going well and you’re in the status quo.
That’s why the current crisis is too important to let it go to waste. Use it as motivation, as the impetus to drive yourself and your team forward.
The key is to make the right kind of changes. And that requires some clear thinking on your part.
The Single Most Important Question to Ask Yourself
The most important question you can ask yourself right now is this:
“How do I want to emerge from this better and stronger?”
This is a powerful question because it instantly pushes you forward to imagine that future point in time when we emerge from the current situation.
While there’s no precise timeframe, I recommend you think of this as at least one month from now and preferably longer. You’ll see why in a moment.
What Does “Better” Mean for You?
When I thought about the question of how I want to emerge, it took me several days to answer it. I had to live with it for a while, but then woke up one morning just knowing the answer.
I want to emerge from this stronger physically and mentally. These are the foundational pieces that will most move the needle in everything else I do.
This is what I need in order to generate the growth I aspire to in my business and my relationships. I’m committed to emerging from this being my best self – or as close as I can get to it. And in my case, it all flows from my physical and mental state.
For you, it might be something completely different, like developing a new skill that will land you a higher paying job or finally beginning that personal project that you’ve set aside for years, waiting for when you have more time.
There’s no single right answer. Just what “better” looks, feels and sounds like for you.
Let Your Vision for “Better” Drive Your Actions
Your vision for “better” allows you to approach this period of uncertainty from a position of strength. It gives you some certainties around which to anchor your days, make good decisions and motivate your actions so you are generating forward momentum.
For me, it means I’m making sure I get 8 hours of sleep a night, eating well, drinking at least 6 pints of water a day, and exercising six days a week instead of three.
It also means I’m working on my mental game. More specifically, addressing my worry habit. As my husband points out, I tend to “rev too high”. I can turn any day into a stressful, adrenaline-fueled work-fest.
Using a movie analogy, I tend to make my days “Fast and Furious” when “On Golden Pond” would serve me better. I’d get more done in less time and live a happier life.
So, think about this as the time to be forming new habits and ways of being that will serve you better and make you more effective (and joyful) in the future.
That’s why the key is to look at this from a longer timeframe than just a few days or weeks. You need enough time to form these new habits. In some sense, you’ll almost wish you had more time to work on them!
What enduring habits, qualities and attitudes do you want to emerge with?
Don’t Wish This Time Away
In the end, life is a series of opportunities to be seized. Some are foisted on us, others we create.
But all too often, we don’t see the events in our lives as opportunities – especially if they look like crises that turn our worlds upside down. In times like these, it’s hard to see them as anything other than threats.
But even in moments of struggle, remember that time is precious. Once it’s gone it’s gone. And your sense of time depends on how you frame it.
For example, one minute can feel like an eternity if you’re holding your breath under water or no time at all if you’re talking to a loved one. Yet, it’s the same 60 seconds.
To borrow a line from the Elton John song, don’t wish this time away.
Don't wish it away
Don't look at it like it's forever
Between you and me I could honestly say
That things can only get better
– Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Instead, make productive use of this time. Spend some of it this week thinking about how you want to emerge from this crisis better. Then, start taking steps toward creating your better future.
As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.”
This is your time.
How do you want to emerge from this time better and stronger?
I’d love to know, so leave a comment below to share how you’ll emerge better and stronger.
Well done May! I think that applying this shift of mindset could be the turning point for many people in response to COVID-19. I am applying the “Never let a crisis go to waste” mentality and feel incredibly refreshed by this positive outlook!
Awesome, Nick! Spread the positive outlook and I look forward to hearing how you choose to invest your time and energies.
So agree May! My biggest fear in all of this ( despite many things to fear right now) is that individually and as a nation, we will not learn from all we are being shown, and take advantage of the new insights and opportunitIes this has revealed. I’ll flip it to be more positive, and say my biggest hope is that we will!
Dear May, Thank you for your great encouragement during this time. We will be posting your blog at http://www.4wordwomen.org this coming Friday. Diane HBS 1985
Hi May, Thanks a ton for sharing this inspiring article. I like the way you put “The Struggle Bus”, “Do Nothing” and “The Silver Lining”.
This was a great message. It is nice to see that others also believe theses same things.