Most of the time, we can understand that feelings are not facts. But strong feelings, like negativity and insecurity, make that truth hard to grasp. In those moments of hurt, it’s natural for us to go narrow and lock in on what just happened, what’s not going well, what’s scary, or what’s not possible.
For leaders, it’s important to recognize the dangers of narrow. When we can’t access more expansive thinking, we aren’t able to strategize, respond, or even understand what’s really going on well. Small thinking eliminates possibility and prevents us from moving forward.
The next time you’re hurting, stressed, or overwhelmed, use these three steps to process and shift from what’s right now to what could be:
Notice the doom loop. Both positive and negative feelings and thoughts are valuable. The challenge comes when we lose the natural balance of reason and emotion and get stuck in a doom loop of negativity. Work to catch yourself when mental narratives become primarily about fear, worry, or insecurity. Seeing that storyline and recognizing its flaws provides helpful clarity. Life is rarely all bad. What’s more common is we aren’t seeing what’s good.
Create space. One of the most valuable disciplines leaders can develop is the ability to let go, step away, clear your mind and mood, and then return to the challenge when ready. A clear sign of readiness is seeing an issue from many sides, not just from the most compelling angle. Distance from difficulty is often an essential first step to resolution, even though our instincts want to keep us ruminating.
Push to possible. When we feel the sting of hurt or disappointment, our minds can linger in the narrow. Space allows those feelings to fade. When we return ready to resolve the matter, we regain our ability to imagine what could be next, best, or helpful. Consider as many ways as possible beyond what you are facing. Out of those many paths, your next, best steps emerge. Move forward. Think and step again. Welcome more positive thoughts as you build momentum. Continuing to take action opens up a broader scope of solutions.
Going beyond narrowness is where success lies. Leaders realize all emotions are valuable. Some call us to rest and recover. Some ignite opportunity. When we create the space to recharge, we are rewarded with the opportunity to think and be bigger. That clarity allows us to step toward what’s possible.