Successfully navigating uncharted territory
Updated: Feb 7
After the rapid escalation of the coronavirus globally over the last couple of months we are all pretty aware of the overwhelming sense of fear that has pervaded the atmosphere – everywhere. What we also need to do is to explore some of the other associated negative emotions we have been feeling and address them as best as possible; before they kill us – even if not physically, killing our minds, our relationships, our businesses, etc.
Underneath and beside a lot of the fear we have been experiencing are feelings of:
Being trapped – Having been stuck in a relatively confined space (even a mansion has borders) for weeks and knowing that it will last for at least another few weeks.
Helplessness – Unable to resolve so many of our old problems, we now have new ones compounding the situation. In addition, seeing so much suffering and need around us but having no idea where to even to begin to help
Uncertainty – Where is all this going? When will it end? How will it end? What does it mean for me, my family, my business, etc.
Frustration – Wanting to move forward with life but being unable to.
Confusion – Not sure whether to go left or right – now, and when this all ends - and scared to make the wrong turn.
A bundle of emotions with very little outlet; summarised in the all too familiar word, “stress!” I find that at times like this it is helpful to dimension things to (1) make them more manageable, and (2) begin to address the issues.
1. Root cause review
Spend time exploring exactly how you feel. Put words to it. They say the first step to resolving a problem is to acknowledge it. Having identified the emotions, spend time reflecting on exactly why you feel the way you do. Let’s take fear for example – try and get a handle on exactly what it is you are scared of. Assess how real the underlying worry is. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
What is the likelihood of my fear materialising?
Should my fear come to pass, what’s the worst that can happen?
How will I address this worst case outcome, should it happen?
Is the worst case scenario really as bad as I thought?
I find such exercises really useful in taking the sting out of fear, and so many other negative emotions. Without having a pity party, “go there” with the emotions, identify the root of the emotion and take steps to dig out the root. For example, so many of our negative emotions are based on lies we have come to believe; usually sub-consciously. Try and identify these lies (e.g. “there is nothing I can do about my situation”) and seek out the truth.
2. Dimension your concerns
I wish I could say that having taken time to explore your feelings would result in all of your problems disappearing but I would be lying. There are still concerns that need to be addressed.
So the next step is to determine which of your concerns are under your control and which aren’t. There is absolutely no point worrying about what you cannot control. There is also no point in worrying about what you can control; it is in your hands. In both cases, just work to make the outcome as positive as possible.
Now let’s work on the factors that we can’t control by dimensioning them further into the following:
What are things that you are pretty certain about? Again, there is no point worrying about them because you know that in all likelihood they are going to happen. For example will there be a recession in 2020? Sadly, I think we all kind of know the answer to that question. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came out with a forecast today saying it expects global growth to contract by 3% in 2020 but thankfully predicts a growth of 5.8% next year. Don’t worry! Plan! Purpose in your heart to have a positive mind-set regardless of the situation you expect to find yourself in. Go ahead and start making some plans, no matter how loose, based on the “known-knowns”. Not least, it will help to “keep hope alive”.
These are the concerns/risks we already know exist but we cannot at this point predict the outcome. For example, how long will it take for the local and global economies to reopen for business? Will the coronavirus come again? Who knows?! For these concerns it is best to go into scenario planning. Make some informed assumptions, think through what those scenarios mean for you, and plan accordingly.
Last but not least are the things which will occur that, at this particular time, have not even crossed our minds. There is absolutely nothing you can do about these. You will literally drive yourself mad spending time worrying about the things that you don’t know you should be worrying about. A most salient example of this for most of the world as we entered the year 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic. Who would have guessed that by the end of the first quarter of the year most of the world would be forced to sit at home?
3. Plan accordingly
Having explored your emotions and dimensioned the underlying the issues, it is time to plan accordingly. The reality is that as negative as some of the outcomes may appear, the world is not coming to an end; at least not yet (we shall talk about planning for that eventuality some other time J). In short, the ‘ustle remains! The only way to be successful at your “hustle” – whatever it is – is to approach it with a winning mind-set. To determine that “lai lai, you are going to come out of this successfully!” I promise you, there is no other way! Negativity is self-fulfilling; it sucks whatever creative and productive juice you have going and Lord knows we need those in full flow at this time. Here is how I suggest you think through your plan; especially for businesses.
What we are absolutely sure of is that things will never be the same again after this pandemic – a shift has occurred. You are mostly, if not completely, responsible for whether that shift works for good or for ill in your life. Ask yourself what the envisaged shift in how the world will operate – both locally and globally – means for you, your family, your business, etc. What do you need to do differently?
Every challenge has a solution-in-waiting; it’s just a matter of time. Inventions and innovations were developed in response to problems identified. What current and future challenges do I envisage for my company (whether I am an employee or employer), my industry, my community and even my country that I can start trying to solve?
Take a solutions-based approach to every expected challenge; some solutions may only be pertinent to you, some you may be able to sell on to others.
Challenge every assumption! Are things as fixed as I have come to believe? How real are certain constraints? What can I do differently?
Don’t try to do everything yourself; I honestly don’t believe that that is how we were created to function. This pandemic has, more than ever, highlighted the need for inter-dependence rather than the independent or dependent approaches we’ve seen in so many spheres of society. In one fell swoop it has highlighted the need for countries to take serious steps to address their issues, but also the need to be our brother’s keeper (as our brother can well come and “mess up our backyard”).
Plan for growth in the mid to long term. You don’t need to make all the investments today but prepare for growth. They say success is where preparation meets opportunity. What is certain is that there will be many opportunities that will arise post COVID-19. The question is whether you will be positioned to make the most of them!
However, after all “dis long gramma” just survive! Look at your cost base. What can you change? I repeat, challenge ALL assumptions. Ask yourself “stupid questions”. It is better to make required adjustments now (I know some of them will be painful) than to wait until it is too late. As you do so however, please try not to take decisions that have long-term implications based on short-term pain. You are highly likely to regret them. Match the nature and dosage of the medication with the nature and gravity of the illness.
I wish you all the very best!