by Kendrick Mercer, author of “Whole Self: A Concise History of the Birth & Evolution of Human Consciousness“
Let’s say you have a brilliant idea for a startup. You do the paperwork, set up shop somewhere, find some initial customers/clients who want what you’re offering, and everything goes smoothly — for the most part — until suddenly you reach your maximum capacity. One day, your sales exceed your ability to deliver the service or product as promised and you hit an operational speed bump. Being that you’re stretched to the limits of your time, energy, and knowhow, if you’re like most people you could begin to feel anxious. Under pressure.
Or perhaps you got close to an associate, then discovered it was a mistake to trust this person. Behind your back, this supposed ally has been badmouthing you to your other employees or gossiping with the vendors in such a way that your reputation and effectiveness are diminished. You are apprehensive as you go about your day that you might discover more sabotage.
Maybe someone you put in charge of a key project or area of responsibility hides a crucial problem until a looming deadline forces it into the open. Now, it’s on you to step in and fix it. So much is unknown. You fear that you’re not going to get everything essential done by deadline.
Similar kinds of crisis moments happen to every entrepreneur in a growing business. And depending on how you’ve been encoded by your family, school, religion, and life experiences, there are certain habitual ways you will try to manage any situation you find yourself in to get through it. Every child automatically and unconsciously assimilates all aspects of its parental, familial, and community cultures, including prejudices, language, and attitudes about anything and everything — money, sex, food, fashion, marriage, politics, other races, even the weather.
If you’re afraid or feel threatened and like you’re under attack or might lose everything you’ve worked so hard to generate for yourself and your family, you could expend a lot of mental energy trying to figure things out. But overthinking your situation won’t lessen your risk. In fact, it could increase it because it will interfere with you doing the things you need to do to create success.
Fear is like a tornado that picks up energy from our attention and debris from past experiences as it sweeps through our lives. But it’s ineffective to spend our time managing fear, feeding fear, or overthinking our problems when we could be making actual progress toward our goals.
You may believe you’re doing the right things — hiding, running away, trying to please someone, performing, striving to get it “right,” blaming, whatever it is that you’re doing to take charge of your situation. But if you look closely, you may see that your reactions are patterned behaviors, rather than real responses to the objective truth of the moment that you’re in. And until you connect to what is true, you won’t know what to do — whether you’re afraid of reading a dunning letter from the IRS, picking up a call from a disgruntled client, confronting an underperforming employee, giving a speech in public, or saying no after people start to raise their voices.
There’s a better, more organic way of coping with challenges that make you fearful: Go within. Embrace the capacity that is hardwired into every cell of your body at the level of your DNA for insight, adaptation, and innovation. Your natural instincts are the same as those which kept your early ancestors alive for 83,000 generations going back all the way to the Stone Age and beyond. These genetic tracings have been honed and refined for success. You can rely on them.
Before the human brain evolved and our ancestors became capable of abstract thought, they lived in harmony with nature and used their physical senses to discern how to respond to what is. We can too. Many philosophers have written about the unclouded mind and the natural self that can discern truth. This state of being, Whole Self, which is with us from birth, may get shadowed by cultural encumbrances and fear. Nonetheless, we can access it at will and master it with practice.
Familiarize with these three steps because they can stop fear dead in its tracks and save you heartache and remorse, as well as time and misplaced effort.
1. Be in the moment.
So, you have five equally important tasks to do and don’t know where to start? Anxiety is wrapping its fingers around your throat? Pour yourself a glass of water. Sit down. Drink your water. Breathe. Relax and center yourself. Your mind may be busy with thoughts about the future or what your staff is doing but ignore them. For now, just immerse yourself in the present. Honestly, this doesn’t have to be a big deal. You could also shut your eyes for a second and check in. You’re a human being sitting in a room.
2. See the truth of the moment.
After getting present, wait patiently for clarity. Make a list of what needs to be done. Then, look at your list. See what is real in your situation. Objectively true. This clarity will enable you to respond in a manner that is not driven by your nerves.
3. Respond spontaneously and appropriately.
Too many tasks? Feeling paralyzed? Pick the easiest thing and do that first. Then pick the next easiest. And then the next. You’ll gain confidence and momentum as you go forward.
A disgruntled employee? Let the person go. Say, “This isn’t working out.” Avoid an argument by leaving it at that. The more details you offer, the more of an argument you’re going to get.
What about a project that is in danger of falling apart if you don’t step in? It depends on the people on your team and the situation. You can trust your instincts. Fear doesn’t need to paralyze you. Do what Whole Self says to do and you’ll be alright. Decide on a plan and follow through on it. You can always change your mind if you make a mistake.
Being in the moment is powerful because seeing the truth of any moment makes it manageable. Devising a clear-headed, spontaneous response that is appropriate to the objective facts you can discern is the ultimate secret of success. It will save you time and improve your productivity.
Kendrick Mercer is a historian, philosopher, and consultant. He has provided more than fifty years of coaching to thousands of people who note the transformational power of his business and personal development advice. His extensive knowledge of history, anthropology, evolution, psychology, and science has helped numerous corporate CEOs, presidents and executives, as well as entrepreneurs, independent business owners and more. He is author of “Whole Self: A Concise History of the Birth & Evolution of Human Consciousness“.