As a kid, my dad sometimes took me fishing in his small rusty tin boat. Sometimes, in the middle of the lake, he’d put duct tape over a leak to keep the water at bay until we got back to shore. He used to say that boats don’t sink from the water around them. They sink from the water that gets in them.
I’ve drawn on that saying many times, particularly during life’s stormy times when I’ve felt like I might be pulled under by the fear and negativity swirling around me. Like back in March.
No irony was lost on me that the week that my new book was released was the same week my husband was hospitalized for COVID-19 and I was put in a two-week quarantine and my book tour and much of my income stream for 2020 was canceled. Talk about road testing my own advice!
So I kept heeding Dad’s words… “Margie, don’t give what’s going on around you the power to determine what’s going on inside you.”
Of course this is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible. It all boils down to habits. Those well-practiced patterns of thought and behavior that help us take full ownership for our internal state—“the shape of our boat”—so that when dark clouds gather overhead, we can show up as the person we most aspire to be. And when we fall (as we all do), we can quickly pick ourselves back up.
To that end, here are eight habits that set apart the people who thrive through crisis, enabling them to weather life’s storms better and emerge from them better off.
1. Start with who.
I know Simon Sinek said to start with why, but sometimes our why can be illusive. In which case, start with who. Take five minutes to write down the traits of the person you want to be right now and the story you want to tell about how you showed up during this turbulent time—in your work, your family and your broader community. When so much is uncertain, look within yourself for the certainty you can’t find elsewhere.
There is a whole lot outside your control right now. I get that. But when you decide to take control of how you show up in the world, you empower yourself to handle everything else better.
I am committed to embodying purpose, gratitude, grace and generosity through this turbulent time. What about you?
2. Practice daily rituals with radical self-discipline.
Resilience isn’t what you have, it’s what you do.In tough times, it’s important to double down on the practices and rituals that help you bring your “best self” to life—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Set your alarm, move your body, eat well, prioritize your schedule, take time to read, stay connected. The small practices you do each day can make a profound difference as you navigate uncertain times.
3. Stand guard on your energy.
Emotions are contagious. It’s easy to let the fears of others become your own. So be diligent to set firm boundaries to keep the negativity of others out of your emotional field. Maybe this requires avoiding certain people or limiting time online. On the flip side, be intentional about staying connected to those people who “fill your cup” rather than drain it.
4. Embrace discomfort. (You can’t grow without it.)
Research shows that difficult emotions are important for us to grow and flourish. So if you’ve been challenged by all that 2020 has thrown at you, embrace those uncomfortable emotions as part and parcel of what is required for you to grow into the full quota of the person you have within you to be. Adversity introduces us to ourselves. Reframe your current problems as indispensable opportunities to nurture strengths and discover within yourself whole realms of courage, compassion, creativity and strength that may otherwise have lain dormant.
5. Connect to your spiritual self.
Albert Einstein once observed that the one common thread the most influential people share is that “they have first been aligned first with their spiritual selves and only then with their physical selves.”
Being grounded in the spiritual dimension of who you are enables you to face your challenges from a place of faith, rather than fear. While this may not remove your problems, it changes your relationship to them. This not only helps to rein in the tendency to catastrophize worst case scenarios (which just make you anxious and stifle your ability to think clearly), but it expands your bandwidth to approach your challenges with more calm, creativity and courage—the very attributes that set the most successful people apart from the pack.
How would you speak, behave, interact, live and lead today if you were operating from faith over fear? Then notice how that shifts your outlook, your motions, your actions and your interactions. If it improves your day even by just a little bit, do the same tomorrow.
6. Look for ways to turn every loss into a win.
Winston Churchill is quoted to say that one must “never let a good crisis go to waste.” I’ve become a whiz on Zoom this year and become far better at connecting with virtual audiences. My guess is you’ve had to learn some new ropes, too. The reality is that even the hardest of times hold opportunities for us, if we’re looking for them. The problem is that most people are so preoccupied with the doors that are closing that they fail to see the doors waiting to be opened. So look for the wins.
7. Make plans, but use a pencil.
We are at our best when we are working hard toward meaningful goals and aspirations, so don’t let the disruption of this crisis keep you from moving forward toward a sense of purpose. Just don’t get too attached to how things should unfold. This pandemic has taught us that plans can unravel in an instant, but it’s also taught us to make the best we can of each day, whatever curve balls come our way. So set goals and make plans, just use a pencil. As Dad used to say, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.”
8. Be kind to yourself, particularly when you fail.
We all falter. We all fall. Even the most evolved among us can fall prey to fear and the lower inclinations of human nature. So when you fall short of the person you most aspire to be, get into the habit of treating yourself the way the most loving person you know would treat you. After all, beating yourself up doesn’t lift you higher, it does just the opposite. Studies find have found that by forgiving your fallibility and practicing self-compassion, it sets you up to bounce back faster and rise stronger.
When you commit to prioritize what empowers you, you come to realize that you are bigger than any problem you will ever face. Not only that, those storms you thought were ruining your path forward are really just revealing it.
Read next: Finding Courage Amid Uncertainty
Photo by Ruslan Galiullin/Shutterstock.com
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