Put your ‘to be’ list ahead of your ‘to do’ list.
I felt awash with a swirling mix of anxiety and overwhelm in late March 2020.
I was living in Singapore.
My husband had just been hospitalized with Covid-19.
I was put into a strict quarantine with one of my children, Singapore’s health department video-calling three times each day to verify that a) we didn’t have a fever, and b) we hadn’t stepped foot outside our apartment (we faced deportation and a $10,000 fine if we did.)
My other three children were 10,000 miles away in the US, unable to join us as Singapore closed its borders to foreigners. My oldest was bunking down in Manhattan. My other two (both teens) were trying to find safe harbor as their dorms closed. (Kind families eventually took them in for many months.)
No irony was lost on me that my book You’ve Got This! had been due for release that very same week.
Suddenly I had to triple down on my own advice which, I’m pleased to say, held up under pressure! A couple of days into quarantine, CNN invited me on to share my experience. It was a welcome distraction and, quite frankly, not half-bad book publicity too!https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=8099658020356921587&li_theme=light
As I shared with CNN’s Brianna Keilar (edited clip above, full interview here), when all we do is dwell on what makes us anxious, the more anxious we become, narrowing our cognitive capacity to respond productively. In short, the more stressed we feel, the less smart we think.
Of course, life has returned to some semblance of normal since those tumultuous days when the world was tipped off its axis (or so it felt!). As I write now, I’m at Heathrow Airport about to fly to Tokyo, my first business trip back to Asia since the waters parted to move back to America in late 2020.
Yet while travelers have long since returned to the skies, many people I encounter share that they are feeling anxious. The causes vary.
Inflation. Lay-offs. Economic instability. Gun violence. Mental health. Burn-out.
The truth is, if you’re looking for things to feel anxious about, you’ll always find them. It’s why learning to thrive in today’s world – where 24/7 news feeds magnify our perceptions of threat and sense of danger – isn’t about learning how to control all variables (as if we could anyway!). Rather, it’s about learning to embrace change and challenges with the mindset needed to respond productively. This requires being very intentional about how we choose to ‘show up’ for life, particularly in those situations that might otherwise pull us down.
When we are clear about who we want to be, it provides an internal anchor – a form of ‘self-certainty’ – that fosters resilience, empowering us to show up with courage and calm rather than fear and despair. As Stanford University’s James March outlined in his Identity Model of Decision Making, how we view ourselves determines how we handle life.
Too often we give our power away to our fear of what we don’t want to happen.
It’s why actively choosing WHO we will BE … optimistic, brave, focused, tenacious, loving, generous, disciplined, calm, kind, principled, humble, resourceful, purposeful… is a powerful act that guides our decisions and shapes our future. To quote Craig Groeschel, ‘Who before do.’
Albert Camus wrote that ‘In the midst of winter, I finally discovered that within me lay an invincible summer.’ As I connected to the source of my ‘invincible summer’ in those stormy days (it was 30 days before my husband was able to return home) it reinforced the same conviction that inspired me to write You’ve Got This! in the first place – that we humans are capable than we think. That is, within each of us lays a deep well of courage, resilience and resourcefulness. It’s just that too often it lays dormant and sometimes we need to be thrust outside our comfort zone to discover it.
Courage is not the absence of moments of overwhelm or anxiety, it’s the decision to act in their presence. It’s daring to defy the very doubts that would keep you living in the long shadow of fear.
Any trait you ever admire in others also lives in you. So let me ask you this:
What would you do right now if you decided to show up with the courage, optimism or (insert-value-here) of the person you know you can be?
Sometimes we have to behave ourselves into believing.
The future is filled with uncertainties. Always has been. But one thing is certain: every time you trust in yourself, and not your fears, you cast a vote for the person (and leader) you have it within you to become. Not only that, but you spare yourself the anxiety born from catastrophizing ‘what ifs?’ (few of which ever happen) and liberate your energy and talents to forge a more meaningful and impactful life.
In that CNN interview, I shared my optimism that the storm of Covid-19 would eventually pass (admittedly, it took far longer than I thought.) It’s my hope that as you look toward your future, you’ll draw on what your learned from that stormy time to trust yourself more, and show up more courageously for whatever challenges lay ahead. As I’ve written before:
The world doesn’t need your perfection, it needs your courage.
And of course, if you’d like a little encouragement in bringing your bravest self to the challenges and opportunities in your life, I’d love you to grab a copy of You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself (also narrated by your truly on Audible.)