As this year gets underway, we probably all have one thing in mind – we hope it will be easier than 2020 was!
This post focuses on a few key tips for making this year a successful one for you.
Aligning with purpose, managing stress, and keeping a sense of hope are a powerful trifecta to keeping your cool, achieving your goals, and leading flexibly.
Let’s not repeat 2020 – here’s how to avoid it
Being clear about your purpose, and staying true to it, is one of the most powerful ways that you can ensure you lead flexibly. Your purpose is core. No matter what happens, it will help you respond to the unexpected, adapt to continuing change, and yet still be flexible.
Feeling rudderless was a recurring theme I heard last year, sometimes from leaders hurtling along at a great rate of knots, sometimes from those blown off course.
To avoid that, to make your dent in the world, as Steve Jobs suggested, it helps to have a clear purpose. When I coach leaders to help them clarify and focus their purpose, I’ve found it helpful to use a structure that has several related elements. Values, aspiration, identity and goals help make sense of purpose and turn it from an ideal into tangible action.
Your values and identity come from your past influences and experiences. Your aspiration and goals make meaning of your future. Values and aspirations are guides, giving direction to where you want to go. Identity and goals are anchors, providing security and conviction as you develop into your future self.
Purpose is at the centre, both guide and anchor. It’s also about the past and the future, yet holds its greatest power in the present; it is right now that we flexibly manage ourselves to ensure we continue to live with purpose.
‘You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.’
The second Whitepaper in my Flexible Leader series will help you to hack your purpose. Why do you do what you do? Clarify that, then make work and life more meaningful, more intentional. You will then increase your flexibility, choosing what to do now and next based on what matters most to you. Download the whitepaper here.
How to keep your cool in high stress situations
From time to time the stress is going to get the better of us, but there are ways to help keep it in check. In this Harvard Business Review article by Robert E. Quinn & colleagues, they share their five step process for increasing self-regulation to better manage stress.
- Understanding the biology behind what’s happening when you experience stress
- Increasing awareness of the cues that you are experiencing and your level of reaction
- Bringing to mind successful experiences of navigating past situations
- Connecting to hope and purpose to release oxytocin which shifts your level of stress
- Trusting the process, engaging with others to learn
They quote Theodosius Dobzhansky’s extension of survival of the fittest:
“The fittest may also be the gentlest because survival often requires mutual help and cooperation.”
The need for keeping your cool is being tested more often these days; a fundamental skill for keeping your cool is to be able to remain flexible in your thinking, feeling and learning.
We tend to think of flexibility as working hours or locations – I see it as a mindset. And one that is a great antidote to the many stressors around us.
- Fluid – versus fixed – our thinking,
- Free – versus rigid – our feelings, and
- Open – versus closed – our learning,
the more flexibly we can adapt and respond to remain in service to our own purpose as well as work demands.
Many organisations promote work flexibility, but not necessarily the mindset that supports it, which means that we don’t always feel we have permission to be flexible or know how to be.
Give yourself permission to be flexible by aligning it to your purpose. It will help, not interfere with doing good work, and you will stay better aligned with your purpose.
And last but not least…. how to inspire hope in 2021
…and why that might be more useful than optimism, as well as help you better manage your stress levels.
Hope is akin to, and often confused with, optimism so – what’s the difference?
According to Jacqueline S. Mattis, Dean of Faculty at Rutgers University – Newark, hope is having goals, seeing them as possible and believing you can achieve them.
A sense of agency, of feeling you can do it, is key to feeling hope. Mattis suggests five strategies to cultivate hope:
- Start with goals. While last year blew a lot of goals out of the window, keep a sense of hope, create your goals for 2021. Anticipate roadblocks, the potential for failure and possible stresses while you pursue your goals. Adapt, be realistic, act. If you believe you are capable of achieving your goals you are more likely to.
- Use uncertainty. ‘A future that is uncertain holds lots of possibilities.’ That’s reason to hope.
- Manage what you pay attention to. Optimists seek positive images, while hopeful people focus on avoiding negative images, sad or threatening information.
- Don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with hopeful others and hold yourselves to mutual account.
- Hope requires trust. Use evidence as the basis for your decisions & to guide you.
As the Quinn article confirms, hope plays an important role in how our bodies respond to stress, so try these strategies to increase your feelings of hope.
Book a call with me today to find out more about how my executive coaching can help you confirm your purpose to feel more energised and inspired.