How to Cultivate Equanimity in Your Life
Stress is always hard to deal with. Now, in these uncertain and unprecedented circumstances in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with stress — and trying to find a balance — in even more challenging. Here are thoughts from Jim Madrid.
Been a little stressed out lately? Overwhelmed? Does your life feel like it’s out of control? Do you feel like your theme song should be ch, ch, ‘Changes’ by David Bowie?
Welcome to the new norm, a new enemy, a new way of living our lives! Welcome to being quarantined.
What we are living through right now, on a global scale, hasn’t been experienced in over a hundred years.
Personal movement and interpersonal engagement are being shifted away from face-to-face, to spare the most vulnerable in our society. Social distancing is a new habit, awkward isn’t it. My fingers are wrinkled from washing them so much.
In my book, “Get Over It, and Get On With It” I wrote about responses to a question I often ask: “What’s holding you back?” It talked about barriers to success—the things standing between you and an unprecedented, record-breaking year.
This article will address how to live a more stressed yet balanced life during these changing times.
Questions about how to balance one’s life are usually preceded or followed by statements like, “I feel overwhelmed and stressed out most of the time,” “My kids are growing up, and I have so little time with them,” or “It’s as if I’m sacrificing my personal life on the altar of my career.” Sound familiar?
Ever heard of the word equanimity? I love this word. It means evenness of mind, composure — especially in relation to dealing with stress. The definition of equanimity includes evenness of temper, the right disposition; balance. Synonyms include sang-froid which means a great coolness and steadiness under strain. When you cultivate equanimity in your life and work, clarity follows — and out of clarity comes drive, energy, and creativity. Clarity can help you approach life more passionately and move you to your dreams.
During this time of unprecedented change what are you doing in your personal life or at work to create equanimity?
It’s human nature to be drawn toward habit and familiar routines — there is comfort in familiar places where habits rule supreme. As a result, stepping away from habitual behavior brings energy back into your life. In fact, when you deliberately choose to resist habit and break out of your comfort zone, you grow and life becomes more exhilarating.
What are your habits? What are your routines? What do you do subconsciously? What attitudinal and behavioral habits do you have that create an imbalance—a disconnection between you and what you value most?
When you’re out of balance, the results are negative stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I believe the reason why most of us feel out of control and stressed out is due to a lack of a clear, compelling vision. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, without this clarity of vision, there can be no equanimity.
During her journey in Wonderland, Alice came to a fork in the road. She questioned the Cheshire cat about which path to take, but the cat wanted to know where she was going. Alice said, “I don’t know,” after which the cat replied, “Then, it doesn’t matter what road you take, does it?”
At least for the moment, business has slowed down, way down. As a result, some of you don’t know what to do with your time. The new slow pace concerns you; you worry about it, and the worry takes a toll. But, stop for a minute. What about the outstanding people around you dealing with this change? What are they doing, and why are they doing it?
Years ago, when I asked a high-performance friend of ours, what is her purpose behind her continued success, she said, “When we have children, my husband and I will be in a position to spend plenty of quality time with each child. We will be able to have a more balanced lifestyle and provide a comfortable, high-quality life for our family.” They are living that life today. And, she and her husband are dealing with this current environment with positivity and optimism.
Another high performing person responded to my question like this: “I have a strong need to provide financially for my family.” This woman is a single mom who not only supports her daughter but also, because of her success, is able to employ her brother as her assistant. When I asked her to define the word provide, she said, “To make it possible for my daughter to attend any school she chooses; to make sure she has many opportunities open to her; to help my brother create a secure and comfortable life for his family.”
Why haven’t these top producers stopped being top producers? Why has their business slowed only slightly?
They have a clear, compelling, highly motivating vision. With vision comes equanimity, with equanimity comes clarity, and with clarity come drive, energy, and creativity. Success starts with a vision. Unfortunately, most of us right now are “vision impaired.” Because we have never had an experience like this before. To help you see more clearly through these next few months of unsettling change and to help you design the future you want, here are a few questions to stimulate your thinking:
Do I have a clear, compelling vision of where, what and who I want to be over the next few months to the next 1-2 years?
What is the purpose of my vision? In other words, why do I want these things?
Have I written down my vision and goals? If so, how often do I review and/or affirm them?
Do the important people in my life and work know about my vision? Were they involved in the creation of it?
Not long ago, a Harvard Business School study revealed that, of people with similar backgrounds and educational standards, 3 percent are successful, 30 percent are moderately successful, and 67 percent just exist.
Now, get this: The 3 percent who are successful have clear, detailed written goals. The 30 percent who are moderately successful have a general idea of where they’re going but have no formalized written goals. The rest are happy (well, maybe not) to watch the rest of the world go by. Something else that fascinated me about this study was that the people in the 30 percent category only needed to exert a small effort to jump into the next group.
The secret behind that effort was “the development of habits and strategies that support the achievement of clear goals.”
Experience has shown me that most people haven’t written their goals or vision out in a specific, clear way. Their complaints, though, are loud and clear: “Help! I don’t know what to do!” “My life is spinning out of control!” “I am too stressed out!” “Business has stopped!” “This lock-down is killing me!”
The last time something like this happened was over 100 years ago. And since we have no past to fall back on, we do have an opportunity to design the future we want. We can invent the new picture of tomorrow, based on what we have learned from this epidemic. There is new information, new learnings new information for us to design the future we want. The future is, as it always has been, a blank canvas upon which we get to draw the world as we would like it to be.
This is not new for us. We’ve done this before, we have worked through setbacks.
From the pain of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 to the failures of the 2008 economic collapse, we have always risen and created our new futures. We dug deep to find our passion and resilience to create new pictures, a new vision, and goals of how we want life to look like when those goals are achieved, and then we pulled from our mental, emotional and physical resources to make it all happen.
We are on the cusp of a new vision for tomorrow, whether it is for ourselves as individuals, or for the communities of which we are a part. And since it doesn’t look like many of us are physically going anywhere soon, we have that rare opportunity to let our minds off the leash, so to speak, dream a little bit bigger, and invent the future.
Understand your vision and your goals. Write them down. Understand the purpose of your goals.
Why do you want to accomplish those things? What matters to you most of all? Create a business plan for your career and generate a plan for your personal life, too. Control the things you can control. Set goals that work to align the various aspects of your life-enhancing rather than conflicting with each other — and you will bring equanimity into your life!
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