3 Ideas for squeezing the best out the last few weeks of 2020

From March 2020 life has been challenging and this looks set to continue through the winter months.  Like me, you may well have been anxious, worried about your job, about furlough arrangements, worried about family, and uncertain about the future. It sounds as if we are going to be living with this virus for some time. So, what do we do? Hide and hope we and our families will all be fine at the end of the year? Or do we grab the rest of the year by the scruff of the neck and get going?

Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pexels

Covid-19 has created huge problems and yet it’s also brought stillness and reflection into many of our lives. Forced, at least temporarily, off the treadmill of life and work we have been given a unique opportunity to stop and think. That stillness seems to have created a real desire for change. According to a YouGov poll only 8% of Britons want to go back to life as it was before the pandemic.

Let’s create something better for everyone instead of some watered down ‘new normal’ that focuses on all the things we can’t do. The first step for squeezing the best out of the rest of 2020 is to embrace uncertainty. None of us know what’s around the corner. There is not going to be some miracle vaccine that saves us all by Christmas, so what do we do now and for the rest of the year for ourselves and our families?  It’s time to adapt.

 

Embracing Your Innate Growth Mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck became obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures and setbacks. Initially her research looked at kids and how they reacted to puzzles they couldn’t solve. She thought that she’d find different levels of resilience but what she actually found was that children, especially young children didn’t consider not being able to solve the puzzle as a failure in the first place. It was just a game – a fun challenge.  The outcome of Dweck’s research is now world famous. She proposes that our success and happiness in life comes down to one thing – mindset. According to Dweck there are only two – fixed and growth.

Those with a fixed mindset, have a fixed idea of what they are capable of, believing that what they are born with is the finish line. They tend to be more defeatist, accepting the problems without much effort or belief they can find solutions. Those with a growth mindset believe that what we are born with is just the beginning. What we are capable of is not determined by anything other than our own aspirations, effort and determination.

Interestingly, Dweck believes we are all born with a growth mindset and get trained out of it by the school system, unsupportive parents and social expectations. We are taught that failure is unacceptable – even though all great success comes through failure not by avoiding it. If ever we needed to re-assess that growth mindset it’s now.

Take a minute to consider whether you have a fixed or growth mindset?  Has Covid-19 made it more fixed as you sink into a gloom? If you imagine you had a growth mindset instead – what would you do? Looking at your family and the rest of 2020 – what could you try? What have you always thought of doing but never got around to it? Lean into the uncertainty and adapt. Use it as a springboard to try things you’ve been putting off. Stay flexible, open and curious.

 

Changing your Typical Day

What have you done today? Is that getting you closer to your career and life goals or further away? If you want a different tomorrow so you find a successful way through the pandemic, you need to take steps to change what you do today.

Stop for a moment and reflect on how you spend your time. When did you get up this morning?  How much TV do you watch?  How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend learning something new? Do you spend time with family or friends?  Are those exchanges enjoyable or stressful? How much time do you spend on your health?  How much sleep do you get most nights?

Take a minute to draw a circle and divide it up into slices that represent how you spend your time during a typical day. Now draw another circle and divide it up to represent how you would like to spend your day. If you spend a lot of time at work but don’t enjoy your work, what could you do today to find a better job that you might enjoy more? Or what could you change at work or home today to improve your day? Identify the things you like or can live with and the things that you don’t like and can’t live with. How can you change the aspects of your day that bring you down?

Often, we don’t need to make wholesale sweeping changes; subtle little shifts accumulate to bring about change.

 

Understanding Post-Traumatic Growth

In 1967 psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a list of 47 stressful events that could impact health and happiness. The assumption is logical – we get more stressed when bad stuff happens to us, start accumulating stressful experiences such as a job loss, illness or divorce and you are more susceptible to physical illness, disease and depression. Global pandemics and economic uncertainty don’t help either.

But, the fly in their theoretical ointment was the fact that not everyone who experienced really tough life events were negatively impacted by them. On the contrary, some of those people actively flourished. This field of study is called post traumatic growth or adversarial growth and studies have shown that great suffering or trauma can actually lead to huge positive change. For example, after the Madrid bombings of 2004 psychologists found that many of those affected experienced positive psychological growth. A diagnosis of cancer and subsequent recovery can also trigger positive growth.

The people in many of these studies found new meaning and new purpose from surviving something terrible. Instead of seeing their situation as a failure or a problem they believed Nietzsche, who said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. How can you use Covid-19 in the last months of 2020 to find new meaning and positive growth?

Take a minute to think about exactly what you are worried about most in your life and identify one thing you can do about it right now. Set that in motion. What positives could you pull from the turmoil? Get creative – think of at least three positives that Covid-19 could give you and family. It might not be fun but if you can find the silver linings you can often move on quicker.

 

These ideas are from my Meee in a Minute books, each offering 60 one-minute micro-ideas and insights that can help shift our perception in life, family and at work. As you can tell I’m a great believer in the power of small and speedy interventions.  It need only take 60 seconds to make a change and get the very best from the last few weeks of 2020.

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