Am I Going to Be OK? How to stay focused when things don't go as planned
How do you feel when things don’t go as planned? Disappointed? Frustrated? Discouraged? Depressed? Well, you are not alone. People experience any of these feelings when plans get thwarted for reasons beyond their control. However, the only difference is that some people get stuck in feeling that way for too long, while others do something to get the most out of the situation. So, the choice is really all up to you.
I read an interesting story written by New York Times Bestseller Charles Duhigg this week. As a Harvard Business School graduate, he attended the 15th reunion of his class last summer and surprisingly learned that most of his former classmates were not overjoyed by their professional lives.
Although most of them were living relatively normal, basically content lives, the more sanguine classmates still felt a profound professional disappointment. One thing that struck him the most was that the A+ students at the time were not the very successful ones today. The superstars were the B to B+ students.
Why is that? It’s because the ones who performed best had some hardships along the way.
They oftentimes got rejected by big companies out of business school and did not get the job they wanted. As a result, they had to go build a career for themselves.
Nowadays, most of us spend 30-40 years at work. It is quite common to make changes in our professional lives and go through various transitions: moving to another country, changing jobs or rethinking career path due to Covid-19.
In the moment of struggle, everyone is asking somewhat the same question:
Am I going to be OK?
We feel it hard to find focus in a day. We have 100 problems run over us and don’t have enough time to get them done. Our emotions are going up and down like a roller coaster.
Just as life is nonlinear, transitions themselves are nonlinear.
If we understand that usually it takes time to adapt and adjust to major life changes before improvement begins, we will be more patient and focus on the present moment. We will keep striving to get the most out of the situation. We will not hesitate to continue moving forward despite the delays and setbacks. After all, as Charles R. Swindoll once put it, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Controlling our emotions and staying focused do not necessarily require a lot of efforts. You can start small by taking these 4 microsteps in a day:
Exercise in the morning- Physical exercise helps you clear your mind and boost your energy. Exercising 20 minutes before you start your day will stimulate your brain and bring those positive vibes throughout the day.
Prepare a Top 3 checklist – Too many things to do that you can’t find a way to complete? Busy all day but not sure what you were busy doing at the end of the day? The only way to get your to-do list done is to cut your commitments in half at least. Don’t be greedy; doing less but more important things for a day helps you become more focused and get greater outcomes. Every day, take a piece of paper and write down 1-3 things only on your checklist. Try to list those things in order of priority and do the most important/difficult task first.
Use Pomodoro technique to do focused work – Getting scattered or getting stuck? If you’re not able to focus on your work, remind yourself that it’s totally OK. It’s not easy to find focus during a difficult time. The key is to break down the work hours into small chunks and try to do a minimum amount of focused work and then gradually improve. Use Pomodoro technique to set a 25-minute limit to work on a task and then take a short break and continue with the next 25- minute time block.
Talk to one friend per day – Good relationships and real conversations help you get around mental blocks. Humans are social animals. If we get stuck in our apartment or little cubicle and feel anxious, it’s better to get in touch with a friend and talk. Conversations with friends not only give ourselves a break but also calm ourselves down.
As Charles Duhigg explains the importance of hardship:
“If you're successful all the time, you miss out on learning a lot of things that hardship and failure and deep disappointment sometimes seem to be the only tutors to teach us.”
So, it’s important to remind ourselves that the smoothest life paths may not give us the opportunity to discover what really brings us satisfaction day-to-day. Also, it’s totally OK to fail sometimes and make changes in life as long as we stay positive and resilient.