A crisis brings out the best and the worst in us. Some people act like idiots, while others rise to the occasion and show what they’re made of. In fact, it astonishes me how some of the most unlikely people rise to the occasion by displaying extraordinary leadership, selflessness, and grace during tough times. How do you respond to a crisis?
Are You Your Best Self in a Crisis?
Times of crisis bring out the best in people. I hope they bring out the best in you. Here are 15 guideposts for your consideration.
Maintain a level head. It’s hard to be positive and remain calm when confronted with a crisis, but it’s in your best interest to do so. Think rationally, keep things in perspective, and remain in control rather than letting your emotions get the better of you. You may be going through tough times, but it won’t last forever.
See the world as it is. Be open to change that’s required of you. Having said that, first make sure to survey the landscape, challenge your assumptions, and separate fact from fiction to ensure that your decisions are well grounded. In addition, make sure to bounce your observations off the people you trust.
Accept responsibility. Own your destiny rather than outsourcing responsibility to others. Stand tall and accept accountability for your choices and for the consequences of your actions.
Take a long-term view. Focus on the best options that address the challenge that you face rather than getting wrapped up in the moment. Wayne Gretzky, the professional hockey player, said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Set priorities. Don’t treat every option or activity equally. Make the tough choices. It’s smarter to prioritize the important things than to complete every item on a long list of possibilities.
Balance your short- and long-term actions. Set ambitious, yet realistic, short-term goals as you pursue your long-term efforts to deal with the crisis. Small wins provide momentum while you work on your long-term efforts.
Embrace change. New times require new ways. Assess your habits and adjust behavior accordingly — otherwise you may be swimming against the tide.
Act without delay. Even though you may be missing information or don’t have complete certainty, fight the urge to overthink everything or to strive for the one perfect solution to the crisis. Move quickly, so that you can address things in an orderly fashion rather than placing yourself in a reactionary mode where you’ll always be putting out fires.
Make big strides with small steps. Instead of striving for “all or nothing,” focus on continuous improvement. Every step in the right direction moves you one step closer to a workable solution.
Stay nimble. Even great plans get adjusted when they’re implemented. As Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the Prussian field marshal, said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
Remain grateful. Despite the fact you’re in the midst of a crisis, don’t lose sight of the wonderful things in your life. It’ll keep the situation in perspective and raise your spirits.
Give selflessly. One of the best ways to boost your morale is to stop complaining and wallowing in self-pity. Instead, shift your attention to others by identifying opportunities where you can provide tangible and emotional support.
Maintain your health and spirit. You’re not good to anyone, including yourself, if you fail to maintain your physical and mental health. Eat well, exercise, meditate, and set aside time to do things that will lift your spirit and the spirits of those around you.
Stay true to your values. Listen to your conscience. You have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
Lead by example. You’re a role model. Act like one.
Turning Crisis into Opportunity
If a crisis does one thing, it should encourage you to put things in perspective by reassessing your values and priorities. It’s so easy to get trapped in the rat race of daily life that you lose sight of the things that really matter. Do you place more value on relationships or on things? Do you appreciate what you have or do you take things for granted? Is it more important for you to be liked by others or by yourself? Would you compromise your integrity to get what you want? Are you proud of the way you live your life? There may be a silver lining to your crisis. To date, you may have been focusing on the bad news. The good news is that you have a choice as to how you’re going to live your life going forward. Will you go back to business as usual when things get back to normal, or will you use this opportunity to make your life more purposeful and meaningful? Your choice. As Paul Romer, the Nobel Prize–winning economist, said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Are You Your Best Self?
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