Yesterday, I received an e mail from my trainer, friend and mentor Trevor Silvester from the Quest Institute. He sent this to all his current and exisiting students, because we are all facing challenging times at the moment.
Very few of us have ever lived through anything like this, and a lot of us will struggle to cope. Our brains will be trying to protect us from these unknowns. Our brain doesn’t like unknowns, it likes certainty. And there is nothing certain about what we are living through at the moment.
Trevor has given me permission to share his e mail, so I’m sharing some of it it here, with some additions and adjustments from my own thoughts, as I hope it will help anyone who reads it to make a bit of sense of the times we are in.
As I mentioned earlier, our brain likes certainty, so when something shakes ‘normality’, it will either do its best to continue as before – even if it’s heading you towards a cliff (we call that denial) – or it will access your previous experiences for guidance on how to deal with the current feelings. . With a shift from normality as big as Covid 19 it’s not surprising that many of us have no frame of reference from our past. This is literally like nothing we’ve ever faced before – we cannot see a way forward.
Often the felt response to this is akin to depression; the brain wants you to stop and bed down for a while until the situation ahead becomes clearer (protection response = freeze). Or, if the brain matches it with negative events from your past – like previous experiences of poverty, redundancy, loss etc – then if the match is strong you’ll experience anxiety (a fear of what you foresee as the outcome) and respond with fight or flight, or depression if your default with stress tends to be to freeze.
So, the great rollercoaster of emotions we’re witnessing are perfectly normal, they’re just us responding to the situation as our brain is interpreting it. It’s good to remember that even though our ‘normal’ has shifted, there are still things to be incredibly grateful for.
A really good thing to keep in mind is – It’s not what’s happening, but what we make of it .
Trevor states – In times of great uncertainty remaining in ILOC is a good idea. That is the secret. And it isn’t easy.
What is ILOC I hear you say?
There are two states we can be in, one being having an External Locus of Control (ELOC) or having an Internal Locus of Control (ILOC) . In a nutshell, people who have an ELOC mindset are waiting for something or someone to make things better, make them happy or put things right. Being ILOC means that we take more control, rather than waiting for someone or something to make things better, we should think, What can I do to make things better.
How do we do this?
1. For now, it’s impossible to plan long-term, so lower your gaze. Deal with what’s in front of you. What are the problems to be solved today?
2. Operate within your circle of influence. Pay attention and give energy to those things you can control, not the things you can’t – these are in your circle of concern, which is much larger, but over which you have little power.
3. With our normal rhythms disrupted, create new ones. Have a list of things to achieve each day. Achieving them is a successful day. Keep them smallish and achievable. Include exercise and something novel – like learning a new hobby.
4. Secure your base. Sometimes appropriate protection is growth, so you might need to shrink or postpone your plans or ambitions. Look at what you need to sustain you and your family now and make that as safe as you can.
5. Keep connected to people with a growth mindset. We feed what we focus on, so the more you tune into negative messages the more you’ll be primed to look for them. Keep looking for the positives and don’t let yourself be drawn down the rabbit hole of fear and panic.
6. Forgive yourself. This is not about being relentlessly positive. This is a difficult time with things happening that will have negative consequences for all of us to some degree or another. It’s appropriate to grieve for the future that will no longer be there, to fear the loss of things we love or hoped to, to hurt for the people suffering. All feelings are ok to feel, so don’t judge yourself by them. Cry for a while. Sit in a dark room for a while. Moan about the unfairness for a while. Then when it has passed, get up, and deal with the problem for today.
When this is over we can look back at what we learned, how we grew and what we’re grateful for. For now, take one step at a time and remember to love who you’re connected to. Take some time to serve others.
One day this will be a story you tell. What character would you like yourself to be in it? Treat it as that story now.
With many thanks to Trevor for allowing us to share his wise words. For more information about Trevor and the Quest Institute click here.