We are living through a fascinating time. This coronavirus event is worldwide and will certainly have a major impact on our lives... personally, professionally, and potentially economically. Is there a silver lining to this cloud? Perhaps there is an opportunity to work on our “mindset” based on how we handle this adversity.
I’m reminded of lessons many of my Sandler colleagues and I learned about 20 years ago from Dr. Paul Stoltz, who coached some of us based on his 1997 book, “Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities." (For those of you familiar with it, his work aligned well with Sandler’s Identity/Role theory, which is why we were studying it.)
Paul gave us a tool referred to as CORE, which had us examine a situation that would typically induce stress and anxiety (“adversity”) through a four-part filter: C... Control... How much control do we perceive we have over a situation? O... Ownership... How much do we feel we “own” (take responsibility for) the situation and its outcome? R... Reach... How much will this situation “reach into” (impact) other aspects of our life? E... Endurance... How long do we perceive that this situation will last (“endure”)?
A “high” AQ response reduces stress and anxiety, allowing us to think more clearly, act more deliberately, and move on from the situation more easily. A “low” AQ response does the opposite, increasing anxiety, with less clear thinking and action, prolonging the stress.
Let’s try this filter on a real situation -- not a dramatic one -- but a real one. I was recently in a “fender-bender”, rear-ended in stop-and-go-traffic, and pushed into the car in front of me, by a teenager, probably on her cell phone. No one was hurt, but what a hassle.
Here’s a set of responses that would be considered a low AQ response... “Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do now? Now I have to deal with these people and the police! And I need to be somewhere in the next hour with my daughter! How am I going to get to work tomorrow? I feel like these things happen to me all the time, and this is going to take weeks, if not months, to take care of it.”
You get the idea. These are all understandable responses, but if we don’t get past those feelings and responses pretty darn quickly, this will be much more stressful than it “needs to be.”
A higher AQ response in this situation would have me get on the phone with the girl’s parents, work out that they would pay the cost of repairs or put it through their insurance, call my friend, Arty, who owns a body shop, call my daughter to tell her I’ll be late for our get-together, and so on. Think clearly... take action... get it done... and keep it in perspective. Serious car accidents happen all the time, and this wasn’t one of them.
Let’s come back to this current pandemic, which is a much more disruptive and serious situation for all of us... this is real adversity... that has the potential to really throw us off our game. I’d like to suggest some ways in which we can use the CORE response tool to deal more effectively and positively with it.
Control... I have control only over what I say and do, and with effort and attention, I may even be able to control the way I think. I can’t control the thoughts, words, or actions of anyone else. I can choose to meditate or exercise to stay as calm as possible, I can choose where I go and how I run my life to avoid increasing the risk to myself or others, and if I must do something or be somewhere I don’t want to be, I can take every possible precaution in doing so.
Ownership... I choose to take ownership over my reaction to the situation. I take ownership over the contingency plans in my personal and professional life to mitigate the potential negative impacts that could occur in the future.
Reach... Yeah, this one is pretty darn far-reaching, impacting all aspect of our lives. But can I still spend time with my family over a nice dinner, read a good book (rather than watching the endless news cycle), take a walk in nature, or exercise on the rowing machine in the basement (rather than go to the gym). I can still find many ways to live my life and not let it reach into everything.
Endurance... Yeah, this one could last a while, and we don’t know how long. But it is expected to last months, not years. “This too shall pass.” And most of us have been through tough situations before... the 2009 economic downturn, the upheaval of 9-11, Superstorm Sandy, and so on. We got through them. We’ll get through this. The consequences will be dire for some, and that is truly sad. And we know that this is life. We will get through this.
I’d like to share a few more thoughts about ways I am reframing this in positive ways. There are, in fact, real positives for me, my family, and my business that I see coming from this. Let me share a few:
As a training, coaching, and consulting company, the situation has forced us into optimizing our video-based training capabilities. While we have done lots of video-based training, we will come out of this being much more effective at it.
- We are learning how we can be very effective at getting our work done while working from home, even more effective at times than working in the office. This will likely become a more deliberate policy that might not have been obvious without this “event”.
- We are becoming more strategic and forward-thinking, because we need to build contingency plans for our professional and personal lives (like rescheduling a wedding... like I’d know something about that 😉). By building those plans, we reduce our uncertainly about the future.
- This helps put our lives, and our “fortunes” in perspective. Many of us work in solid companies with strong financials, health benefits, and a supportive team. We have food on the table and clean water to drink. We sleep in a comfortable bed every night. Not everyone can say the same.
It is my hope that most of us will get through this situation with relative ease. And that we will lovingly support those who will struggle emotionally and physically through this. Let’s get through this together, and be stronger, wiser, and more caring for it in the end.