Is it a rabbit or a duck? Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Are you successful or unsuccessful?
The answer to that question, as well as the others, depends on your perspective, but also what is most meaningful to you and what you define as success.
When we feel overwhelmed, uncertain or, quite frankly, just worn out and tired after a busy day or week, a favorite high performance habit is to use the power of questions to direct our mind positively. And, of course, after a good night’s sleep, we will often find a fresh perspective in the morning.
But what do we do when that’s not enough?
We take some quiet time to think about what we want in life and what is most meaningful to us. The answer might surprise you; it might not be what we think we want or what we think others expect of us. Sometimes we feel stuck because we are more worried about what someone else might think, about the criticism we might receive…or that big scary worry monster called student debt.
It’s easy to hold ourselves back from taking action towards what’s truly important. It’s often difficult to make that tough decision when we fear someone we care about might feel hurt or disappointed by our decision. If we genuinely want to have joy, happiness and the personal freedom we desire, then our job is to figure out what that looks and feels like for each of us.
Our core values of integrity and following through on what we promised ourselves are excellent values to have. Still, occasionally we can use them as an excuse to hold ourselves back from pursuing a dream or making a key decision that we know deep down we need to make but we’ve been avoiding.
How do we know when we are making excuses vs. when we are making decisions aligned with our values and the best of who we are? Our emotions and gut feelings are a good clue, as are the stories we are telling ourselves; our self-talk.
Have you ever heard yourself utter this statement: “I’ve wasted the whole day; I got NOTHING accomplished; I’m NEVER going to get it all done!”
Me too—and on more than one occasion and more recently than I’d care to admit—but I’m making progress as now I’m aware of these thoughts. Before I found the high performance coaching framework, I just kept telling myself these stories, completely unaware, overwhelmed and frustrated. Maybe you can relate?
Here are three super simple and fun ways to regain perspective and help you get the train back on its tracks if you take an unexpected detour.
1) Write down what time you got up this morning and the time it was five hours later. Then list off all of the things you already accomplished in those five hours.
This is a great activity when you feel overwhelm creep in and that you’re not moving enough big projects forward fast enough.
When you stop and write down all you accomplished in the first five hours of your day, it is amazing! Did you meal-prep or plan your dinner, work out, get the kids dressed and off to school, do a load of laundry, walk the dog, feed the cat and get to work on time?
Congratulations! You moved every area of your life forward BEFORE you got to work today! Sometimes all we need is to shift our perspective to realize we are living the life of our dreams, and it’s okay to appreciate all we have accomplished, the ups and downs, and slow down to feel less frantic.
Working out and planning meals are important to our health. Caring for kids or family is vital to maintaining positive relationships. Cooking leftovers or pulling something out of the freezer rather than eating out is a positive move for our wallets and waistline. Walking the dog and spending time with pets are good for our spirit. And, you are showing up as your best self at work, on time!
That’s what work-life balance is; doing what’s important across all areas of our lives. Why, as busy professionals, do we sometimes think that if it isn’t work-related, that it doesn’t count?
2) Reset your clocks and take a do-over.
If you are still frustrated by the first activity’s outcome, why not try this brain hack?
Changing your clocks’ time is one way to quickly shift your perspective and more easily come up with a workable plan to tackle those big projects or get your day back on track.
Before you start saying, “I can’t, you are crazy for suggesting this.” Google calendar is pretty impressive, and time is arbitrary. So why not trick your brain into feeling less stressed?
People with appointments will still show up at their scheduled time, so what does it matter if your clock says 10 a.m. or 7 a.m.? Something as simple as mentally giving yourself a few more hours can make a tremendous impact and provide more time and space to wrap your head around when and how to tackle that next big project.
I did this once. I was so stressed out and disappointed in my lack of progress by 9 a.m. that I created a solution that forced me to have a new perspective. After all, the time on the clock was the source of my stress and frustration, so, rather than give up and lose a day of productivity, I reviewed my calendar, saw meetings scheduled on the west coast and reset all of the clocks back to 6 a.m. The computer, phone, microwave and stove were all reset in a few short minutes, and I turned on the alarms for my appointments to ensure I wouldn’t miss them. After all, my clients were just now getting up for their day, and I reclaimed some time to move big projects forward before my meetings started. I completed my work by noon, and not only did I take the afternoon off, but I also didn’t lose a day of work—I was more productive!
3. Ask questions for perspective.
Maybe resetting all the clocks in your house isn’t your thing, and while it was a fun challenge or experiment to see if it would work, the outcome may be the same as positively directing our minds through asking questions.
What’s another perspective?
Sometimes viewing the obstacle from someone else’s perspective or being your own best friend and asking yourself what they might say can help you brainstorm solutions. If you develop one or two possible solutions, try to see if you can find five or 10. If you get stuck, go work out, take a nap or go for a stroll outside and see if more solutions appear.
How can I accomplish everything by the deadlines?
Asking, “How can I…” frames the question in a way that tells our brain it is possible and there is a way. If we ask, “Is it possible to accomplish everything?,” then we give ourselves an easy out, and our brains will say, “Hey, I found a quicker, easier solution; let’s say ‘no.’” We have to train ourselves to ask questions that get us closer to our desired result, and a few words can make a big difference.
Is my deadline arbitrary?
Is this a self-imposed deadline, like a New Year’s resolution, that we are panicking about because the year is slipping by and we haven’t started it yet? If it’s important to you, take out your calendar, pick a date 30, 60 or 90 days in the future and park the idea there. Then you can free up that mental space it was occupying for more pressing tasks.
Is this project important, does it have meaning to me, or will it move me closer to my goals?
Ask this question about each of the five areas of life and see if it has meaning or is important to your health, relationships, finances, spirit/hobbies or mission/career. If not, then ask, “Why do I want to accomplish this?”
When we do the work and still can’t figure out how it will be possible to get it all done, we need to have faith and remind ourselves that we’ve been in this situation before. It all magically worked out when we stopped worrying and focused on the current project or conversation.
The simple act of focusing on what you can accomplish and control at this moment frees up so much mental energy that you can now focus on living fully, with joy, at this moment, simply by shifting your perspective. +