As a child, my father sometimes took me fishing in his little rusty tin boat. Sometimes, in the middle of the lake, he would put duct tape over a leak to keep the water in check until we were back on land. He used to say that boats don't sink out of the water around them. They sink from the water that enters them.
I have relied on this saying many times, especially during the stormy times of life when I felt like I was under pressure from the fear and negativity that swirls around me. Like in March.
I lost no irony that the week my new book was published was the same week my husband was hospitalized for COVID-19 and I was put in a two week quarantine and my book tour and much of mine Sources of income for 2020 were canceled. Give my own advice on road testing!
So I kept paying attention to Papa's words ... "Margie, don't give what's going on around you, the power to determine what's going on inside you."
Of course, that's easier said than done. But it's not impossible. It all boils down to habits. Those well-practiced patterns of thought and behavior that help us take full responsibility for our inner state - "the shape of our boat" - so that we can show ourselves as the person we aspire to most when dark clouds overhead rising up. And when we fall (like we all do), we can quickly recover.
To that end, here are eight habits that set the people who thrive through crisis apart from others and enable them to better weather and get out of the storms of life.
1. Start with who.
I know Simon Sinek said to start with the why, but sometimes our why can be illusory. In this case, start with whom. Take five minutes to write down the characteristics of the person you want to be right now and the story you want to tell about how you showed up during this turbulent time - in your work, your family, and your wider community. When so much is uncertain, look within yourself for certainty that you cannot find anywhere else.
A lot is out of your control right now. I understand. But if you choose to take control of how you show yourself to the world, you can handle everything else better.
I am determined to embody meaning, gratitude, grace, and generosity in this turbulent time. What about you?
2. Practice daily rituals with radical self-discipline.
Resilience is not what you have, it is what you do. In troubled times, it is important to double down on the practices and rituals that will help you bring your "best self" to life - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Set your alarm, move your body, eat well, prioritize your schedule, take time to read, stay connected. The little exercises you do every day can make a profound difference as you navigate through uncertain times.
3. Watch over your energy.
Emotions are contagious. It's easy to let other people's fears become your own. So be diligent in setting firm boundaries to keep the negativity of others out of your emotional field. You may need to avoid certain people or limit your online time. On the flip side, you should purposely keep in touch with the people who “fill your cup” instead of draining them.
4. Embrace discomfort. (You cannot grow without it.)
Research shows that difficult emotions are important for us to grow and thrive. So, if you have been challenged by all that 2020 has thrown at you, embrace those uncomfortable emotions as part of what it takes to achieve the full quota of the person you have within you. Adversity introduce us. Update your current problems as an indispensable opportunity to nurture strengths and discover areas of courage, compassion, creativity, and strength within yourself that may otherwise have rested.
5. Connect with your spiritual self.
Albert Einstein once remarked that the only common thread shared by the most influential people is that "they were brought into alignment first with their spiritual selves and only then with their physical selves".
When you are anchored in the spiritual dimension of your being, you can face your challenges from a place of faith instead of fear. This may not get rid of your problems, but it will change your relationship with them. Not only does this help curb the tendency to catastrophize worst-case scenarios (which only makes you anxious and suppresses your ability to think clearly), but it also expands your scope to approach your challenges with more calm, creativity, and courage - the very attributes that make the most successful people stand out from the crowd.
How would you speak, behave, interact, live and lead today if you operated over fear by faith? Then notice how this changes your point of view, your movements, your actions, and your interactions. If it improves your day just a little, do the same tomorrow.
6. Look for ways to turn every loss into a profit.
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that "one must never leave a good crisis for nothing". I became a fan of Zoom this year and am able to connect much better with virtual audiences. I suspect you had to learn some new ropes too. The reality is that even the most difficult times present opportunities for us if we seek them. The problem is, most people are so busy with the closing doors that they don't see the doors waiting to be opened. So look for the profits.
7. Make plans, but use a pencil.
We are at our best when we work hard on meaningful goals and aspirations. So don't let the disruption of this crisis stop you from achieving any sense of purpose. Just don't get too involved in how things are supposed to play out. This pandemic taught us that plans can dissolve instantly, but it also taught us to make the most of each day, regardless of which curve balls are our way. So set goals and make plans. Just use a pencil. As Papa always said: "Blessed are the flexible ones, because they shouldn't get out of shape."
8. Be kind to yourself, especially when you fail.
We all waver. We all fall. Even the most developed of us can fall prey to the fear and lesser inclinations of human nature. So, if you fall behind the person you aspire to most, get in the habit of treating yourself like the loved one you know would treat you. If you beat yourself up, you will not get higher, but the other way around. Studies have shown that by forgiving your fallibility and practicing self-compassion, you can jump back and rise faster.
When you make a commitment to prioritizing that will empower you, you will find that you are bigger than any problem you will ever face. Not only that, these storms that you thought would ruin your way forward are really just revealing them.