What to do when you don't know what to do
What do we do when we don’t know what to do and often don’t feel like doing anything? We go to what we know works. We go to the experts who are sharing their wisdom. And we look to our own inner wisdom.
Is everyone ok if I declare a wallow week?
Here are just some of the things that I am feeling:
Full of self-doubt
Jealous of others who seem fine
Hmmmmm - have I left anything out? All of these feelings are interspersed with bursts of energy and a go-get-em attitude. Let’s just say my closets have never been so empty.
Well, the closets in my house at least. My mental closets? That‘s another story. 🤣
But, I have to say I am unnerved. Not loving it would be an understatement. As many of you know, I have struggled with bouts of depression since I was 13. And I desperately hope I am not heading into another one. But as we all know, hope is not a strategy.
Many of the leaders I coach are worried about their teams (and themselves), and rightfully so. One of the most quietly calm, steady-as-he-goes senior executives that I know shared with me that he no longer jumps out of bed on Mondays ready to go. It takes him till noon to get going. There is a lot of evidence, subjective (as I have shared with you here about my own journey) and empirical, to support the concerns that many of us feel, such as this one reported by the Office for National Statistics (UK data) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US data).
So, what do we do when we don’t know what to do and often don’t feel like doing anything? We go to what we know works. We go to the experts who are sharing their wisdom. And we look to our own inner wisdom.
We look to experts, such as Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who developed the 10-week online course, The Science of Well-Being. Some reviewers of the course have called it basic. But that is the funny thing about happiness, it is basic. It is NOT the promotion, or the client win, or the big salary or the big house or the nice car, even though social media would lead you to believe otherwise. Happiness and inner peace are basic.
Here are some of the small things Santos suggests in her course:
Spend just eight minutes per week replaying happy memories, remembering exactly how you felt in those moments. This simple act has been shown to have positive emotional effects even weeks later.
Pretend this was your last day — not your last day of life, but perhaps your last day of work at your current organization, your last day with your kids before they move out, your last day in the neighbourhood you have spent the last 10 years, your last day with your partner. You'd probably get pretty nostalgic, right? Even if leaving was the right thing to do. Think about what you would want to say. What wrongs still need to be put right? What words need to be spoken?
Split up awesome things and combine them with things that are, well, less than awesome. Apparently, people rate their enjoyment of TV shows higher if they're split up by commercials (explain to the young people in your life what commercials are!) and it's not about the quality of the ads. It's that breaking up the good times helps us appreciate them more. And it makes scrubbing the toilet for 5 minutes less painful because you have something to look forward to.
Laurie Santos also says that even though she knows these things, it doesn’t mean she has created all the best habits for herself. It’s kinda like going to the gym; you don’t get the six-pack body by working out once a week. And you don’t get a calm mind by working 16 hour days in your basement and not working on your mental health. You need to practice!
“Happiness is like a leaky tire," says Nicholas Epley, The John Templeton Keller Professor of Behaviour Science and Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "You've just got to keep reinflating it."
In some ways, I am thrilled that the pursuit of happiness is basic. As a matter of fact, you may be shocked to find that four of the best ways to rewire your brain towards happiness are diet, meditation, sleep and exercise.
On that note, let’s look to our own inner wisdom and take some smalllllllllll steps and learn to practice happiness.
I don’t like how I feel, and to change that I am going to do what I know works. I would love for you to join me in this 10-day challenge that I am setting for myself. I will start tomorrow but YOU can start tomorrow or the next day or the next day...You get it.
I made a quick list of things that I know work but I have not been practicing:
1) Do for others - that which you seek, give away!
2) Meditation - stop rolling your eyes - try 2 minutes
3) Visioning - on your best day, week, year how do you want to feel?
4) WWMD - pick someone you admire and ask yourself, what would they do?
5) Create endorphins - yes, get outside, walk, run, lunge, breath, repeat
6) Flood (with positive information ) - seek the good news, the funny videos, the uplifting and inspiring content
7) Ritualize - do something every day for the next 10 days
I will be doing 1, 2, 5, and 7 every day for the next 10 days. I will keep you posted on my progress...
As for me and my mood, I don’t want to have another wallow week, I am going to choose happiness. Hope you join me.