Sunday 8 September 2013

Free your mind and the rest will follow :: Four motivational quotes to keep in mind when handling adversity and negativity at work.

‘Free your mind and the rest will follow’ was the title of a huge hit from En Vogue in the early 1990s. These words came to mind as I started to think about this blog. The reality is that handling adversity and negativity is more a function of your mind than your ability to manage the people or individuals who may have given rise to the adverse situation! At the core of my advice is you 'the individual' who has to figure out how to handle adversity and negativity at work.

I am not trained in psychology but as a practitioner do believe that most issues and challenges start in the mind but can also be killed in your mind! The choice to succumb or over-come is ultimately in your hands (or ‘head’!) and towards this I offer four motivational quotes that have driven my approach at work.

Quote # 1 :: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back” -  Regina Brett.

Many years ago I worked with a young man who was wheel-chair bound due to a swimming accident at a beach. He dived in from a height but landed on a sand-bar that was just below the surface and not clearly visible due to the tide. He was paralysed from waist down and left wheel-chair bound for the rest of his life. On surface one would see a disabled person in a wheel-chair but as I watched him in action I was taken aback by his will to make the best of his circumstance. His attitude was such that rather than feeling sorry for him everyone felt invigorated with the ease with which he had handled his disability and embellished his existence! Every time I feel down or some event evokes a feeling of moroseness in me I think back to that person and realise that the choice to be happy or sad is ultimately in our hands. Is your issue as challenging as being stranded in a wheelchair for the rest of your life? If not, then please take a deep breath and calm down.

We live our lives under the assumption of control and when something out of the ordinary happens we try to rationalise or make sense i.e. bring things back into control (failing which leave it to god or chance!).

Most events that occur in the corporate world cannot compete with a disability or even the death of a loved one! How can getting a performance evaluation that is not to your liking or being passed over for a promotion compete with the other challenges that life is capable of throwing at you?

Quote # 2 :: “What other people think of you is none of your business. If you start to make it your business, you’ll be offended for the rest of your life” – Deepak Chopra

At a very deep personal level I am one who over-emphasises and extrapolates events that other mentally stronger individuals would brush-off or shrug-off. Despite my earlier thoughts that maintaining a healthy sense of paranoia is good I have a predisposition to consider events that unfurl around me to be about me only. 

It is critical to think and acknowledge what others think about you to improve but being overly self-conscious or creating too much negativity is bound to make one paranoid. A study actually found that the more paranoid you appear the more people will actually talk negative about your behaviour and how it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As I grew older I realised that so many of us spend too much time bothering or thinking about what others think of us. We end up cloaking ourselves in a shroud of self-doubt or questioning our abilities. I have been in the corporate world long enough to know that when I have felt insecure I have done or said things that I have regretted later. Paula Bloom’s advice is so apt that I reproduce verbatim – “When we feel insecure we are more likely to act in ways that don't align with our values. We may do too much, not set appropriate boundaries which inevitably build up huge resentments or even just not be very nice because we are irritated. We tend to create in others what we feel inside. If you are feeling small, you may try to make someone else feel small.” 

When someone attacks you or says something negative about to your face or behind your back just remember to be mentally strong and make an effort to not let it get under your skin and if it does then figure a way out to get it out! I have also come to a simple conclusion that in this day and age being spoken about is all that matters, either good reasons or bad reasons [Remember Miley Cyrus?]. Think about that and gain some solace.

Quote # 3 :: "Keep in mind that part of growing up is learning how to deal with difficult issues, and the benefits can be great if you have the courage to ask for help. Human beings are not designed to go through life alone. No one has to bear the burden of the tough times all by themselves" - Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger.

I am surprised by the number of colleagues at work who will find the time to stew inside or talk to like-minded people or peers to seek advice. Advice from peers is a good start but magic occurs when you have identified a mentor who has better and more corporate history or experience than you or your peers. These are individuals that you respect and who are in a position or vantage point to give professional advice and guidance. Many of us find it difficult to seek and corner such individuals but that is more a function of your own mind-set. I have realised that when I was confused or demotivated these individuals were the ones to clarify my thought process. In many cases, I was shown the error of my own ways and how blinkered my thought process was! It is difficult to take advice that is contrarian or does not go with your own perception or emotional state of mind. I have received warm understanding as well as harsh constructive criticism! It takes tremendous courage to accept harsh constructive criticism and even stronger conviction to ignore it [There may be reasons to ignore such advice but in general that is for really complex situations!].

Quote # 4 :: "Time is an ethereal and sometimes cruel goddess. In her relentless passing, she steals away our youth and vitality, often in ways that seem insignificant until we finally realize how much she has taken. Still, she is also a generous deity, who offers to replace what she has seized with a deeper wisdom and a clearer vision of life's enigmas. In this sense, time can be our most powerful ally--if we are patient enough” - Michael Kelleher.

I have also noticed another unique pattern when people are faced with an adverse situation. They always look upon it as a loss and always talk about the opportunity cost involved. A colleague was not promoted at work and then felt that he had wasted two years of their life and that if he had worked for someone else then he would have been promoted by now! I have also done such commiserations as well and honestly believe that I have most likely wasted four years of my life in doing roles or jobs that I felt I had outgrown. The reality is that these are all opportunity costs that are driven by our emotions. In hindsight, I don’t believe that I wasted any time. I look upon it as having paid my 'school fees' to grow in my field of expertise. Yes, others may have grown faster than me but then I have grown faster than others as well! In the end patience is critical and time will turn out to be a powerful ally!

Any further tips or input or guidance on this subject? Any motivational quotes you would want to share with me in return.


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1 comment:

  1. A real value addition..I am indeed so very happy to pick up some pearls of wisdom...