Previously published on Forbes
Despite my best intentions to start my day thoughtfully and with gratitude, more often than not, this is what I do instead: I pick up my phone. Before I even pour a cup of coffee, I get lured into the scroll of doom: rising Covid-19 numbers, protests that turn ugly, unemployment skyrocketing, parents working harder than ever, economic gloom all around.
Then I work to lift myself out of this downward spiral. Fortunately, I am a highly resilient person. I eventually bounce back even after devastating events. I find joy again.
Maybe you’re lucky and rebound quickly, even in the face of the doom scroll. But it might be good to take a moment out and consider what it takes to cultivate resilience — because that’s something we can all use more of right now.
Look for Good
Energy follows attention. In other words, the things you are noticing, focusing on, and paying attention to are the things your energy will go toward. If you remain focused on the negative, the gloom and doom, your energy is likely to be low. You may feel depleted, tired, irritable, angry.
If, however, you can switch your attention to what’s good, what’s beautiful, what’s working, you can direct your energy to higher ground. Your brain will be more lit up and active — literally, as Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of “The Power of Appreciation,” shows in these brain scans of a person when they’re engaged in negativity vs. when they’re engaged in appreciation.
In his article What Can the Brain Reveal about Gratitude? Glen Fox explains:
“The regions associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that light up when we socialize and experience pleasure. These regions are also heavily connected to the parts of the brain that control basic emotion regulation, such as heart rate and arousal levels, and are associated with stress relief and thus pain reduction.”
And it doesn’t have to be that complicated to get there. Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor suggests writing down three things you’re grateful every day for 21 days in a row. That simple act, he says, “significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing.”
Share Your Experience
Here’s an idea: Talk to people you work and live with. Share the load when things get heavy instead of trying to carry it all yourself. And make room for others to share their experience, too.
My friend and colleague Harvey Anderson, HP Inc’s General Counsel, told me about town hall meeting he participated in recently that focused on the systemic nature of racism. During the meeting, he shared his personal experience as a Black man being targeted because of the color of his skin.
“Being a part of these town hall meetings was one of the most powerful experiences of my 30-year career,” he said. “I had my doubts about it. There were 5,000 people listening. I was stunned by the turnout.”
We encourage the teams we work with to create a practice called a “check-in.” We begin every significant meeting, whether in person or virtually, this way. We invite people to respond to a question like, “What’s become clearer since we last met?” Or, “What’s it like to be you right now?” Then we listen for as long as a person wants to share.
Check-ins allow us to know one another better. They’re how we stay connected and know what our teammates are thinking about, worrying about, and proud of. And we can make sense of our own experiences just by having them heard and witnessed by our co-workers.
Create Your Future
One of the best ways I know to rebound from a setback is to get up and get going. Create something. Make something happen that wasn’t going to happen without you. This is what leaders do when they create a vision and a strategy. Goals are a form of creating the future, too.
One of my teachers, Dr. Joe Dispenza, likes to say, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Often times, when we engage in the doom scroll, we are passively watching what has been created by others. And it’s not necessarily what we would have created. So. What would you like to create for your life? For your team? How can you direct your energy and attention to creating a future? Create. Set goals. Imagine a bright future.
These three things are what I now do without even thinking about them. I consistently look for the good, talk to people I trust, and create my future to be one that I would enjoy. Maybe today you could try one of them on, just to see if you feel a bit more resilient.