I use to feel like a fraud when I would “trick” myself into being productive. In the worst of my depressive spells, I wasn’t able to do much other than lay in bed and make sure I took the dogs out for walks. But between very-depressed and not-depressed, there’s this miasma of grey and a whole lot of “don’t wanna.” And I would trick myself into getting things done. It would start with a list. Often, following the Getting Things Done philosophy, I’d pick out my three big have-to-dos, but sometimes I’d write down everything. Every. Little. Thing. And then I’d do the smallest least important one just so I could cross something off the list.
This wasn’t a cop out, pretending I was getting things done by doing unimportant things, it was tricking my brain into realizing I wasn’t a failure, unable to get things done, but when I checked something off the list, no matter how small, my brain saw I was getting things done and was much more amenable to getting the next slightly bigger thing done. And next thing you knew, I had a whole pile of things done. Maybe not the most important ones, but not only did I have a bunch of other things done, the weight of carrying all those un-done things was gone, leaving me (and my brain) much more able to tackle the bigger things.
It’s all a matter of mindset.
It’s been an interesting year and a half. Rewinding to last year, December. Jonathan was sick with giardiasis and lost over 30 pounds he couldn’t really afford to lose. I got pregnant. Jonathan took a job in the States working a Congressional campaign that summer. His candidate lost. I had Alex 17 days early by c-section because of too-high blood pressure, 3 days before Jonathan was supposed to fly down. He attended the birth via video, thanks to my mom. I lost my job.
Even three years ago, this probably would have broken us. Six years ago it certainly would have. When I listed off all the big crazies to Jonathan the other night, we couldn’t help but laugh. When you list it all out, it just sounds insane. And each of those things has absolutely changed our lives, but it hasn’t changed our emotional or mental stability the way it once would have.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments (and days) where we collapse in puddles of stress-goo or let the baby kick us in the face because it makes him happy and we just don’t have the energy to actually play with him. But then the other one takes the baby, sends the stress-freak to the beach or the bar or the cafe and we take a few breaths, pull out the Headspace emergency meditations, reset the mindset and move on.
Learning to reframe our mindset, our personal story, is probably the most important skill we’ve learned in the three years since leaving the US. Job offer in the US? Let’s reframe: move from volunteer to politico; move from expat to national. Baby? Reframe: DINKs to parents. No job? Reframe: opportunity to pursue new things.
In marketing, you get people to connect with you, with your brand, by telling your story to them. Mindset is all about the story you’re telling yourself. When I learned to be flexible with my mindset, to control it instead of letting it control me, I learned to truly take control of my life.
Do you find it difficult to shift your mindset when adversity hits? What pulls you back from a positive shift?