Fear is one of the strongest feelings keeping us from reaching our potential. In a way, it is one of the worst enemies we have. This strongest natural survival instinct though necessary, often makes us do crazy stupid things and usually stops us from doing the right thing. But how does fear grip us? How does it hamper our ability to think and act? What happens when adversity beyond our control to manage, understand, and even predict becomes our reality? I am talking about a black swan event.
When we celebrated this new decade in our lives, little, did we know that an outbreak of a deadly virus was going to invade our complacent world? This outbreak from Wuhan, China, managed to bring the entire world to a standstill, as we entered an era of a pandemic. Within days, trillions of dollars vanished from the market, small and medium-sized businesses suffered losses and risk of shutdown due to the lockdown, and freelancers and consultants went out of work pushing the world in growing anticipation of a recession.
Did you ever stop thinking about what might happen to your organization due to this crisis? Would work ever be the same again? With the world becoming so unpredictable, it is normal for us to scour the newspapers and the internet for hours to search for news related to the COVID-19 virus. Yet, we firmly believe that it wouldn’t be us that is impacted. Even though we talk about the crisis, situation, and after effects, deep down, we are convinced everything is going to be just fine. This keeps us locked in our houses and our minds, as we worry, complain, and converse with our friends about the present situation, instead of making a concrete Plan B. Is this positivity or denial?
People who have made a Plan B or are now making a plan B, find themselves less worried, panicked, and fearful of the eventual adversity knocking on their door. But what happens to people without a Plan B? Let’s have a look at it and decide for ourselves if we belong in any of the seven stages:
Stage 1: I don’t know – You hear about something that has happened somewhere in the world, and you just read it like a story. You ignore most of the details and move along.
Stage 2: I don’t think so – You observe and obsess about this adversity getting serious but reach to a conclusion that has no impact on your day to day work. You grow strong opinions on why this happened and why this will never happen in your peripheral.
Stage 3: I don’t like this – The growing adversity starts making you feel a bit nervous about it, not limited to one place or sector. You see the size and intensity of it and are a bit worried, but life goes on as usual.
Stage 4: I am scared – Now you feel the heat as it snowballs into your peripheral. You have no idea what to do. You find yourself desperately looking for more information and comparing this situation to a movie. You wish to go back to Stage 2 and pay a closer look at the developments.
Stage 5: I am helpless – Stage 4 very quickly changes into Stage 5 as you find yourself in a fit of panic. You find yourself making irrational decisions and spreading anxiety. You are now convinced that the worst will happen to you and the world. You become a part of the problem and create more panic.
Stage 6: I can’t believe it – Once the panic relaxes, you feel depressed and play the blame game. You hold everyone from the government to the lawmakers for making this situation what it is.
Stage 7: I wasn’t really worried – After a while, this situation becomes the new reality, and you finally accept it and think the worst is finally over. The moment to learn a lesson from adversity has already passed you. You merrily go back to your old ways ignorant of what the future has really in store for you.
Can you relate to this pattern? We saw this as it unfolded with COVID-19. There was complete ignorance of what this could become, and we never thought this would make us sit at home for months. The panic around the unknown and the unpreparedness to face the unexpected adversity made people go into a panic frenzy of stocking food, sanitizers, and of course, the renowned toilet paper. Reading new opinions (some correct but mostly incorrect information) made us more and
more depressed. And as this had become the new reality, we learned no lesson and continued our old ways.
Staying positive is a virtue, but staying ignorant is not. When you remain ignorant, you realize that this adversity is way worse than you thought to make you go into a confused state of perpetual fear. So, let’s make a Plan B today to insure us against the unpredictable and survive the impossible. Don’t let fear win; instead, win it with a Plan B!
Lithuania calling this October. Really happy that I will be speaking at the PMI Congress in Lithuania on how to survive adversity. In my talk, I will share my idea on why we need a plan B and how to choose and make your Plan B.
April 27, 2020
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