Regaining Optimism in Times of Turmoil: A Guide for Business Leaders

Steve LudwigLife Stuff1 Comment

The words "Better Days Ahead" printed on the pavement.

So far, the 2020s have been rough: pandemic deaths, COVID shutdowns, supply chain challenges, inflation, interest rate increases, and whatever the hell Elon Musk is up to this week. Let’s not forget the wars in Ukraine and Israel/Gaza, further instability in the Middle East, the increasing tensions between mainland China and Taiwan, and whatever political show the United States puts on this year. Even the biggest optimist might be chugging Maalox.

Pathfinders and many business leaders generally have a positive and curious outlook on life, but they are not immune from feelings of despair about the state of the world.

We are not suggesting being a Pollyanna, but there are some tools for regaining optimism when things seem down.

Pick Up a History Book

This isn’t meant to sound snarky. But we often suffer from recency bias, selective memory, and believing nostalgia. We also suffer from the idea that bad should or won’t happen now.

The fact is, there have always been and always will be hard times. Most people didn’t know anything about the Spanish Influenza when COVID hit. About 50 million people died from it between 1918 and 1919. The World Health Organization estimates deaths from COVID-19 at about 3 million. While 3 million is horrible, it’s not 50 million.

A great way to gain perspective is to read a good history book. There is great inspiration from what previous generations overcame and many lessons we can learn.

Turn Off the News

It’s hard to admit; the algorithms know us. They really know us. It’s easy to skim the dreadful headlines and whatever social media serves up and want to go back to bed for a month.

It’s almost impossible not to be impacted in some way by what we read—online or offline.

Our suggestion? Go on a news diet. Ask yourself how much of what you are reading or skimming you need to know right now. Then, adjust accordingly. You can also limit your time spent on the Internet per day.

You will still be current on major happenings, but you don’t need to be in the weeds about things that are not impacting you.

Adopting a Flexible Mindset

The first step towards regaining optimism is embracing change. Viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation can transform the narrative from one of despair to one of hope and possibility. This mindset encourages looking beyond the immediate hurdles and envisioning a future where these challenges have been the catalysts for positive change.

Focusing on What Can Be Controlled

In times of turmoil, it’s crucial to delineate between what is within our control and what isn’t.

Investing energy and resources into actionable items not only fosters a sense of accomplishment but also diverts focus from the chaos that can’t be controlled. This strategy empowers leaders and their teams to make tangible progress, even in small steps, which cumulatively can lead to significant positive outcomes.

Building Resilience Through Community

No leader is an island, and in challenging times, the value of a supportive community becomes even more pronounced. Cultivating a strong network within and outside the organization provides a buffer against the isolating effects of turmoil. Sharing experiences, challenges, and strategies for overcoming adversity can reinforce a collective resilience and foster a culture of mutual support and optimism.

This old proverb is true, “A joy shared is doubled; a shared sorrow is halved.”

Investing in Personal Growth

Continuous learning and self-improvement serve as a beacon of light in dark times. Encouraging yourself and your team to pursue personal and professional growth opportunities can shift the focus from current difficulties to future possibilities. This investment in growth nurtures a forward-thinking mindset and an optimistic outlook towards what can be achieved.

Practicing Gratitude and Mindfulness

This sounds woo-woo, but the research supports it. A regular practice of gratitude and mindfulness can significantly alter one’s perspective on the current state of affairs.

Acknowledging the good, no matter how small, and staying present can help mitigate the overwhelming impact of negative news and uncertainties.

These practices foster a positive mindset, crucial for navigating through turmoil with grace and optimism.

The journey through turmoil is undoubtedly challenging, yet it is also ripe with opportunities for growth, innovation, and strengthened resilience. By adopting a mindset of optimism and implementing strategies that foster positive outlooks, Pathfinders and business leaders can inspire their teams, navigate through uncertainties, and emerge stronger. The call to action is clear: embrace optimism, for it is not just a survival strategy but a path to thriving in the face of adversity.

One Comment on “Regaining Optimism in Times of Turmoil: A Guide for Business Leaders”

  1. Good common sense stuff. Despite our numerous failings as the human race, life is generally getting better and we are a lot smarter at dealing with everything from nasty viruses to lunatic leaders. OK disasters can and do happen, But a positive mindset can often move mountains.

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