As we hear the news every day about Coronavirus, our emotions are triggered. Everything from fear and anxiety to uncertainty rattles through our brains, but what is true?
While we cannot control others spreading the virus, and certainly can’t control the media’s daily promotion of disaster,
we can control how we choose to respond.
There is no question this is a real concern, and disregarding it could be disastrous. Loss of life is tragic, but when we compare the loss of life to the flu each year (which I would venture to say few of us really consider), it is barely a fraction of that amount.
Have you noticed the reaction of global stock markets? The drop in stock prices is huge! What is driving that -truth or uncertainty? Fears of recession, anxiety in travel stocks, and uncertainty about the global economy encourage us to think and feel without considering the entire picture.
I admit, I have struggled with some of these emotions. So how do we find truth, perspective, and a healthy mindset in the midst of a global health concern. Whether it’s Coronavirus, SARS, Ebola, or something more personal, the fear of the unknown is a strong emotional trigger, and getting information from reliable sources in order to adapt to the proverbial curveball is essential to success.
Working in the area of organizational health and vitality, I see many of the same emotional triggers at play in the workplace. The unknown creates a variety of emotions. Think of the last change effort your organization attempted. Was it successful? Research and polls say probably not. Statistically, 70% of change efforts fail. Why so high a failure rate? Resistance, right? But what’s behind that resistance? More often than not, it’s emotional triggers linked to change. A mindset focused on what might go wrong instead of what might go right can make all the difference.
So, how do we keep a healthy mindset in a time of concern.
STOP, breathe, and evaluate the facts (not what you think or what someone says is true)
How often do we make snap judgements that perpetuate unproductive cycling? It probably happens more often than we’d like to admit. Gaining perspective by pausing and sorting through what we know and don’t know is a great place to start. It’s easier to get out of an unproductive mindset by not choosing to enter it in the first place than it is to try to find an exit point once you are in that mindset. In a world of reading flashy and shocking headlines, taking time to understand an issue from reliable sources helps set healthy expectations.
Define what you do control in the situation
It does not help to burn time and energy on things you cannot control.
Q: What do we control?
A: How we choose to react or respond to the situation, our behavior, our path forward, and how we lead ourselves and others.
Most of what we fear never actually happens. Optimism provides an accelerator to move forward productively. It gives us a sense of hope and frees us from many of the roadblocks we self-impose.
Think of optimism as the energy needed to navigate the emotional landscape more intentionally.
External motivators like the news, posts on The Internet, and other external sources of input are reliably unreliable. Even if they are true, they are more likely to drain our resources than provide what we need to move forward effectively. While it is important to be informed about the concern, what you do with that information will directly impact your decisions and outcomes. Look to your internal motivators like values, commitments, unique gifts, and experience to provide the motivation you need.
You cannot control a thought when it pops into your head, but you can control your reaction or response to that thought. You can choose how you feel about a thought and even redirect your emotions to more productive outcomes. An effective model of this can be seen in the Change Map developed by Six Seconds. “Navigate Emotions” is a key competency of emotional intelligence, and it’s critical when dealing with uncertainty. Will you be drawn into the gravity of the concern and get stuck in that orbit, or will you choose your own path forward by being intentional about how you respond?
A simple question to ask yourself when dealing with crisis or uncertainty: Will you allow your emotions to control you, or will you choose to manage your emotions for more intentional and strategic outcomes?
You can cover your mouth, wash your hands, and stay informed. Then you can succeed in the growth you desire with a healthy mindset and with good data upon which to make your decisions.
About the Author
Steve Goodner is the President of GSCFIT, and a Preferred Partner with Six Seconds, the world’s largest emotional intelligence community. GSCFIT is dedicated to equipping and empowering individuals, leaders and organizations through Focus, Insight, and Transformation (FIT).