We’ve all seen the Keep Calm and Carry On motivational posters. The original poster was intended to raise the morale of the British people back in 1939 in anticipation of German bombing campaigns during World War II.
What better slogan to epitomize British stoicism — a “stiff upper lip” in the face of unimaginable terror. And The Blitz did indeed happen, and the English people did indeed carry on.
But despite the fact that 2,500,000 copies of Keep Calm and Carry On were printed, they were never distributed, so hardly anyone saw them. The few who did see them found them patronizing and divisive.
So is it even good advice?
Yes, because calm allows for grace under pressure. Calm allows you to stay clear-headed and make the tough decisions and take the necessary actions.
Calm is not about willful ignorance, or blind optimism. Pretending the problem doesn’t exist isn’t going to help you when it’s most certainly real.
Now and in the coming weeks, you’ll likely be faced with tough decisions and necessary actions, especially given that you can’t necessarily rely on the institutions in your life to do the right things. It’s up to you.
Here’s some advice on how to maintain your calm, first and foremost:
Four Ways to Calm Your Mind in Stressful Times | Emma Seppala
If you’re still not clear on why you feel dissatisfied in your mid-to-late 40s, this article does a good job of summing it up. Remember, things get better around 50, so hang in there!
Why We’re Unhappiest in Our Late 40s | Greater Good
“Recent research in neuroscience suggests that you might look to the library for solutions; reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking.”
The Case for Reading Fiction | Harvard Business Review
Authentic Like Everyone Else
Most people would define authenticity as “you doing you,” and who cares what other people think. But research shows that people feel most authentic when they conform to a particular set of socially approved qualities.
The Inconvenient Truth about Your “Authentic” Self | Scientific American
Mind Over Martini
I definitely used to drink too much, but total abstinence made me feel like a quitter. Once I shifted to being more mindful about consuming alcohol, however, I now hardly drink at all. Go figure.
Down below, Trudi has more advice on maintaining your calm with mental models. And in the Flashback, we’ve got some candy that won’t rot your teeth or raise your insulin levels.
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Emotions feel automatic, like uncontrollable reactions to things we think and experience. Psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett now shows that emotion is constructed in the moment, which means you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. (Amazon)
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By Trudi Roth
There’s a sickness that’s been spreading for a while now, one that’s infecting us all. It clouds our judgment, compelling us to act out of fear and outrage. Stoked by the media, encouraged by even close family and friends, it’s the impulse to react without stopping to think.
Look, I get it. The swirl of information and disinformation is dizzying, which heightens gut reactions to protect family, health, livelihood, and safety. That makes it easy to forget factoring in things like context and biases.
Now’s the perfect time to pop a few mental models into your daily routine to inoculate you against the threat of emotionally driven bad decisions.
Examine Hanlon’s Razor
While there are many cognitive problem-solving tools that can help you make sense of the insanity of our daily news cycle, the heuristic Hanlon’s Razor is a great way to diffuse the idea that everyone’s out to get you.
Simply put, it’s about not attributing maliciousness to that which is more easily explained by incompetence, ignorance, or neglect.
When we feel people are malicious toward us, we instinctively become a negatively coiled spring, waiting for the right moment to take them down a notch or two. Removing malice from the equation, you give yourself emotional breathing room to work toward better solutions and apply more models.
In other words, precisely the kind of rose-colored goggles to put on when you’re watching or reading the news, skimming your social media feeds, or having a conversation with someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum from you.
Operate with a latticework of mental models
It’s faulty thinking to imagine that slapping on one cognitive filter will give you all you need to make better choices and take more productive action. Multiple perspectives shape a world view; you get into trouble when you allow it to boil down to just one.
Back to Hanlon’s Razor, for example. While it’s useful to write off apparent malevolence in many situations, it’s also true that some people have ill intent. So put into the mix other mental models for a healthy dose of clarity and rationality. Some to consider:
- Relativity, which reminds us that everyone has a different perspective. We can then take a step back and have some empathy.
- Probabilistic thinking, where you use math and logic to visualize potential outcomes (this can potentially calm Covid-19 concerns while still taking prudent action).
- Feedback loops, where you notice specific interactions within a broader context. This allows you to spot incremental actions and essential people to help you move towards a smart solution and a better future.
So don’t forget to apply your cognitive filters. Training your brain to ditch distractions and uncover valuable, relevant information is the ultimate chill pill.
Using Models to Stay Calm in Charged Situations | Farnam Street
Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy
The Last of the Mohicans, 1982
Take one 15-year-old lead singer, add in former members of Adam Ant’s band, and you get one sweet new wave song — I Want Candy. A former member of Bow Wow Wow named George Alan O’Dowd went on to superstardom, calling himself Boy George. (YouTube)
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