Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about all that’s happened this year, both personally and globally, and what it has meant for my ability to be productive in the ways I want to be. 2020 has shaken us as individuals and as a society. A lot of us have had to rethink our priorities, even our identity. All the upheaval and difficulty has brought to the forefront of my mind some fundamental personal qualities I think are incredibly important if we want to be productive and make a life that matters.
Important characteristics for meaningful productivity
1. Kindness – the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
There has been so much conflict this year–disagreements at all levels of society; locally, nationally, and globally. Disagreements over the pandemic and how to handle it, social justice issues, election disagreements, and natural disaster crises and how to best take care of people. I’ve noticed lots of finger-pointing, blaming, and condemnation. It seems we’ve lost the ability to disagree without condemning the ones we disagree with as stupid or evil or both.
Maybe it’s normal in times of crisis to look for someone to blame or to defend our position by dismissing those who disagree. But we can get lost in the anger and blaming and condemnation and suffer because of it, both individually and as a society. If we are fighting with each other, we lose the chance to work together to find solutions. I think we need kindness now more than ever.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ~ Lao Tzu
“I’ve been searching for ways to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.” ~ Lady Gaga
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” ~ Henry James
2. Self-care – kindness to yourself. Being friendly, generous, and considerate of yourself.
“When you’re stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise, and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to a crisis situation. Instead, focus on building your self-nurturance skills, even when you’re troubled.”
When you’re under stress, it’s even more important to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Get adequate rest, eat healthy food (and a treat now and then!), and get regular exercise, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk each day. Guard your heart–being mindful of what you read/watch/listen to matters. Finally, find what brings joy and make space in your life for that.
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” ~ Jean Shinoda BolenM.D. (a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, and author)
3. Mind management.
Personally, when something unexpected or unpleasant occurs, my mind goes down the most negative path and I have to work really hard to manage my catastrophic thinking, and continuously remind myself to do so. As I have in the past, I’d like to recommend Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School podcast. There is so much good and practical information on this podcast, specifically about managing your mindset.
- Honesty–awareness of what’s true about myself, my circumstances, other people. Being honest and aware of where your mind is going and figuring out how to deal with catastrophic thinking is a skill. One tool that is really helpful in these circumstances is practically what Byron Katie calls “The Work”. These are questions you ask yourself: Is it true? Can I know for sure it’s true? How do I feel when I believe it? Who would I be without that thought? I need to intentionally turn my mind to what I have instead of what I’ve lost.
This is a willingness to see past the difficult present to envision possibilities for the future.
I am not suggesting we pretend bad things aren’t happening, that obstacles don’t exist, or that setbacks don’t occur. But we can look past those things to envision something better around the corner. If we believe we can endure those bad things, overcome those obstacles, and progress despite setbacks, then we’ll be more likely to brainstorm and pursue new approaches.
“Research shows that optimism can prevent depression, increase social connection, boost performance on the job, increase success, and make you more resilient in the face of setbacks.” [from Working Smarter: How Optimism Boosts Productivity and Work-Life Balance]
By this I mean the ability to regroup and find a new plan or approach when obstacles/things beyond our control derail our plans.
It’s so important to have a vision for our future and to set goals and work toward them. But the pandemic and other things that have happened this year have taught me how important it is to hold our plans loosely so we’re not devastated when things get in the way and we can adjust our plan and approach when we need to.
6. Resilience .
This is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties–or “toughness”.
“Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”
This same article identifies 4 components of resilience and encourages us to:
- Build your connections (prioritize relationships) . . .
- Foster wellness (body and mind) . . .
- Find purpose (help others, be proactive, and move toward your goals). . .
- Embrace healthy thoughts (keep things in perspective, accept change, maintain a hopeful outlook, learn from your past) .
This year has been the most unusual one in my lifetime, and many of us have felt like our plans were derailed. But there are lessons to be learned from the crises and the struggles, and if we take time to think about it that way and to identify the lessons we’ve learned, we can take something good from a difficult year and move into the new year as stronger, more resilient, and more productive women.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
Resources and Links
- Building your resilience
- 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resilience
- How to Be More Resilient When Things Get Tough | Inc.com
- Resilience 101: How to Be a More Resilient Person | Psychology Today
- How Optimism Boosts Productivity and Work-Life Balance
- Feeling Good Works: Why Optimism Injects New Life into Productivity | Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®. Maximum Results in Minimum Time.
- The Work of Byron Katie
- The Life Coach School podcast
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Royse City, Texas