This week’s theme is your mental health. Each week we’ll explore a single topic that impacts the lives of small business owners. Usually, the topics apply to executives and leaders in most any arena. You’re smart. You can make the application as it suits you. I’m just here to help you figure it out.
You wake up, scan the headlines on whatever home page you use for your browser. The headlines are easy to categorize. Celebrity stuff. Weirdness. Politics. Lots of venom spewing. Scandal.
Sex sells, but so does fear and anxiety. I’d argue fear sells more effectively and efficiently. It fuels us to play catch up because of our dissatisfaction. So common is this that there’s a cultural meme about it, FOMO. Fear of missing out.
If FOMO isn’t impacting us, then the fear of something awful happening to us may haunt us. We’re driven daily to fear many things that are improbable. Just because some specific bad thing happened to somebody doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen to us.
Fear mongering is rampant. From conspiracy theorists to moms against vaccinating their children we have plenty of things to fear. Violent crime, storms, global warming…there’s pending doom all around us.
Among the things that define us is our fear. In the quest to learn more about who you are, hon in on what you worry about and you’ll gain some clarity. Largely, our fears feel justified. After all, life is full of uncertainty. Anxiety lurks around every corner. Life is filled with things to fear.
Exaggerated fear wrecks the daily lives of Americans. According to The Chapman University Survey On American Fear for the first time in 5 years (since they began this survey) the majority of Americans are generally afraid of all the top 10 fears. The top fear? 74% fear corrupt government officials! (as though there is another kind 😉 )
“More Americans are afraid than ever before” – there’s your headline. I’d propose that we’ve never had such depth of information and data, but most of it is pure garbage and inaccurate. Just go back to that home page on your browser and look at the headlines designed to get you to click. An awful lot of them are deceptive at best, outright lies at worst.
Look at that list produced by The Chapman University. What jumps out at me is how ridiculously close pollution is to things like not having enough money for the future, or people you love getting ill or dying. We seem to love fear and outrage.
How can we resist it? It’s in our face constantly.
Ben Michealis, PhD wrote a piece in 2015 that echoes what I’ve always believed. He writes that the opposite of FOMO is gratitude. I’d only amp it up slightly by arguing that gratitude is the way forward past most fears, including the FOMO.
Gratitude leads the way to build up our resistance to the daily dosage of fear mongering.
It’s not lost on me that of those top 10 fears of the survey, only one is very personal. The 4th one, not having enough money for the future. And it could be argued that many people don’t feel a personal responsibility for that one. It doesn’t mean we can’t contribute but look closely at the list. We can easily remove our responsibility for each of them. They’re things that can happen to us. Things beyond our control…if we choose to see them like that. And based on behavior, that’s how most of us prefer to roll. Victims.
It seems we’re easily convinced that the biggest threats to our well-being are external. Things foisted on us as opposed to things we do to ourselves.
Don’t misunderstand me. Fear is a valid emotion in the right context. It fuels achievement and drives us when we channel it well. It cripples us when we don’t. I even did a video a while back on being a fan of fear, especially for entrepreneurs.
Fear presents a problem. It’s not a long-term strategy. Fear won’t drive lasting change. It can be a great short-term catalyst, but that’s why Dr. Ben’s advice is sound. Embrace gratitude and seek self-respect. Those will impact our actions and behaviors to propel us forward.
Random bad events. Our own mortality. The mortality of our family. These are the facts of our lives. All of our lives. Logically we know that hiding in a cave won’t stave off some things that are inevitable, like our own death. But we can resist the daily grind of fear mongering by doing two things.
One, increase gratitude.
Count your blessings. Literally. Figurately.
Be as comprehensive as possible. Air. Water. Food. Clothing. A bed at night. Safe shelter. All the things we tend to overlook because they’re just so basic.
Then expand out to the unessential things that make your life pleasant. Air conditioning. Indoor plumbing. Tasty food. Ice to make a drink cold. And to preserve food so we don’t have to hunt today for the food we’ll eat today.
And this is stuff. Focus on people. Focus on what the people who love you have done for you. Focus on what others have done to give you the opportunities.
Devote some quiet time each day to sit back and reflect on all the things for which you should be grateful. Then concentrate on becoming grateful (or more grateful).
Put some power behind it. Reach out to the people for whom you’re grateful. Let them know you’re thankful for what they’re doing for you.
Don’t take a day off. Do it as often as you can.
Two, limit the noise of fear.
You can’t completely shut it out because it’s all around us, but you can be more intentional in resisting it or ignoring it.
Manage. That means you take control of your exposure to fear mongering.
Limit, ditch or improve your management of social media. Pay close attention to the impact it has on you. Gauge your emotions. Go on a social media fast to see how different you feel without it.
Pay attention to the internal noise, too. Figure out what fuels your fears and anxiety. Then devise a solution to better manage the noise that sparks your feelings.
Don’t aim for perfection. You won’t rid yourself of all fear or anxiety. Nor should you. Some of it works to serve you. It drives you to take the actions necessary to get things done. Aim your work on increasing your self-respect at the end of each day. Promote that instead of fear.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!