A story to whet your appetite
One of the highlights of my childhood was the annual convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. As an outstanding Sunday School student at my local parish, I always ended up representing Osun State at the national Sunday School quiz competition during the annual convention.
On one of those occasions, I got lost in the crowd and couldn’t find my way back to my brother who had gone with me or anyone I knew. Immediately, an alarm went off in my young mind and triggered a barrage of disturbing thoughts. Alas, I had been disconnected from my support system.
As the child that I was, I did not know that the organisers had already envisaged such development and made provision for it. So, even when I found my way to the unit that took care of ‘lost’ kids, I was so worried that I declined the sumptuous meal I was offered by the officials even though I was hungry. I also did not recognise the opportunity to interact with other kids in the same situation and perhaps make some new acquaintances. All I did was cry.
Getting emotional will do you no good
When considered in terms of magnitude, the experience I just shared is obviously not as huge or serious as the crisis we are facing today, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it contains underlying lessons and principles that can make us better equipped to handle any kind of crisis.
Naturally, when faced with a crisis, most people tend to get emotional. We get worried or agitated and that prevents us from thinking clearly. But that is one thing you don’t want to do when faced with a crisis. That time is when you need to be at your best in terms of your creativity and mental acuity.
That is the time that you need to be able to really think! But instead, we get so preoccupied with several scenarios that we become too incapacitated to maximise the possibilities presented by the situation in which we have found ourselves.
In my case, I had the opportunity to interact with other kids and perhaps make new friends or at least acquaintances. I was also offered a sumptuous meal which I rejected because I was busy crying and wondering what was going to happen to me. I felt like I was lost forever, which is simply not true.
And that’s exactly what happens when we worry about situations outside our control instead of doing something about the things within our control. Instead of thinking through and making rational decisions, you’ll be overwhelmed by negative emotions that create unnecessary liability. It’s like making repayment upfront for a loan that you will never take.
The first step you should take in a crisis
So instead of getting worked up about the situation, ask yourself, “What does this make possible?”
We are at a point in the world today where most people are afraid. Some are worried and don’t know what to do because of the current situation. Things have changed dramatically for a lot of people and it is hard to tell what the future holds. But it doesn’t have to be that way, even in spite of the uncertainty that comes with the crisis.
We can still thrive, advance and move forward; it is not the end of the world. Life is like a giant puzzle; everything that happens to us or around us is a piece of that puzzle. Through our actions, decisions and behaviours every day, we are arranging the pieces of that puzzle to fit our envisioned reality. Over time, we begin to identify patterns in which we can fit in the various pieces of the puzzle so that we can make sense of it all.
What adversity or crisis does is to scramble up those patterns that we have become familiar with. We all have ways we live our lives, but when a crisis happens, it distorts everything. This puts us in a situation where we either learn and adapt or get confused and lose our sense of meaning.
Many of us are used to waking up at certain times to prepare for work on a daily basis. This has changed, and so, many people have been thrown off balance. Instead of being thrown off balance, why not wake up at that same time and put the time to good use?
Ask the right questions
When the regular pattern of your life changes, what do we do? What decisions do we need to make? Will it be necessary to modify our behaviours in certain ways? These are basic questions we need to answer if we are going to harness the power of adversity and thrive through the crisis.
The answers we give to these questions will be determined by our mental models. This has to do with the way we see and interpret the world. We need to have different types of mental models to be able to interpret different situations. If you have a mental model that is limiting you, what you need to do is to consciously work at changing it.
Take a house as a puzzle, for instance, the bricks, woods and other parts as puzzle pieces. The type of building each of us will make out of these materials will vary depending on each person’s floor plan and ability to keep eyes glued to the goal irrespective of changing situations. If you go down in a crisis, it is not the crisis that pulled you down. It is a result of how you conduct yourself in the midst of the crisis.
Focus on what you can change
First, ask yourself, what does this make possible?
To get started, don’t obsess over what you cannot change or don’t have control over. The coronavirus will not last forever. Eventually, things will return to normal but we cannot control when. Rather, think about things you can control and do something about that.
For example, you can control how you spend and what you spend on, you can take the time to learn something. Focus on these things. It may also be time for you to start that blog, write that book, or execute that project you have always thought about.
Focus on the big picture. Try to see what your life will look like, if your company, for instance, decides to retrench people. What are you going to do? Imagine situations as if they’ve already happened. This will help you determine what actions to take and how you need to adjust your behaviour in light of the reality ahead. Eventually, if what you’ve thought out does happen, you’re better prepared.
Focus on other people
The next thing you want to do, which is counter-intuitive, is to focus on others instead of yourself. It is natural to think of self-preservation in dicey situations like this, but there are people who might need your help. As an example, I have created an entire set of training on how you can build a website offline because a lot of people have now realised the need to take their businesses online.
This is one of my contributions to help people during this time and you too can do the same. This is one way of dealing with negative emotions, replacing it with positive emotion by taking actions. There are so many benefits that come with alleviating suffering and helping people. Besides, you get to increase your joy.
Some people may have taken words of affirmation out of context but they really work. Trying to just fight off negative thoughts doesn’t really work. Rather, you can replace bad thoughts with positive thoughts by speaking the right kind of words.
Recognise your intangible assets
Recognise your intangible assets, this will open doors for you. One thing adversity does is to help you uncover your intangible assets. Take time to think about other possibilities that can emerge from what you already do. As a fashion designer, it is possible for you to share your knowledge with others using digital tools.
People who are not afraid to fail, who are not afraid of what the future holds, eventually don’t fail. So don’t be afraid of what the future holds. Instead, look at the assets you have and see how they can help you mitigate the situation.
How can you convert what you have into new platforms, products, and services? If as an event hall owner you can no longer let out for parties because of the current global situation, why not switch to warehousing for this period? People always need a place to stock food, protective gadgets, and so on.
In every crisis, there is an opportunity. What you want to do is focus on these opportunities. Like a sailor, set your sail in such a way that the wind becomes an advantage, not a distraction. If you find these tips useful, do well to share with your friends so they can learn too.