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How do we help others stay positive?

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Yesterday morning was snowy and 28 degrees cold. Winter is much earlier this year, fueling fears of pandemic-isolation. What to do?

Yesterday was the coldest day of the year in my Minnesota hometown since March. At 28 degrees, (and 17 degrees today?!) that’s more than 30 days ahead of the natural patterns of Mother Nature. My eleven-year-old dog, Lola, just stood on the cement doorstep, turned her head, and gave me that look – “REALLY? I’m not ready for this yet.”

Ready or not, here it comes: Our jobs now in the Northern climate – on the verge of a dark Covid winter – is to help people deal with the negatives of pandemic isolation. It begins with helping people find acceptance. It’s not enough to cheerlead with positivity. First, we need to cultivate acceptance, so we can find a pathway to positivity.

Acceptance is neutral – and neutral is a good start

Sports psychologists talk about “neutral” as an intellectually-honest state where we can evaluate any situation with calm. In the heat of competition, it’s difficult to react with neutral – just like my dog on the doorstep.

One specific exercise to help with “neutral” thinking is a Can Control/Can’t Control tool. I recommend you use this tool to avoid sliding deep into negativity. Here’s how it works: simply draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. At the top of the left side write: “Can control” and on the right side write “Can’t control.” Then, before you start recording your thoughts, articulate the situation that has you worried, upset, or feeling down. Example: Here comes 5 months of cold, dark pandemic related home isolation – I’m already feeling the weight of it.

Think your way through it

The point is to focus our energy on things we “can control,” instead of wasting emotional energy on things that we “can’t control.” Just the simple process of reading our thinking on two sides of the page is therapeutic. Then using the “can control” information as fuel for a plan forward helps create positive momentum toward a better attitude.

There are many things that make the coming months seem daunting. Most leaders admit the working-from-home thing is stressful in its confinement and isolation. And from time to time, they have things they just need to vent.

So, to summarize…here’s the tip for the day: When you feel yourself slipping into negativity due to situations you don’t like, start first by finding “neutral” through acceptance. Then build a go-forward plan from your Can Control/Can’t Control list. It’s good to practice on yourself because many people around you are dreading the dark and cold pandemic-isolation winter too.

Send us a note here and we will send you the Good Leadership coaching tool which easily guides people through the Can Control/Can’t Control exercise. It’s the least we can do!


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