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How Flow can Improve your Mental Health

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” — John Shedd One of the things COVID does during & post the viral crisis is the mental hit. Feeling inadequate in some way. The lack of motivation and confidence about the future. And the harder the initial ‘COVID experience’ in […]

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“A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” — John Shedd

One of the things COVID does during & post the viral crisis is the mental hit. Feeling inadequate in some way. The lack of motivation and confidence about the future. And the harder the initial ‘COVID experience’ in terms of physical (and mental) sickness, the bigger the mental (and physical) recovery challenge. Of course, those who haven’t got the virus, also have mental health issues e.g. school children due to lockdowns et al, but seeing the post COVID experience in close quarters with friends and family, I feel driven to dive into how getting one’s mojo and flow back, can begin by revisiting one’s vision of the future and the confidence it brings (and also requires).

First things first. COVID or not, we’re all experiencing change all the time. That’s in our nature of being human, as much as we long for stability. This constant change challenges our confidence and sense of who actually are we — an identity crisis of sorts. Now, of course, there are two types of change: one that we choose and one that’s chosen for us (e.g. 2020 reality). Moving from a mindset of ‘this happened to me’ to ‘this happened for me’ for the externally driven type of change, is critical for not getting stuck in a vicious cycle of doom and gloom.

Regardless of the type of change being faced though, what’s important to appreciate is that our old “playbook” for life is most likely irrelevant in 2021 — and that we need to build a new one that’s connected to and relevant for today’s world.

We have to lose sight of the shore that we’ve been living on. But before we begin reconstructing this playbook, we need to also remind ourselves that our decision to grow comes with a commitment to personal discomfort (viz. our fear is triggered, identity is challenged, resolve is tested, failure is guaranteed, etc.). Equally, we need to have the self-belief that the human on the other side is a better version of who we know we can be. Put another way, growth is in equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

And so with that understanding, it’s important to recognize that the ability to create a vision of our future, one that is clear, specific, and detailed, just like one’s watching a motion picture, needs extraordinary imagination (backed by courage & confidence). To learn more about a framework to construct a future vision, check out the Vivid Vision framework coined by an old friend Cameron Herold.

Having confidence is the prerequisite for the life that we aspire for, and here I like how a 3 part framework by Dave Hollis unpacks how confidence is often tied to:

What MIGHT happen:

Anxiety is born by a perceived fear of what might happen. It’s a trick that is played on us. That worry of what MIGHT happen diminishes our courage and our confidence. We can start with the self-awareness that we have a mind that often runs wild. We think worse-case scenarios and what might happen, and this often paralyzes us.

As Seneca said:

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality”

If we release the fears that are not real & then take the limiting beliefs around the other fears and turn them into positive beliefs, that we are completely qualified to handle things, our paralysis will ease. If we can take a step back and become an observer of our feelings rather than assume that we are our feelings, our relationship with anxiety won’t be destructive to our confidence.

-What CAN happen:

2020 has taught us that we need to be ready for anything. The habits we create in good times allow us to weather the storms that come in the bad times of life. As we’re pushing into new territories, nothing goes according to plan. And thus we need to inoculate ourselves prior to facing the inevitable knocks of life.

Proactively planning from a position of preparedness, we can be (more) confident we can handle anything & everything that’s thrown at us (as 2020 showed us). The antidote to fear is having a plan and contingency plans fuel confidence.

Equally, we need to ask (and plan) on establishing the habits and routines so when those storms come, we can process them in healthy ways that allow us to maintain our momentum.

-What WILL happen:

Almost all fears fall to the side in the face of the certainty of our mortality — Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech is a brilliant reminder about this. It should be a catalyst/motivator to living fully in the limited time we have, bringing focus to what’s truly important.

If we worry that we’re too old to make an impact, that is insanity (Col Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 65…). We will find more and more opportunities for ourselves if we have an abundance mindset about our future. It’s not easy but the call to be confident on these choppy waters is a mandate, not an invitation. It requires us to choose confidence, even when we don’t feel it. Our time is limited. So let’s live it well.

At the end of the day, we can find ways to engineer a high degree of confidence, so we can deliver on the gifts this life has given us. And when we have that confidence, accessing flow becomes so much easier and from there on, it’s self-perpetuating….

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