Shawn was recently interviewed by Authority Magazine about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times.” You can read the full article here, but one of the questions asked was:
What are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times?
Here is Shawn’s response:
It’s so true. I’ve said from the beginning of this current crisis that as dangerous as the virus itself is, there is something even more dangerous, and that’s the toll on our mental and emotional health. While the virus will directly impact a certain percentage of us, all of us are feeling the mental and emotional toll. What you asked is exactly what I teach in my course, Working with What Is — how to develop mindfulness and find serenity, how to shift from just surviving to truly thrive, at this moment, just exactly as it is — and these are the five steps we go through:
The first step is to stay present. In the midst of such uncertainty, such turmoil, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There are so many questions: When will this all be over? Will it ever be over? When will life get back to normal? What is normal now? When will I get paid again? The thing is, there are no answers to these questions! We can think and analyze all day long, and we’ll be no closer to the answers. That’s partly because what we’re really trying to do is predict the future, which is impossible. Or, we’re longing for the “good old days” of the past that aren’t coming back. What we have is this present moment. All that matters right now is right now. So, take a breath, feel your breath, and let that bring you back to this present moment.
The second step, then, is to claim your power in this present moment. What I mean by that is, remember that when everything feels like it’s out of control, what you still control is how you show up and how you respond. Those are the only two things you ever had control over, anyway. Our power is in our ability to choose our attention (what we focus on), our attitude (what we think and feel), and our action in any given moment.
The third step is to align with your purpose and your values. Or, another way to say it: align with what matters most to you. In the midst of uncertainty, we need something steady we can hang on to, and that’s our purpose and values. The challenge comes when we confuse our purpose or our values with the vehicles that we’ve grown accustomed to using to fulfill them.
For example, something that has been a fixture of my life for years — being with live audiences as I stand on stage and speak — is now missing. That makes me sad, but I can adjust to it as long as I remember that speaking is just a vehicle. The purpose underneath it is teaching and inspiring others. I can still do that through videos, podcasts, online courses — interviews like this — and many other channels beyond just speaking on stages. So, that’s what I have to remember.
Another example — one we can all relate to — is how we’ve lost our ability to connect with one another physically as we normally do. We need connection to others, by the way; it’s more than just a value. So, we now have to rely on connecting through text messages, social media, video calls, etc. And in those connections, what is your purpose, or what are your values that you need to fulfill? In other words, when you connect with others, what do you want to give or experience through that connection? Focus on that — rather than on the fact that you can’t be in the physical presence of others as you would like — and then ask, what are some other ways — vehicles — that I can fulfill that purpose in these new mediums? When you can align with your purpose and values, you can feel a sense of meaning even when your normal vehicles of delivery have been taken away.
The fourth step is to adopt empowering beliefs. We all have that voice inside our head that’s speaking to us throughout the day. These days, when we’re so isolated, we’re spending a lot more time with that voice! And, the thing is, that voice isn’t always a great friend. You have to know, you shouldn’t believe everything it says! So, what is it telling you? Take a step back and observe the thoughts that are going through your head — rather than just getting carried away by them, unaware.
It’s easy in times like this to have thoughts like, “My life is ruined. I’m going to go bankrupt. I’ll be single forever.” Those are just thoughts. But then, if you’re not careful, you’ll start putting legs under those thoughts and you’ll believe they’re true. Like, “I’m going to be bankrupt… I don’t have any income right now. I have bills to pay. It’s going to be a long time before I can get a job again. Yes, I’m going to be bankrupt.” Now, you’ve gone from a thought to a belief. But, is that true, or is that just the story you’re creating? The reality may be that you are in a critical financial situation. But, are those thoughts — or beliefs — going to do anything to help you resolve it? No, they’re going to pull you further and further down. You’ll find yourself frustrated, depressed, hopeless… and your story may very well unfold just as you thought.
What would be a more empowering way to think about this? What about shifting to: “I’ve been in difficult situations before, and I’ve always found a way through. The fact I’m standing here today tells me I’ve been able to rise up and overcome every challenge that’s come my way. So, I know I will overcome this, too.” Do you see how those thoughts are carrying you in a different direction? Now you have a belief that you will overcome, and you can think creatively about next steps in this current situation. It’s your beliefs that will either keep you locked into your current situation, or bridge the gap to the life you want to live.
Finally, the fifth step is to relax, let go, and trust, as I mentioned before — or, surrender. We want to control things, but we were never in control in the first place. Our attention — and so, our energy — can be scattered across so many things, no wonder we’re exhausted! Every time we let go of trying to control something, we free up more of our mental bandwidth — our focus and our energy — for this present moment and the person or task that’s right in front of us. When you stay present, claim your power to choose how you show up and respond in this moment, align with your values and purpose, and adopt empowering beliefs, you’ve done all you can. From there, relax, let go, and trust. Give yourself a break from all the worry and anxiety. Try as you might, you’re not going to figure it all out! Give yourself the freedom to enjoy this moment, to be grateful in this moment. What would you do if you were to truly relax and let go? For me, I’ve found a love for painting, and when I’m painting, I can’t worry about anything else. As Bob Ross would say, “every day is a good day when you paint.”
Of course, it’s very easy to share these five steps. The truth is, it’s a moment-by-moment process, learning and growing each step of the way. And remember, no matter what happened in the last moment, this moment is always an opportunity to begin again.
Join Shawn’s free “Five to Thrive” 5-Day Resilience Challenge happening May 18-22, as Shawn leads participants through the full Working with What Is online course with one video training per day.