Optimism is essential, but so it is facing the entire brevity of your situation. Stay real.

May 5, 2020

In a recent article, I invited readers to share their preferred lens of focus when assessing the COVID world. The two most popular lenses were Optimism and Positivity, next was a comedy lens and a good sense of humour.

Optimism is essential to help us cope with difficult times. Expecting that good will come gives us confidence in our future.

Question? Can too much optimism give us false confidence, and can this stop us from making the right strategic decisions?

The term “Pollyanna” is often used when referring to someone who is excessively cheerful or optimistic.

One of my favourites in the leadership field is Jim Collins, who recently spoke about the Stockdale Paradox when looking at examples whereby people and companies progress during difficult times such as these.

The Paradox stems from an amazing story where Admiral Stockdale, a Hanoi POW was able to survive and succeed for eight years, while leading his team, not knowing when death or torture would be around the corner.

The key to his success was a vital trait of balancing faith and optimism, with the brutal uncomfortable truth. This helped him stay strong and make good strategic choices. Stockdale reported that those around him who relied on too much optimism died from a broken heart. Hope without action can be detrimental to you and your team.

Optimism is essential, but so it is facing the entire brevity of your situation. Stay real.

Here are three practical steps in identifying new opportunities in the COVID world to re-orientate your reality.

1. Acknowledge where you are.

For many of us, it has been a time of grief and loss, even if you are healthy. Grief is different for us all and it is certainly not linear; it can fluctuate and catch us unaware at times

A recent article from Harvard Business School “That Discomfort, you’re feeling is grief” talks about well- known grief models and how these might apply in the COVID world. (link in comments). I can relate to all grief stages during these COVID times, including denial, anger, bargaining and sadness.

Finding balance in your thinking is essential. I know many in my network have found great comfort in joining special interest and social zoom groups and using this time to catch up on that reading list. If you find yourself stuck, please reach out for help, you are not alone. Many of the great leaders I work with have extend their reach to check on their team’s wellbeing.

2.Have a Frank conversation with yourself.

Before the COVID world, were you happy with your life choices?? This down-time is an ideal time to consider what matters to you. Now is a great time to map your ambition against your capabilities and knowledge. You need to understand your current challenges and be realistic.

What are your strengths and weaknesses, knowledge gaps, what are your opportunities for change? For some us, this might mean working on closing a skills gap, for others, it might be networking and increasing your visibility,

“It’s who you know” has always been a famous mantra, but just as importantly – “who knows you”?? And what can you do about this?? Stay Optimistic, but stay strategic, engage those around you, reach out and seek what you need to grow.

 3. Develop a gameplan for COVID times and beyond.

So, once you have figured out what you need to do, the next step is to hatch a plan. There are so many great resources available, including free online books and courses.

Bruce Mullan from Vinaigrette & founding member of the COVID Club (link in the first comment) has created a fantastic COVID gameplan canvas you help you navigate your next steps.

I used this framework about four weeks ago, and it has helped me focus during these COVID times.

Your next move????

Optimism and Positivity are essential, but so is making decisions to enable success.Being too “Pollyanna” can be paralysing – sunshine and rainbows mean nothing without the right strategic decisions.

Acknowledge where you are, have an honest conversation with yourself, and put together your game plan.

How will your choices impact your world today, and how will you enable better outcomes tomorrow? You must consider the short and long game.

Stay optimistic, stay grounded and play your own winning game.

And… keep your sense of humour. 🙂