Are You the Sailor or the Sailboat?

Author: The Effective Syndicate | | Categories: Self Improvement

Are You the Sailor or the Sailboat.jpg

In talking with a client this week, I had a thought I wanted to share with you. I looked it up and couldn’t find a quote so maybe it’s original, but the question is: Are you the sailor or the sailboat? The person I was talking with kept bringing up things that were out of her control or even her influence. We talked about the CoronaVirus, we talked about how her company was responding, we talked about how she was worried that she might get fired or laid off and we talked about the schools being closed and if they would open up in the fall. We talked about her boss and what she was asking her to do in the interim. Finally, we talked about how she was feeling (scared) and how she was responding to it (not sleeping).

It is understandable to have these sorts of thoughts, especially during these weird times. There is so much uncertainty right now that I know a lot of people are feeling unsettled, nervous, and even scared. I understand it perfectly well. However, I also understand how terribly unhealthy it is and I want to share it with you.

First, the minute that you start looking outside of yourself you start giving away what little power you have. If you don’t believe me, try this out, take a sheet of paper and list out things you can control verses things you can’t. If you are lucky, you can say that you usually can control yourself. Otherwise, there is virtually nothing that you control. The list is everything to one, so every time you are focused on blaming something or someone else (that isn’t you), you are taking away your power and creating frustration because you are putting your efforts and outcomes behind something you don’t control.

Next, and equally important is that when you do this, you take away your ability to work on the problem. When I was a kid, I could come up with 319 reasons not to do my homework, or my chores or practice. However, as I got older I learned that my attitude was the single most important thing in my outcomes and learned how to focus on that, my life dramatically changed. Regardless of the circumstances, I and I alone control how I respond to the circumstances with my attitude. If I can get my own attitude straight, I have about a million times higher chance of facing off with the problem.

The approach I employ now is to simply acknowledge that something unexpected happened. Sometimes that elicits a little frustration of fear or whatever emotion but I am very careful not to dwell on it because emotions DO NOT help your ability to problem-solve. I then force myself to look at whatever the situation is and I start looking immediately for what I can control and/or influence about the situation. I then rank those ideas using an approach of Effort versus Impact and lay out my plan.

Try this, if you are feeling nervous, worried or scared, take just a minute to identify specifically what you are worried about with a single sentence. For example, “I am worried that I might lose my job because of the CoronaVirus.” Then, take just a few minutes and ask yourself this question. What would you tell your best friend to do if they were feeling that same feeling? You might acknowledge that they feel worried and try to console them for a few minutes, but then you might start asking them some questions, right?

  1. How is your industry doing?
  2. How is your network right now?
  3. Is your resume up to date?
  4. Do you have any leads that you are already working on?

You can help them shift away from the natural tendency to get overcome with emotions and help them to start thinking about what is next? What should the person do that is more impactful than feeling sad, worried, stressed or scared.

This isn’t about solving the problem so much as it is about figuring out how to look at the problem. Solving the problem might take some time, getting your head around how to see the problem shouldn’t take very long, and worrying about it should take about ZERO minutes. The point is that when you find yourself in a hole you shouldn’t spend a lot of time wondering how you got into the hole, spend your time figuring out how to get out of the hole.

If you are a sailboat floating around in the water, you might end up anywhere or nowhere. If you are a sailor, you will guide your boat precisely where you want it to go. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about where you are right now in your headspace, if you are thinking and stressing about all of the things outside of you, I would encourage you to shift your attention to you and the things that you do control.

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