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Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

5 Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: katerha
How do you carry on in the face of adversity?

Keep your cool, stay calm – that would be the first order of business!  A few days ago the Huffington Post.com wrote:

There’s no escaping the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. From coffee mugs, to bandaids and now memes, the British slogan is simply everywhere. Perfectly, it captures the stiff upper lip culture from across the pond, which has inevitably made its way stateside. For those who’ve wondered where the devil the poster first came from, here’s a YouTube video to unravel the mystery of the iconic poster for you.

BTW, that Brit store, Barter Books (featured in the YouTube video) looks like a really neat place – I’m putting it on my “someday” list… but that’s another post… right now I need to focus on “carrying on”.

Have you been hearing lots of No, No, No’s?

Maybe you’re one of the many folks – like me and several of my relatives and friends – who are “in transition”: either unemployed, underemployed or unsatisfactorily employed… Or perhaps you are one of the legions of folks who, for one reason or another, are telling themselves “no, no, no”: No I can’t, won’t, don’t want to, can’t afford, don’t have the time, bandwidth, energy… Or maybe health factors – yours or someone else’s – are severely limiting your options.  Anyway you cut it, many of us are hearing “No” waaay too often these days.

How do we carry on when “NO” is our most frequent encounter?  Well, you might try humming the lyrics from band Kansas’ song, Carry On My Wayward Son:

Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Besides that, what’s a body to do???  The clever answer is “turn that NO upside down and carry ON…” But that’s just a throwaway unless we can come up with some strategies for doing the deed. I offer you five possibilities…

5 Ways to Stay Calm and Carry On

1. Stay Focused on What’s Important

Much like carry-on luggage, I suspect that one critical success factor is to travel light – which, in my mind translates into lean actions: pare your activities down to those that keep you on track with your prime objectives – dump the extraneous activities so that you can focus on carrying on.

However – and it’s a BIG HOWEVER – do not dump the relationships that you require to thrive.  Maggie Granados, head of the Montclair Coop School and student of positive psychologist Martin Seligman, reminds us that positive relationships help us thrive:

To thrive as a person, Seligman postulates, one must have in one’s life a sufficient number of positive relationships from which one can pull support and in which one can expand and grow… having close relationships is an important life goal for most people and contributes to one’s overall well-being. Indeed, research shows that people with close relationships enjoy all kinds of physical and mental health benefits, including greater longevity.

Set aside some “sacrosanct time” for the family and friends who nurture your spirit as you carry on in the face of many “no’s”…  and don’t forget to squeeze in some “me-time” – your own relationship with self is important too!

2. Ask: How Do I Want This to Affect Me?

Blogger Alex Shalman recalls how that question helped him carry on:

In my post, How To Make Everything The Bright Side, I mentioned that by asking myself a single question, I was able to change how I perceived the world. Yes, a single question is powerful enough to change your thoughts. Just ask yourself: How do I want this to affect me? … When you ask yourself about what you want, you are able to take control. If being happy in the face of adversity is what you want, than you choose to let yourself be affected positively. You take negative situations, and treat them as a learning experience… Instead of taking minor discomforts and turning them into major frustrations, let them affect you in a positive way. For example, you can turn a 48-hour commute into a learning experience.

That’s right – choose your state of mind and hold on to it!  It’ll change not just you but the world you encounter.  As PattiAnn said in her recent post, Grace on a Journey, nice begets nice:

I’ve focused on being more conscious of adding to the collective positiveness wherever I am rather than reducing the collective positiveness.

You know what I mean.  As you walk down the hall, you pass people who, probably unconsciously, are frowning.  It’s not that they don’t like you, they don’t even know you.  Yet, they frown.  They bring you down just a little, even if you don’t know them.

Other people you pass smile and say hello.  They bring you up just a little.  Pass enough people who are smiling and your whole outlook improves.

In my department, there is a woman who laughs easily, often and loudly.  She cheers up the whole group.  She’s one of those naturally cheerful people and she spreads her joy wherever she goes.

So, here’s what I’ve decided.  Being nice isn’t too bad, but what I really want to be is a joy bringer, whether that joy comes from cheerfulness or kindness or helpfulness.  I want to help those who are sentenced to pass this way with me to have a better day, week, month.  If I can succeed at that, I think I will be doing what God intended.  And I will be nice.

