Uncertainty seems to be the soup du jour of 2020. We don’t know how the plans for school reopenings are going to play out, if there will be a second wave of Covid spikes, how the elections will go, what will happen with the economy, or how to deal with the rampant social injustice.
These highlights of our current situation can feel completely overwhelming. Our fictitious control of the future is slipping through our fingertips and some of us may find ourselves grasping and clawing for a handhold.
I don’t bring this up to give you anxiety. It would make sense with all of this uncertainty that we would take comfort in putting off until a “better day” anything that might take some energy to achieve.
But what if all of this uncertainty was completely irrelevant to personal success?
The loss of control of the future (which we never really had anyway) doesn’t need to equate loss of control of the present. What if we focused on the here and now, focused in instead of out?
What truly is in the locus of your control? What are the things that you have let go of in this time of stress? Your health, your hobbies, your financial goals, your fitness? What is something about which you find yourself saying, “I just can’t do this because I’m too stressed”? What if actually following through on your goals WAS THE ANSWER to the feeling of uncertainty?
But where do we even start on this quest to “regain” control?
Step one: List the things you want to do or be successful at (aka.goals)
Can’t come up with anything? List the things that would make you happy or even the things that you are unhappy with in your current life.
Some examples may include,
getting back to a hobby
losing some weight
eating healthy food
sticking to a budget
helping your kids with their goals
getting a promotion
starting a business
You get the idea.
Step 2: Pick one from the list.
There is no wrong answer here but this is an important step. There is a temptation to do all the things but then we get overwhelmed and say “it’s too hard.”
... and we do nothing.
This result then reinforces the belief that the uncertainty of the future is preventing success. While it’s definitely easier to believe this than take responsibility, this gives away all our power to even be successful.
Pick one thing. Go all in.
When that is up and rolling you can add another.
Step 3: Practice feeling the win.
This is the fun step, it’s super easy and feels great.
What does it feel like when you accomplish something hard or when something great happens? Take a quick minute and feel that feeling. If it’s helpful, remember a time that you felt this way. Feel the thrill in your chest or the glimmer of a reactive smile. Just imagine (or if we want to be woo woo, visualize) the physical sensation of success. If you need to let out a whoop or a big “YESSSS”, feel free.
It feels pretty good, right?
Remember this for Step 5.
Step 4: Start small for a quick win.
This is about taking control of today, of YOUR day and what you want it to be. What is one step that you can take in asserting your control in your life? What is one thing that you can CERTAINLY do? Make it easy.
Want to eat better? Plan to drink enough water.
Want to stick to your budget? Don’t click on amazon during the day.
Want to work on your business? Delete your distracting social media app on your phone.
Want to be someone who exercises regularly? Start with a 10 minute walk at lunch, or when you get home. Yes, even if you are exhausted, even before you change out of your scrubs.
Remember the thrill of the win and do whatever the first step is. If need be, repeat step 3.
Step 5: Allow yourself the win.
This is about working on what is actually in your control. Control what you can and GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT. This is why we want to start with one thing and not twenty, so you can start to see the success of follow through. Celebrate each step and then take the next one.
Hint: this is where you engage step 3. Did you drink the water or take the walk?
Can I get a huzzah?
A big YESSSS?
YOU DID WHAT YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO! That’s what successful people do. Congrats.
Step 6: Accomplishment of goals = Improved mental health = Boost in immunity
Remember, goals and personal growth are important sources of a sense of purpose and control in our lives. In short, goal accomplishment is good for our mental health and we all know the adverse effects of stress on the immune system. Stress increases proinflammatory cytokines. In chronic stress, systemic chronic inflammation can occur leading to dysregulation of the immune system. This dysregulation in turn can lead to an increased risk of chronic disease as well as decreased ability of the body to fight off viral attacks. Let’s face it, now more than ever, we don’t want to walk around with a weakened immune system.
I would have loved to title this Prevent Covid By Working Toward Personal Goals but that seemed a little over the top, even for me (not to mention disrespectful to the thousands of healthy people affected by the virus). Really all we can do is keep ourselves in the best possible physical and mental health to stack the odds in our favor, or at the very least decrease the risk of poor outcomes. That is within our control, regardless of our circumstances.
We need goals for our health and well being. You get to pick what they are but don’t leave this source of empowerment untapped in this time of uncertainty.
We never had any guarantee of the future, even when we didn’t worry about it. Don’t use it as an excuse now to jip yourself out of the joy of accomplishment and growth. Now is the perfect time to succeed.
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