It’s all too much. I’m not okay. I am overwhelmed by what’s happening around me. The good ole’ to-do list is never done and the stress is never gone. Do I need to do everything? Have a lost my ability to recognize what’s essential in life?
That was my inner voice a few weeks ago. So, I packed up Bear, my 11-year-old corgi, for a trip to Niagara Falls, New York to clear my mind.
A few days ago, on one of the hottest summer days thus far, a huge storm blew through almost destroying my newly planted trees. Peace and calm followed. Then, it cooled way down. Still warm but, not too warm. The skies cleared, the sun re-emerged. Somedays, I feel like that storm, coming in hot, ripping up trees, and blowing debris far away. My mind spinning up dirt, branches, and any thoughts not tied down. Other days, I’m calm and clear on what the future holds.
I’ve never feared the future. One of my top 5 Strengths on Strengths Finder is FUTURISTIC. (I LOVE Strength Finders, and love that we offer this service) I can literally think about and plan for the future for hours. Now, it’s hard to envision the future. Often, I can only think about what’s in front of me that day and what’s for dinner that night.
Having Ups and Downs
The world continues to spin like it always has, yet, it feels off-axis. It feels different. There’s so much uncertainty about the future and so much discourse between people. Both, are unsettling. There seems to be so much happening in the world, I often feel lost and overwhelmed by it all.
When I wrote The World Went Sideways Now What article on March 15, 2020, I felt I could navigate the uncertainty because I was able to identify what’s changing and what we can all do to withstand the change. I was naïve or at a minimum overly optimistic. As the pandemic has continued to linger on in 2021 so too has the feeling of uncertainty.
Maybe, I thought it would get better faster than it has. Maybe, I’m on social media too much or reading the news too often. Neither makes me feel better.
A few weeks ago I identified this emotional roller coaster and knew I had to get off the ride. I cannot sit in the feeling of overwhelm and fear. You may be feeling this way too. So, while in Niagara Falls here’s what I did.
Getting Off The Ride
I went to the task of exploring times of great uncertainty. My rationale was simple, first, understand how people felt during the time of high uncertainty. Second, read their stories of survival. Third, tackle the feeling of overwhelm by getting clear on what’s essential. Lastly, I chose to pick through what I might be able to apply to my own life. This plan gave me hope.
I started with the book Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, then dove into George Friedman’s Flashpoints, and finished by re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
What I learned
Unbroken – Navigating Emotions In Times of Uncertainty
In Unbroken I took away that our mind is far stronger than our body and forgiveness is the most powerful tool we have in overcoming emotional trauma of being wronged. What the main character, Zamperini, endured as a POW, is likely far worse than anything I ever will.
However, many of us may feel wronged by Covid-19, the economy, or our employers. Building ‘mental toughness tools’ can help us navigate this uncertainty more than any other tools in our metaphorical tool belt.
In the book Flashpoints, I learned there is always friction. Whether that’s between nations, political parties, ideologies, people, business, or even within ourselves. When there’s friction it can lead to a flashpoint.
This helped me reframe my thinking in a few ways.
First, it made me more alert to the friction in my life and how I need to reduce the friction before it’s out of control. For example, there’s friction between feeling uncertain about the future while also being mad at myself for not making decisions about the future. We just need to cut ourselves some slack.
Second, it inspired me to help clients more easily identify friction for their customers and remove it before it becomes a flashpoint.
In this book, the author shared the need to have ‘systematic discipline’ to discern what is absolutely essential and then eliminate everything else. There are so many good nuggets in Essentialism. However, I will boil it down to two. One, stop allowing another person’s agenda to highjack my schedule or life. Two, do less but, better.
Yesterday, I was on a call with a young person. She was feeling depleted with two internships and two jobs. No wonder she felt overwhelmed! When I asked why she signed up for so much, she responded “I have to do everything that comes my way. When I graduate in May the job market will be very competitive. Employers expect marketers to be copywriters, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, SEO experts, social media managers, and more. So, I have to do everything.”
Is the world we laid out for young people? They must BE EVERYTHING and DO EVERYTHING. It’s not possible. I spoke to her at length about signing up for everything leaves us exhausted and less creative. It is creativity that sets you, me, and her apart from everyone else.
That’s right. A customer can go anywhere to buy whatever you sell except your creative spin. No one has that BUT you. If we outsource our creativity so that we can be on every webinar, conference call, meeting, project, and more, we will lose the one thing that makes us competitive and unique.
Shed The Feeling Of Overwhelm To Rediscover What’s Essential
These days, I’m focused on what’s essential, reducing friction and tension, and continuing to build my mental toughness. These activities are helping me navigate the uncertainty we’re experiencing in the world and battle against being overwhelmed by it all. I hope these tips will help you traverse uncertainty.
What’s more essential than a road trip with your dog during a pandemic? Nothing! Except for the other essentials like masks, books, and comfortable shoes. This trip allowed me to clear my mind and plate of work, reflect on the books I read, and truly enjoy what’s essential in life.
About The Author: Lauralee Hites
After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I decided to serve the world in a new way. Today, I operate a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Strategy and Management Consulting. Connect with me on LinkedIn.
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