Everything went wrong today* – one thing after another after another after another. It got to the point where I fantasized of having a camera crew with me to document the craziness. I caught myself dreaming of receiving some award or medal for this convergence of trivial struggles.
And yeah, that’s a fantasy. My situation was still very real. And such fantasizing is destructive. It’s not good like using your imagination, but rather it’s an attempt to escape from the very place that I need to be right now.
So what happened today that was so bad?
- I actually lost cash money (who still does that?).
- One of our kiddos forgot to take her backpack to school, so I had to brave morning traffic a second time to get it for her.
- Went to war with a government office who is holding up a financial return for us. It’s all because of one measly document that has to be submitted on a PC-only system (Internet Explorer anyone?).
Things could be worse, but…
Sure, things could have been worse, way worse. But what’s important to note is that it felt like the end of the world. If we don’t acknowledge our emotions and handle them properly, we can shut down.
And of course it’s spiritual. But not in the wishy-washy, up to your own interpretation kind of spiritual. It’s an actual battle of principles – a war of values.
Yet, an amazing thing happened during this day of crisis. At the lowest point, when I was about to totally break down from stress, I got clarity. I was able to assess what was standing in the way of me getting things done. I’m familiar with these moments. I keep a pen and notebook handy to jot down quick mind-maps of everything that’s weighing heavy on my conscious mind. Somehow I managed to have a clear thought about three key things that were standing in the way of getting my work done:
- Cancel lunch with this guy,
- follow-up with client #1,
- follow-up with client #2.
That’s it – it’s as simple and as complicated as that. Whew.
You see, although I looked like it, the last thing I needed was to lie down or take a break – that would have made me even more stressed. No, I wanted to get my work done, to move the ball forward.
Management v. Production – an Epic Battle
This tale is not about a crisis that I created (from doing something stupid), it’s about a crisis I’m responding to – which can be very familiar to all of us. When we’re responding, we’re engaging in management. Management is responding to decisions made based on values.
There’s a time and place for that, the trick is to handle it, and not let it take over – because then you start feeling like a victim. And when does management start taking over? When it encroaches on production. Production is acting on decisions made based on values.
When you’re a leader (and we all are), we want to move from management to production. We want to go from responding to stuff to actually acting on stuff. We want to move the ball forward.
Never, ever give up.
The reason I bring this up is because in the past, I would have just given up on a day like this. Past coping mechanisms in my life had me giving in to self-pity (that led to destructive behavior). Or I would experience an anxiety attack so strong that I would collapse. (Once someone actually called an ambulance on me. That’s not how I want to do life.)
Are you experiencing a day of crisis, a cherry on top of a month of crisis? Are the hordes of Mordor marching all over your to-do list? Does your calendar look like a test site for the hydrogen bomb?
Here’s what to do:
- Get in touch immediately with your higher power, and when I say “your” higher power, I mean the Higher Power. I’m not talking about blocking out a chunk of time to go deep into meditation (hopefully you already did that earlier in the day). I’m talking about acknowledgement. Acknowledging who is really in charge here, and who really has the power to bring breakthrough. It’s as quick as just declaring it with words.
- Define the value of what you’re responding to right now – does it really need to be pursued now? Can it be put off to tomorrow? If it can’t be delayed, which is often the case, try moving every other non-essential thing out of the way. The key is to know your values. As mentioned, management is responding to decisions made based on values. Somewhere in your life you made a decision (hopefully a good one) that got you in the crisis you’re dealing with right now – your values are being tested.
- Move from management to production as soon as possible. Get to that thing in your life where you’re the one being intentional. Do not allow yourself to be a victim. You may find that you’ve already spent all your energy and that you have nothing left to give. Keep in mind that the smallest of productive tasks can make a world of a difference for you. For example, if you’re writing, just save a new file with a working title, even if the rest is blank. If you’re designing, try adjusting one line of text, or changing the color of one font, etc. Look for the “low hanging fruit,” so to speak. And remember, getting a small task done doesn’t drain energy, it generates energy.
- Never, ever give up. It’s just not an option. Giving into self-pity and destructive behavior is despising yourself, your family, your community. You have no idea how many people are effected by your bad decisions (and good ones). It would be better if you spent this day frozen in carbonite than if you started tearing down all that you hold dear.
And remember, if all you get done today is the smallest of production tasks like I mentioned in step 3, be content with that. At least you moved the ball forward.
Now it’s time to end the day, let’s see what tomorrow will be like…
* This post originally appeared on January 28th, 2015. It has been updated since.