Article by Anne Grady
Do you often feel like you have spent your whole day chipping away at your to-do list without accomplishing any of the things that are most important to you? You are not alone.
As a CEO, mom, wife, volunteer, friend, daughter, and overachiever, I know how that feels. It’s like you’re on a hamster wheel, never making any progress. You go through the week looking forward to Friday, and then you spend the weekend catching up on all the stuff you didn’t get done during the week. Monday comes, and the vicious cycle starts again.
While you can’t control the chaos, you can control how you respond to it. Although there is no simple solution to the frenetic pace of life today, there are things you can do to continually bring yourself back to what matters most in your life. I call these tools, collectively, “Mind Over Moment,” and they are all about making sure you are living life on purpose rather than slipping into autopilot.
Mind Over Moment means paying attention in each moment to decisions you would otherwise make unwittingly. It’s about stopping to ask, “Is the way I am thinking and behaving going to get me the result I want?”
How can you keep your grip, even when the demands of life feel like fast-rising floodwaters, trying to pull you off balance and sweep you downstream? There are some proven tools for building resilience, happiness, and success — but they work only when practiced. Let’s take a look at how:
How are you interpreting the situations that happen to you? Our beliefs about ourselves, and the stories we tell ourselves as a result of those beliefs, have a profound effect on our happiness and relationships.
Many of us have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.” That is, we believe we are unable to grow or change, and we are endlessly trying to prove ourselves as a result. Dweck contrasts that with a “growth mindset,” the belief that we can change and grow to meet the challenges we face.
Cultivating a growth mindset frees you from believing that your happiness is based on your performance and allows you to measure your progress according to your ability to grow. When you adopt a growth mindset, you can understand failure as a sign that you need to get better at a particular task rather than a crushing defeat.
What stories have you been telling yourself about yourself? If they are not moving you toward your goals, it’s time to tell some new stories based on your ability to grow.
Scientific research has verified that when we look at life through a lens of positivity, we are more likely to enjoy better mental and physical health. Optimism is also a key component of business success: Entrepreneurs who are able to maintain a positive outlook are better positioned to attain goals such as profitability, business growth, and innovation, according to an analysis of 17 studies.
Optimism isn’t about wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s about choosing how you interpret the events in your life. Crappy things happen to good people every day. How you choose to learn from those experiences is a large factor in determining your resilience.
Closely connected with optimism, gratitude for the good in our lives keeps us focused on the positive. The simple act of looking for things to be grateful for attunes our brains to the good. Gratitude is closely linked to our sense of well-being and makes us more resilient in the face of adversity. Expressing gratitude reduces toxic emotions, diminishes depression, increases happiness, and enriches relationships. We find what we look for, so make sure you are looking for the right things.
Like optimism and gratitude, the happiness boost you get from connection with others is crucial to your health and well-being and a key element in building resilience. Friendship and belonging are considered core psychological needs, and they have big impacts on our physical health.
One study found that loneliness can be more harmful to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. On the flip side, people who are more connected to friends and family are “happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected,” says Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. They also enjoy better brain health as they age.
Finding ways to laugh at challenges, stressful situations, and even personal tragedy is one way resilient people cope and grow through misfortune. Humor broadens our focus of attention and helps us face our fears while “foster[ing] exploration, creativity, and flexibility in thinking,” according to Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney, psychiatry professors and coauthors of Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. Being able to laugh at challenges “provides distance and perspective, but does so without denying pain or fear,” they write. “It manages to present the positive and negative wrapped into one package.”
6. Acts of Service
Growing evidence suggests helping others benefits the giver as much as those on the receiving end. For example, a recent study looked at how New Zealanders helped survivors of the Christchurch terror attacks that killed 51 people. The researchers found actions like providing home-cooked meals, sending flowers, and other small acts of kindness actually strengthened the resilience of those who performed them. Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal calls this the “tend-and-befriend response”: “Caring for others triggers the biology of courage and creates hope.”
Most of us are a lot better at prioritizing our schedules than scheduling our priorities. If I tracked your time for a week, would it be representative of what you say is most important to you? Do your actions match your intentions?
Write down what is most important to you, then track how much of your time each day you are actually devoting to these priorities. If the answer is little or none, that’s a clear indication you need to make some changes.
The only way to get off the hamster wheel is to gain control of your life rather than having it control you. Mind Over Moment is about being deliberate about where we invest the limited time and energy we have so we can make the most of each day.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Anne Grady is an internationally recognized speaker and author. She shares humor, humility, refreshing honesty, and practical strategies anyone can use to triumph over adversity and master change. With a master’s degree in organizational communication, Anne started her own company as a speaker and consultant to top organizations despite challenges she outlines in her new TEDx talk. Her new book is Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience, and Triumph. She is also the author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love, and Work. For more information, visit GetStrongEnough.com.
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