In turbulent times, we do well to re-assess the basics: Namely where are we and where do we want to go, how do we plan to get there. This re-assessment may uncover nothing … or it may yield the silver-linings on the edges of dark clouds. What we uncover depends largely on attitude. I have often heard that attitude determines as much as 88% of success. A positive attitude is critical for leaders, salespeople … everyone who wants to keep learning and earning!
So, if attitude is so critical, then protecting and nurturing it becomes our basic job. Or as the former big league pitcher Bob Ojeda once said “We’ve been working on the basics because, basically, we’ve been having trouble with the basics.” In business the “basics” are the three R’s. Not “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic” but the three R’s of leadership: “Reframing, Renewing and Refocusing.
We reframe a picture on the wall so all of its features can be better appreciated by those who view it. Likewise, we reframe business situations to reveal new possibilities. Reframing helps because we seldom see the world as it is. Our experiences and knowledge distort our perceptions. Reframing evokes uncommon perceptions. (Think how differently you would perceive the room you’re sitting in if you stood on a desk.)
My mind-set was reframed one day while traveling. My seatmate was returning to New Orleans with his family for first time since Hurricane Katrina hit. Their visit would determine if the family would return to their home, or finalize their move to California. In the storm, he had lost everything. A neighbor saw the family’s big screen TV float by in a fish tank.
I asked him how it felt to lose everything. He looked at me incredulously and replied, “I have lost a bunch of stuff that is replaceable. I am so grateful that the most important and irreplaceable things in my life, my wife, daughters and son, are on this airplane. They are safe.” He taught me a great lesson about reframing: When times are tough, count your blessings.
I have since learned that it is impossible to be depressed when we feel grateful. This morning, the Dow plunged again, and my 401K dropped some more with it. But then, I remembered I still had food in the refrigerator, unlike my parents during the Great Depression. I remembered that the love I feel for my country deepens when I travel abroad. Each time I return home, I reflect how fortunate I am to live in this land of freedom and opportunity.
If you’re depressed these days, reframe by reflecting on your good fortunes. The benefits are worth it! A dreary attitude depresses our own wits and creativity. It is also contagious. You will depress those around you. Ask yourself, “Do I brighten up the room when I walk in… or when I walk out?”
After reframing, I invite you to “renew.” Our hectic world brings stress and tension. We can remedy this by taking time-alone, for ourselves, or with loved ones. Use it to simply be. No pretense. No pressure to perform. Just be.
Recently, my doctor told me I had malignant melanoma that needs to be removed. The scare was big for me and my family. Fortunately, the surgeon skillfully excised the cancer and assured me it was unlikely to re-surface. She said we need to keep an eye on it, but she anticipates no further surgery will be needed.
That was welcome news. After that scare, my wife and I spent a week at a health retreat where we could just be: No TV. No Internet. No cell phones. I heard nothing about politics, war, economy or anything else. (I know it’s important to be informed, but I now monitor what I attend to. By protecting my imagination, my mind becomes more creative. As adults, most of us use our imaginations to worry. I prefer to use it to solve problems and set directions for my life.) At the end of that week I felt no stress. I was renewed.
Would you like to feel renewed? You don’t have to go to a resort. You can renew through exercise, meditation, recreation (notice the word – re-creation), pursuit of a hobby so engrossing that you lose track of time. And don’t underestimate the value of simply being with beloved family and friends. (Cognitive therapy recognizes these activities can distract your mind from worries.)
Once you attain some equilibrium through renewal, you can now refocus. Refocus on your goals and dreams. Paint a clear mental picture of the outcomes you desire-where you want to go and what you want to happen. Amazingly, we do not need to know how it will come to pass; our minds will give us the answers when we focus on what we want.
Added benefit: when we focus on what we want, we forget what we want to avoid. That is mentally powerful. Top athletes focus on winning. When they focus on trying not to lose, they usually lose. Karl Wallenda, a famous tightrope walker, had walked the rope most of his life until he fell to his death at age 73. His widow remarked to a reporter after his death: “For years, Karl focused on walking the rope. But, for the last several months his focus changed. He focused on not falling.” In these tough times, have you focused on succeeding or not failing? Do you need to refocus?
You don’t need the basics of reading, ‘riting, arithmetic? You do need the basics of reframing, renewing and refocusing. They will get you through and help you harbor a hopeful and upbeat attitude.