Have you ran in a marathon, played a frustrating round of golf, or raised children? Well, strong leadership can sometimes be a combination of all three. Business leaders require long-lasting endurance to reach what appears to be a never ending finish line. They also need the mental resiliency, emotional intelligence, and tenacity to stay fully focused when it counts.
Like any of these activities, leadership can be a frustrating rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, wins and losses, and it requires mental strength and tenacity to overcome the unpredictability that is inevitable. And sometimes, even with the best strategy in place and a solid skillset, external obstacles arise that throw off your ability to remain calm, centered, and stay on course. Then, self-doubt creeps in and other internal obstacles, like fear and worry, start to erode your mental state and stand in the way of accomplishing your goals.
The key to ultimately reaching success during trying times, is to remain patient and transform the incessant stream of internal obstacles—like worry, doubt, and negativity—before they have a chance to sabotage your performance or results. Here’s how.
Realize That Thoughts Are Not Facts—and They Can Be Changed
Fear of an unknown future and the inevitability of uncertain, unanticipated events amplify worry and rumination. A study published in the journal of Behavior Research and Therapy investigated the relationship between the intolerance of uncertainty and worry in a non-clinical population. Results showed that individuals with a higher intolerance of uncertainty were more prone to catastrophic worry and rumination.
If your mind gets caught in worry, don’t allow yourself to become overly attached to those thoughts. We have tens of thousands of thoughts per day, and those thoughts change all the time. It’s like an endless stream. At some point you must ask yourself, is this worry actually constructive? Move beyond ruminating on one worrisome thought, and observe the stream instead, shift your focus from the things you cannot change to the steps you can take to make change. Focus on the action or disposition you can embrace in the present moment to counter your worry.
Always Return to the Present
Pay attention to the present moment in order to focus on your strengths and solutions at hand. When your mind has a clear understanding of the present challenge or obstacle, without being tainted by the emotional entanglement that comes with recollection of past failures or your anticipated future demise, it will be easier to determine the necessary steps to take and how to best thrive from your current position.
Change Your Attitude About Obstacles
Opportunities and obstacles are a package deal. If you don’t know one, you won’t recognize the other. Accept whatever difficult situation is at hand and its associated emotional thoughts, and start looking for the opportunity hidden inside to overcome the obstacle. When you find it, congratulations are in order. You have just discovered the doorway to patience.
Develop Greater Self-Control and Perseverance
It takes self-control and perseverance to achieve the emotional intelligence and the fortitude required to alter your thought patterns. Yes, it can be difficult to develop, but it is more productive in the long run than getting trapped in sabotaging rumination and self-defeating mental habits. A recent study published by the Journal of Business Venturing in September of 2015 examined the role of self-control and how it relates to intentions and action. Individuals with greater self-control and authority over personal thoughts are more likely to take the steps needed to overcome external obstacles and achieve success. There can be only one in charge, you or your mental habituation.
Do What You Can to Limit Your Stress
Anxiety tends to exacerbate worry and recurring self-defeating thoughts—and vice versa. Research shows that rumination and cognitive avoidance increase feelings of sadness and anxiety. Learn to control your stress levels by cultivating mindful leadership that will help you gain better control over your emotions and thoughts. (My recent blog post on the ATD Management Community of Practice provides helpful tips on how to reduce workplace stress.)
Stay Grounded in Patience
Just like any good seed growing in rich soil, running a marathon, or raising your children, worthy efforts can take a long time to come into fruition. Success is not always linear and rarely instantaneous. If the outcome you desire does not come as quickly as you’d like, avoid the trap of fear, worry and doubt. Keep transforming through the challenge and trust in your ability to improve, adjust, grow and navigate the storm. These same practices can be used in business environments to achieve success through waves of difficulty. Eventually, worthy efforts and right actions pay off.