The coronavirus has caused a spike in fear and anxiety on a global level. For many people, the future has never felt so uncertain. We have a sense that things will never be the same but we don’t yet know what that means in terms of our jobs, finances, families and communities. Research has shown that uncertainty is actually harder for us to tolerate than the certainty of knowing that something bad will happen. When things feel challenging, it can be helpful to look at how what’s happening is serving us right now and getting us where we want to go. Asking, ’How is this situation the best thing ever?’ can help us identify the opportunities and silver linings in a situation that otherwise seems bleak.
The end picture we have in our minds is often one of ease. If we want a great relationship, we imagine a scenario wherein our partner magically meets all of our needs, conflict falls away, the connection feels effortless and all we’re left with are the peak moments. If we ask for a great relationship and what shows up is a boatload of conflict, at first glance it may seem as though we’re getting the opposite of what we want. But if we dig a little deeper, we see that to have great relationships, we need to be able to handle conflict, so in fact we’re being presented with the next step toward the end goal we had in mind.
What seems like a terrible situation at first glance is actually the opportunity to become the kind of person who can navigate conflict well, so we can use it to cultivate a deeper quality of connection. The strength of a relationship can be measured by how well it weathers conflict. Conflict-avoidant couples can stay together but research shows their satisfaction is low because their needs aren’t met. Couples who don’t handle conflict well get divorced; couples who handle conflict well tend to be happy together. When we think of a great relationship, we don’t tend to think of conflict but that’s actually the very thing that allows us to have great relationships across the board.
Pain is the catalyst for growth. We feel it whether we choose to resist our circumstances or embrace them, but we have choice about how we experience it. If we are caught up in resistance, we won’t be able to see how moving toward the pain is actually the very thing that will bring us the results we want, and we will suffer. When we lift weights, what we’re actually doing is tearing our muscles so they grow stronger, and it’s painful! But we can learn to enjoy the pain, to develop an acquired taste for the burn of a workout where we actually look forward to it. The same is true of any flavor of pain that we experience–we can learn to savor it, because it’s the taste of growth.
We might think that we want to skip to the finish line and have the things we want magically appear in our lives, but the experience of receiving things we didn’t work for doesn’t ultimately bring satisfaction because we know we wouldn’t be able to reproduce it. Studies have shown that the majority of lottery winners report feeling worse post-windfall than they did before. Most of them don’t have the skills to deal with the problems that come with having a lot of money, so they can’t sustain the initial wave of happiness they experience.
We mistakenly think that attaining the end picture we have in mind–a great relationship, a lot of money, the perfect job–is what will bring us happiness. In reality, cultivating appreciation for what we already have and celebrating small wins from moment to moment is what generates the experience of sustained happiness. When our focus is on what’s working rather than on what’s missing, we can identify blessings and opportunities that we otherwise would have overlooked.
We need to give ourselves space to feel whatever we’re feeling–in general, and especially right now when emotions are running high. That being said, in order to find creative solutions to the problems we’re facing, we must approach them from an abundant mindset. When was the last time you came up with a solution for your conundrum when you were down in the dumps? Abundance is the filter that enables us to see new possibilities when we reach an impasse. It’s the attitude that kids have when they’re playing, where they can look at a chair and a blanket and see a fort. We all have access to that outlook, and the most helpful thing we can do for ourselves and each other right now is to engage it. We’re experiencing a time of transition on this planet, and our capacity to generate creative, sustainable solutions for the future depends on our ability to stay open and make decisions from a place of abundance.
In that spirit, here are 3 things you can do to cultivate an abundant mindset:
1. When faced with a difficult situation, ask yourself:
- How is this the best thing ever?
- How is this challenge exactly what I need?
- How is it helping me achieve my goals and live by my priorities?
2. Appreciate the small wins. One way to do this is by keeping a daily victory journal–listing at least 3 successes you had that day. This practice trains your unconscious to look for wins, and has a profound effect on your mindset over time as that filter becomes ingrained.
3. Mine your successes. Ask:
- What made that experience successful?
- How did I succeed?
- Is this something I used to do?
- If it’s an old behavior, how long have I been doing it?
- Is this a change that happened 5 or 10 years ago or is it recent? What change preceded this one to make it possible?
Success begets success. Claiming successful memories enables you to access other successful memories, which changes your perspective on your past. Over time, thinking this way creates an identity shift where you start seeing yourself as a successful person, regardless of the outcome of specific situations.
Group Coaching for Wellbeing During Uncertain Times
If you could use support with finding balance amidst the chaos, I’ll be hosting a group coaching session on Zoom this Monday 3/30 from 12:15-1:15 pm Eastern in partnership with Cahoots, a co-working hub in Ann Arbor. I’ll be addressing people’s individual questions and concerns, and sharing practical tools for using the circumstances we’re in to find greater purpose and inspiration for our lives. The cost is $10; click here for more info or to register. Feel free to spread the word if you know of anyone who might be interested!