It helps to accept the situation. This goes deeper than understanding that there is a ‘new normal’. Instead, agility is liberated when there is a letting-go, freeing mental space and energy to be directed constructively. Like the concept of Wu wei in Daoist Chinese philosophy, meaning effortless action, passivity which incorporates a coiled, poised position of readiness. Like bamboo, which thrives by abandoning resistance – and so grows immensely tall and remarkably strong in almost any environment.
Another way of looking at this is to ‘Confront the brutal facts’, a tenet popularised by leading business writer Jim Collins in his Stockdale Principle. Named after US Admiral James Stockdale who led fellow captives to survive a Vietnamese POW camp, the principle is to confront reality yet simultaneously never lose belief in the ability to ultimately prevail.
Embrace duality. Hope and plan for more predictability and stability. But try, also, to focus in the strange, stressful here-and-now. Binary thinking creates more anxiety in situations where there are no black-and-white answers. A habit of successful companies, matched to our current times, is to pursue more than one approach to strategic thinking and problem-solving. This can apply to us individually, too, if we practise the habit of embracing ambiguity.
A curious mindset may help. Fatigue is often alleviated when we focus on learning something new. When we develop the habit of appreciating knowledge we build our self-efficacy and resilience. This ties in with another principle of success of visionary companies: they incubate and experiment simultaneously with many ideas in their quest for breakthrough or blockbuster ones.
Try to redirect motivations and demands. Goals remain crucial. But resolve to consciously shift from an internal expectation that every moment of the day requires achievement. Small wins become more important.
Practice ‘Centeredness.’ This is the ability, acquired through learned practice, to apply a set of physical and mental skills that help create a state of greater mindfulness. Bain argue persuasively that by developing the ability to ‘settle’ into our physical bodies and thereby mitigate the automatic ‘fight, flight, fright’ response, ‘sense’ our felt emotions and thereby begin better managing a response, and ‘shift’ into a position of neutral observation and thereby better control our responses, we are better placed to choose improved responses and decisions. They go further too, suggesting that ‘Centeredness’ is a requirement today to inspire others. They reference studies that show a direct correlation between centeredness and organisations that have improved performance, lower emotional exhaustion and higher satisfaction with work-life balance amongst their employees.
Help others. As a form of positive action it re-instils control. In demonstrating empathy it re-roots a sense of togetherness.
Don’t overthink. A fascinating series of new studies by a Harvard University team, including renowned social psychologist Daniel Gilbert, concludes that “as the prevalence of a problem is reduced, humans are naturally inclined to redefine the problem itself.”
Decrease the size of the task: Tim Harkness, Head of Sports Science and Psychology at Chelsea Football Club, argues that it’s crucial to separate motivation from pressure. One way to increase motivation is to increase the size of the reward. The other way is to decrease the size of the task, including the perception of the task.
Play to your strengths: It may be useful to be conscious of our special capabilities. Capitalise on those, to better delegate to others where they have complementary skills. Moreover, the sense that we can play Rambo in a crisis is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.