I have recently seen and heard numerous people fail to flippantly respond to the following question when asked, “How are you doing?” Before 2020, that question was a throw-away phrase to break the ice when starting a conversation. Unfortunately, many of us neither expected to hear anything substantial, nor offer anything substantial when asking or being asked that question.
That has no longer been the case this year. Without thought, many still tend use this opening question when addressing each other, but more and more there’s an inability to merely answer, “I’m doing great/good/fine, how about you?” Instead, there’s hesitation and an immediately acknowledgement that it isn’t so easy to just answer, “We’re doing great.” And even if we do answer without thought, we tend to add… “All things considered.”
There is a lot happening in our communities, countries, and throughout the world. We are collectively experiencing struggles and challenges that are as unique as the individual who is facing them. A lot of it is difficult and for some, devastating.
So, returning to the article’s title/question, what will be your takeaway from 2020? The thousands of memes that exist from political figures to the historic shortage of paper goods would suggest leaving 2020 behind and never looking back would be A-OK with most of the population. However, if conducting my radio show and podcast has taught me anything, it is that greatness, success, and progress result from some of the darkest of times.
That is the overarching theme from every guest I have had a privilege of speaking with. Each has overcome a series of trials, only to emerge victorious and stronger than ever before. This year will be considered a trial by fire for many – a defining year. How that year is defined however, is not determined by the challenges we face – it’s defined by our attitude and response to those challenges.
What Pollyanna Would Say…
Regardless of the individual circumstances, each of my guests have a similar message: merely experiencing a challenge or trial does not guarantee a desired result on the other end; it’s what we do during the challenge, how we face it, and the attitude we choose that will determine what comes next.
We are nearing the end of this calendar year and while we can eagerly send it away, let’s not miss the opportunity to reflect on defining – or redefining – the impact of this year on our lives…for the better. Some might criticize this notion that a willing a change of attitude or an increase of gratitude is far too simplistic for the real struggles life presents. But is it? As a certain young heroine said in Pollyanna the novel, “You see, when you’re hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind.”
I realize suggesting a simple round of Pollyanna’s “glad game” – finding the good in things, regardless of our circumstances – may seem elementary. It’s a criticism the author of Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Porter, battled her entire life. An article written by The Atlantic quoted her in reference to this, “You know I have been made to suffer from the Pollyanna books. I have been placed often in a false light. People have thought that Pollyanna chirped that she was ‘glad’ at everything,” she said in one interview. “I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil; I have merely thought that it is far better to ‘greet the unknown with a cheer.”
Indeed, we don’t need to be glad about everything happening in our lives. We can, however, find some things to be “glad” about and leverage this gratitude to create an attitude that forges a new way forward.
Do What You Don’t Want to Do…Well
As much as we’d like to have life be full of everything we love to do – that’s not how life works. Success comes not from doing what we love well, but working through the necessary hurdles, requirements, and setbacks with persistence, resilience, and optimism.
I’ve worked with a number of professionals who need to improve their communication skills in order to be more successful in the workplace. The problem is many of these individuals do not want to actively address their public speaking skills. I get it, public speaking is far from most people’s favorite thing to do. In fact, it’s not just something people don’t want to do, for many it’s something they’re legitimately afraid to do. However, with communication being such a critical element of a person’s successful career, one’s attitude toward speaking needs to adjust. It’s just something you have to do to succeed.
Working through the hard and undesirable requirements of this life is no different. The following are some proven ways to help change your attitude when you find yourself amid difficulty:
- Acknowledge Your Feelings and Try to Understand Them. It’s no use ignoring or trying to brush aside your feelings about the challenges or expectations you are facing – it will make working through them harder. Instead, accept those feelings and thoughts. Choose to interpret them and seek to understand why you feel the way you do. When you start with an honest assessment, you have a better understanding of what needs to be changed.
- Develop Additional Skills. You feel comfortable doing things you do well, less comfortable doing things you don’t do well. The more you are pushed out of your comfort zone, the quicker you’ll adjust to the most demanding circumstances. Identify skills you want to learn or improve in and make goals to progress in those areas.
- Set Realistic Goals. Stop demanding perfection from yourself and others. Strive for progress, not perfection! Remember, every accomplishment is achieved one step at a time – with some setbacks along the way.
- Self-Confidence is Up to You. Keep telling yourself you are either going to fail or succeed. Either way, you’re guaranteed to be right. Your inner voice has so much power – make sure it is a message that helps you achieve what you want. In some cases, this may require you “fake it until you make it.” Natural confidence will come as you push forward seeking to achieve the results you want.
- Think Positive. Remember that bit about self-confidence? You can improve yours with a positive inner voice. We all talk to ourselves. What do you say to the person in the mirror? There is no failure, only feedback. Stay positive with yourself and good things will happen.
- Remind Yourself: Your success doesn’t and won’t happen by chance – it is by choice. Your choice.
- You Don’t Stay the Same. Each day we are headed one direction or another in every aspect of our life. We either get closer to the result we want or further – the power is yours to choose which direction you go.
There’s still time to reflect on what 2020 has meant to you personally. There’s still time to identify reasons to be glad; to recognize opportunities of change, growth, and renewal. As we head into the final weeks of this year, embrace the battles fought and allow them to be transformative lessons for the year ahead.