Successful sales people get their prospects’ heads nodding “yes” well before they go for the close… we can use that idea to influence all those naysayers out there!

3. Marshal Your Strengths

You’ve weathered storms of “no’s” in the past – how did you navigate through the discouragement?  Think back to the many problem/solution experiences you’ve had in your life to discover your very own resilience stories.  Inside those vignettes you’ll find your strengths. But if you’re in a hurry and need help figuring it out, then make time to go through the VIA Survey of Character Strengths which measures 24 Character Strengths – you’ll have to sign on and create your own profile to access the survey but that’s so you can get your very own results… I’ve done it and gotten very useful feedback – can’t hurt, so give it a try!

Once youre confident you know your strengths then proceed to the advice offered by publisher Senia Maymin in her article, Using Your Strengths in the Job Search:

As an executive coach to entrepreneurs and career changers, I use a three-step process: Assessment, Targeting, and Action. The first part – Assessment – is vitally important. This is where you can examine your strengths. This is where you can craft those stories about your background and your life that excite you. Then later in Targeting and Action, you can refer to strengths to make sure that the company fit is good from your point of view, and that the actions you take are consistent with your top strengths.

Whether you’re searching for a job or simply searching for a way through all the “no’s” in your life, the act of formulating your very own personal plan for “targeting and action” is equivalent to firing up a diesel locomotive to plow through the no-drifts! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the word play! Smirk.)

4. Use the Warrior’s Resilience Training (WRT) Checklist to Keep Yourself On Track

The WRT Checklist was developed to help Army Warriors thrive throughout their tour of duty and return home:

WRT Checklist

  1. Is this event fully within my control or not?
  2. Am I focusing on what I can control, as the Serenity Prayer suggests, or trying to change my environment?
  3. Am I maintaining and living my virtue, reason and highest purpose for myself, team and family?
  4. Am I reacting like a victim or responding as a Warrior?
  5. How will I remain resilient and thrive through this?
  6. Who should assist me professionally? (CSC, Chaplain, etc..)
  7. What true harm can come to me as a Warrior if I maintain my virtue, faith, and honor, including even my own death?
  8. Now that I am back in control, how will I lead others?

Resiliency, thriving and rationality must be practiced daily – the checklist can help you do that.

5. Breathe…

In her Wreck of the Day album, American song writer Anna Nalick shared the lyrics to her song, Breathe:

Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button, boys,
So cradle your head in your hands,
And breathe… Just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe.

There’s a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout ’cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again
If you only try turning around.

2 AM and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to…

Sometimes you just have to take several deep breaths and carry on… because, at least for this moment in time you’re facing a situation that demands your attention NOW!

When that’s the case, breathing well really is your best option.  Leo Babauta, publisher of ZenHabits.net comments:

Breathing can transform your life.

If you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, breathe. It will calm you and release the tensions.

If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.

If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life, breathe. It will remind you about how precious life is, and that each breath in this life is a gift you need to appreciate. Make the most of this gift.

If you have too many tasks to do, or are scattered during your workday, breathe. It will help bring you into focus, to concentrate on the most important task you need to be focusing on right now.

If you are spending time with someone you love, breathe. It will allow you to be present with that person, rather than thinking about work or other things you need to do.

If you are exercising, breathe. It will help you enjoy the exercise, and therefore stick with it for longer.

If you are moving too fast, breathe. It will remind you to slow down, and enjoy life more.

So breathe. And enjoy each moment of this life. They’re too fleeting and few to waste.

Yep, that about covers it.

So there you have it, 5 Ways to Carry On in the Face of Adversity. What can you add to the list of strategies that allow you to: Turn That NO Upside Down and Carry ON?

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2 comments to 5 Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On

  • Ellie, I’m so glad to have met you last evening! I’m finally having the chance to visit your wonderful website and I posted the link for my Facebook friends, too. I look forward to furthering our new friendship and relationship. The site is lovely, as are you. Thanks and all the best, Heather

  • Ellie

    Heather – good to have you here on BBC!

Cup o’ Inspiration

cup with steam swirl

Take a short break and consider the following:

“When you travel by train, you have only to purchase the ticket, enter the proper train and take a seat, leaving the rest to the engine. Why should you carry the bed and trunk on your head? So too, put your trust in the Lord and carry on to the best of your ability.”

Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Indian Spiritual Leader

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