We are good at making a tough situation tougher for ourselves. What if we tried something new?

Blog | March 31, 2020

“I just need to see around the corner for what’s coming.”

“I am not doing enough for what is needed right now.”

“I should have spoken up and I didn’t.”

“I was too aggressive with my direct report.”

These are statements I’ve heard from my clients in the past few weeks. The pandemic has been deeply unsettling and impacted so many aspects of our lives & work,  and our usual daily struggles have been exponentially magnified.

When we were children, we created survival mechanisms that kept us alive.

We may have over accommodated to ensure we would be loved, fed and taken care of. We may have been aggressive and reactive because that is the only way our voice would be heard or our needs met. As adults, these survival mechanisms make us successful and also continue to get in our way.

During a crisis like the current pandemic, we can often magnify our survival mechanisms as it is the way we were trained to survive at an early age. However, right now, magnifying our survival mechanisms may not be serving us.

Every client I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks has been grappling with their own survival mechanisms. The thought patterns and belief systems feel so true because the world is unraveling and there is justification for them. However, when we look closely we can see they actually can be getting in our way.

For example:

“I don’t want to say no because that will make me seem mean or unwilling to do my job.”

What if saying no helped drive a conversation about prioritization and better alignment for the business?

“I can’t tell what the right next step in my career is because the world is so unpredictable right now.”

What if not knowing the right next step allowed me to get really curious about what I wanted next?

“No one is listening to me and everyone is making irresponsible decisions. It is not my fault.”

What if knowing poor decisions were being made liberated me and empowered me to do my job the way I wanted and not sweat the failures?

Let’s get curious about our familiar thought patterns right now. By bringing more awareness, we can start shifting. How are our familiar thought patterns serving us during this pandemic? How true are they? What parts might be true and what parts are not? (be honest with yourself)

There is so much stress, anxiety, fear and instability in the world, our internal system doesn’t need any additional burdens to carry right now. Imagine what it would be like if we could be a little less hard on ourselves in the midst of such difficulty. Imagine if we could be fully present with those we love. Imagine if we could enjoy the world slowing down, taking the time to look inwards and listen to our own needs and wants.

Here is a three step process that might to help identify and pivot old thinking:

1. Identify: Is this a familiar pattern? How often am I telling myself this? How do I feel when I have these kinds of thoughts?

2. Get curious: How is this serving me right now? What is it protecting me from? How might it be keeping me safe?

3. Put it to work: How can the survival mechanism work for me right now? What opportunity is available? How would I like to feel instead?

Awareness is a huge part of shifting thought patterns. Simply paying attention to our thoughts can mitigate the power they have and allows us to operate from a place of choice in how we want to move forward.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant