There is a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world right now. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, look at the news on the Internet – it can be overwhelming, scary, and downright frightening. As a result, it seems to me that an awful lot of people today are living with a high level of stress and anxiety because they are truly uncertain about how their future might unfold. So in this blog I’d like to give you some advice for how to handle the current situation in a bit more proactive and focused manner.
1. Make a list of the things in your life right now that are causing you stress, pain and anxiety. Next to each one write a “C” or “NC” to reflect whether you have CONTROL – or NO CONTROL – over that situation. Then try as hard as you humanly can to completely let go of the items that you have No Control over – try to remove them from your mind – and instead focus all of your time, energy and effort on taking massive control of the things you CAN control, impact and strongly influence. Every time you start to worry about something you cannot control (Congress, gas prices, the stock market, food prices, the debt ceiling…) simply re-focus your mind on a part of your life where you DO have control and start thinking about how you can have a more positive impact in that area. This takes a lot of will and discipline – but if you can constantly replace the negative, stressful thoughts about things over which you have little or no control – and instead focus on the areas where you can take some control…it will allow you to feel more in control of your life, which is a strong positive determinant of reducing stress and reducing anxiety.
2. As you can see from item number one, it can often become overwhelming thinking about how all of the stuff that is happening right now will impact our long-term future, so I would suggest that instead of thinking about how this might impact you ten years from now – or even a year from now – that instead you sit down and create a detailed plan for what you’re going to do to make your life better in the next 90 days. I am not saying that you ignore the long-term future – far from it – what I’m saying is that you can regain some sense of control and direction in your life by shortening your timeframe and asking yourself, “What can I do in the next three months to get my life on track, moving in the right direction, and setting myself up for a much, much better future?”
This is how I got myself through college, I did not worry about what my GPA was going to be when I graduated – I simply focused very hard on getting an A on the next test. I knew that if every single time I took a test I got an A…eventually my GPA would take care of itself. Right now, in the current environment we live in, I might suggest that it’s a good idea to simply focus on getting an “A” on the most important parts of your life for the next 90 days. If you can do that for 90 days, and then another 90 days, and another 90 days 90 days – you will look up a year from now and things will be incredibly better – and YOU will be the one who made it that way! So my recommendation is to define three or four major areas in your life that you want to work on and are critical to you, such as your career/business, your finances, your savings, your health, your family, your spirituality… whatever the big things are for you – and then write out some very specific short-term goals to make real and significant progress in each one of those areas next 90 days. How will work on your career/business in the next 90 days? Can you add some new people to your network? Read a few business books to get you some more ideas and skills? Meet with your boss, a vendor, a business partner, a key customer and ask them how you can add more value to them? How can you spend more quality time with your kids, your significant other, your closest friends? What are some small steps you can take to improve your health, your savings, your feeling of connection to your spiritual base? The goal here is to take the time to plan out specific steps for improvement in 3 to 5 core areas of your life. Make them realistic goals, make them reasonable goals, make them achievable goals – and be sure to write them out – get them on paper.
3. The next step is pretty straightforward, for the next 90 days get up every single day and look at your list and ask yourself, “What must I do today to move myself one step closer to achieving these goals?” Keep focused on that question all day long. When stress or anxiety creeps in, go back to the list and ask the question again. “What can I do RIGHT NOW to move myself one step closer to achieving some of these 90 day goals?” You will find that every time you become overwhelmed, if you simply turn and focus on your list, you will feel like you are taking more control of your life – that YOU are making your life better – that you’re making steps forward with progress in creating a more stable, happy, joyful and successful life.
4. Lastly, two key ideas: If you have a failure on one of your goals today…you slip and make a mistake, you falter with a lack of discipline… do NOT beat yourself up… just wake up tomorrow and start again. That way the hole you dig yourself in will only be one day deep! Simply say to yourself, “I messed up today, I can start again tomorrow, I can fix this right away and get back on track immediately.” On the other side of the coin, if you achieve one of your goals and are making terrific progress toward your 90 day target, be sure to celebrate the small wins along the way. Give yourself a treat, something that gives you great pleasure that doesn’t cost much moneyand will not violate any of your goals. Perhaps you allow yourself to take a 15 minute walk in the park, or you buy yourself a small food treat, or a nice tall Mega-Grande-Mocha-Chica-Frappe-Schmoopie coffee at Starbucks. For me, when I achieve a goal that is important to me, I allow myself to buy a book. I love books, and reading them is good for me, so it’s a wonderful reward for achieving something I set out to do. The message here is: quickly move past any setbacks or failures, get back on track immediately, and be sure to pat yourself on the back and celebrate the small wins along the way.
I honestly believe that if you do these four things, it will at least alleviate a modicum of the stress and anxiety from your life. These are just good, solid life skills practices – things you can do day in and day out to take more control of your life and move it in a direction that will give you more happiness, joy and a feeling of greater success and achievement.
Often times when we are scared, anxious and afraid we retreat – we hold off – we wait to see what will happen – and it feels like things are getting worse and worse and that we are getting further and further behind.
The trick is to get out of that mode and replace it with being proactive, taking control of your life, and focusing on the good things that will move you forward in a very positive direction. I’m not saying be a Pollyanna, I am not saying ignore what is happening in Washington, or with the economy, or in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or in Africa… what I am saying is that most of us cannot control those things, so what is best for us to look at the areas in our life that we can positively impact… and take MASSIVE control of those in order to make our lives better – which will allow us to be in a much better position to help others, to help our community and to help the world.
I very much hope this post gave you some good ideas and is helpful to you. If you feel that the ideas that I have put forth here are of value, it would be great if you would pass a link along to anyone and everyone you think might enjoy reading it.
I truly wish you every happiness and success – take good care – John Spence
PS – there are only a few days left in the “Top Small Business Influencers” contest which I have been nominated for – and I would VERY much appreciate it if you might take a moment and vote for me. Just click on the button below — thanks so much – John