Being at the middle stage of life has its benefits, both personally and professionally. For the most part, we’re confident in our abilities and are striving for mastery, if not perfection.
And then, crisis hits. With everything upended, there is no clear context for decision making today, no apparent roadmap to tomorrow.
This is a weird limbo to live in. And it’s compounded by what others around you are doing — for example, there are the shiny, happy types who elevate #quarantinelife to an art form. Others aspire to no more than getting through this in one piece, which is more realistic but also may not work so well if your livelihood is performance-driven.
Navigating the two extremes to stay on track is a discipline that’s less about clinging to one ideal or the other, and more about being limber.
There’s a mantra that leading architects of change (not to mention mental health proponents) embrace: progress over perfection.
The problem is that kind of mental agility does not come naturally.
Evolution has wired our minds for distraction, as in eons past, constant attention to a dangerous landscape helped us survive. They are also wired for empathy, as this helped us gather in groups and create communities. And they are wired for ego, the most basic mechanism of self-preservation.
So it’s easy to get tripped up by how our brains are hardwired. The trick is to recognize the traps and plan a more fluid way forward.
Distractions are always challenging, but they’re next-level in a crisis. Take a deep breath — literally — as the best way to combat distraction is to become mindful of where you place your focus and awareness. Focus lets you zoom in on the details, while awareness adds big-picture context, so you can “separate the signals from the noise.”
Empathy may also be compromising your ability to act effectively. While it may seem like an appropriate response, particularly in troubled times, too much emotional resonance can derail you. Instead, choose compassion, which allows you to act with kindness and concern without compromising your agility.
And finally, if there were ever a time to put your ego aside, it’s during a crisis. What you did in the past doesn’t matter in the face of an uncertain future. Instead, tap into your areas of confidence and conviction and focus on being helpful. Selflessness is a simple pivot that propels you (and those you serve) forward.
In a crisis and well, always, remember that we are each a work in process— and progress. The goal is not to be perfect, just to keep going.
Perfectionism Will Slow You Down in a Crisis (Harvard Business Review)