Why 2020 wasn’t a difficult year but rather different

December 07, 2020

2020 a diffrent year

‘Difficult’ means hard. It means things need more effort or skill to accomplish. ‘Difficult’ means a struggle and can be hard to understand. In the main, 2020 has been a ‘difficult’ year, but I am fed up with hearing it being referred to as that. I don’t like negative labels and the word ‘difficult’ is negative. I am a Positive Life Transitions coach and I have had my share of difficulties in life, that all came with their own labels. Divorce, Single Parent, Unemployed, Cancer sufferer. They have all been ‘difficult’ labels to wear but in all cases, I adopted a positive mindset and saw them as something ‘different’ instead. Something to learn from, to improve from and ultimately to live a better life from.

Over my years of ‘difficulties’, I accepted that you can’t always control what’s happening to you but you can control the way you react to it, and this conscious ability to choose how to react, is the ethos of what I now preach.  

Therefore, 2020 has been a ‘different’ year. I’m not allowing it to take the negative status of being ‘difficult’. Different sits more comfortably with me. I can still allow ‘different’ to feel hard and a struggle. I can still have my negative moments and those thoughts that Corona has ruined everything and nothing is fair. But by thinking of 2020 as simply different is that I am allowing it to feel different in a good way and not just a bad way. Difficult will always feel bad!

‘Differences’ in the workplace

This discussion is no more important than in the workplace where employees are expected to continue as best they can with the most significant transition at work since the introduction of the internet. That brought with it considerable difficulties as companies had to adapt and a workforce more used to faxes and Teletext had to cope with this new-fangled approach to communication. Yet look how positive, (ultimately), that transition has been. Okay, so people didn’t die from it, but I bet many older people thought they might (figuratively speaking!). 

The difference in our workplaces in 2020 took place overnight and in the beginning, no one expected them to be long lasting. It was quite a novel experience. Rolling out of bed to the 9 am meeting. Sitting in your boxers with a shirt and tie. Even the household pet began to come to our meetings. It was simply different and quite avant-garde. But the novelty wore off as the masks went on. The kitchen table became a battleground for territory and the megabits per second slowed to megabits per minute. Frustrations and arguments set in and the ‘difference’ became ‘difficult’.  

Plus, now it seems, it’s here to stay. We’ve had to accept that the physical way we work has probably changed forever. The whole workforce has been given laptops and we are all now proficient on Teams. Our head office has already been downsized and a new pair of slippers for Christmas this year is actually going to be a good thing. 

2020 has changed the landscape of our workplace, our home space and our mental mindset.

So why does a label of ‘difficult’ matter?

Because the one thing that we can control is the way we react to these difficult moments. But controlling our reactions is not something we have been trained to do. Mostly, we react according to the way something makes us feel without any consideration to the outcome this reaction is likely to bring. If every reaction changes the outcome shouldn’t we always make sure we are consciously focusing on the correct reaction? The positive, resourceful reaction to a negative situation? 

Our brains are not very good at not reacting to a negative situation. If anything, our brains go into overdrive when hit with negative thoughts and feelings. It’s because our brains cannot even begin to process a negative thought without first considering that thought and as we consider a negative thought we adopt a negative state of mind. If we have a negative state of mind we probably have negative physiology and begin to behave negatively. If we don’t consciously reconsider these thoughts then that negative, ‘difficult’ thing is going to be difficult because that is what your mind has focused on and that is how you are behaving.  

Don’t believe me?… Here’s a little test. I want you to not think of a black snowman. So, before you can not think about a black snowman your mind has to first think about that black snowman. Now that black snowman’s is in your conscious mind even though I told you not to let him in. And a black snowman is a difficult thing, isn’t it?

So how do we control our state of mind?

A positive conscious mindset can only be established by allowing the right parts of your subconscious mind to become conscious. This is a skill and takes practice but it is essential to ensure you thrive in times of difficulty. There are many techniques and exercises to do this but we must consciously remember to do them. 

Our conscious mind can only process 1% of all the data that comes into us through our five senses. It is our subconscious mind that processes the two million other pieces we receive every second! What an amazing thing our subconscious mind must be. But how many of us ever really consider our subconscious minds? If we did, it would become conscious, wouldn’t it? A bit like that black snowman! So, if our subconscious mind is processing 99% of our information and we can make it a conscious thing then shouldn’t we consciously try to do so? Consciously controlling our state of mind to only see things in a positive light. To stop calling 2020 a ‘difficult’ year and be able to see it as just ‘different’?

How about the people we work with? How are they coping with this different year? Why is it that some people seem to be thriving with all the changes yet you might be struggling? Missing the visit from the lunch van and the flirting with Mike from accounts? So much of our mindset is determined by what we see in others. We are constantly judging ourselves against a comparable that is unlikely to be fair. Often thinking others around us have it so much easier because they may have a home office, no kids at home to disturb them or just that they are so much better at sitting in slippers all day. 

We allow ourselves to be negatively impacted by the way we perceive others because our conscious mind is only processing 1% of the information. We are judging ourselves too harshly and creating a cycle of negativity accordingly. Once you are in that cycle it’s damn hard to get out and the struggles become real and happiness is a distant memory.

Let’s make Happiness at work and in life a choice

But I believe that happiness is a choice and no more so than when things get different! It’s just another state created by our conscious mind.

One of my solutions to staying happy whilst going through the tough stuff is below. 

  1. Identify what is ‘difficult’ – exactly what it is. The situation, the way it makes you feel, how things would be without it, and what’s the alternative. Identify what you can control and consciously forget about what you can’t. 
  2. Acceptance – there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. Even if Mike from accounts thinks you’re being a wimp. Give yourself permission to feel this way and really feel the emotion. It’s your subconscious mind’s way of telling you that something’s wrong – listen to it, then you can begin to act.  
  3. Act – Even if you only decide that you are not going to stay as you are, that’s a positive start if you think of it that way. But be brave, change can be scary but surely staying where you are is worse? Remember there is no try. Just do it or don’t. And if you don’t do it…. stop moaning about it!
  4. Motivate and believeFind your motivation. Not what Mike does, what you do. What do you do to make you feel more positive? Do more of it? Believe you can. Talk to yourself regularly and only use positive language (remember your subconscious mind is always listening). Fake it till you believe it. 
  5. Perseverance – Recognise nothing stays the same. The only thing that lasts forever is change so remember the saying ‘It will all be OK in the end. If it’s not OK it’s not the end!’ Go back to the beginning of these steps and start again. 
  6. Sharing – Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. When you share your struggles it’s amazing how many people will reach out to support you and when you share your goals or dreams they will push you to try harder to realise them. Even Mike, I promise you!

My mission is to help struggling workers understand why, choosing their state, understanding that they can and recognising that they should is an essential part of not just dealing with Corona in the workplace, but with everything in life.

I am running workplace presentations/ training sessions via zoom/teams to ensure that your employees cope with the tough stuff and re-label 2020 as a ‘different’ year. I guarantee Covid 19 will not be the last major transition to knock you for six. Get ready for whatever comes next and learn how to keep those ‘difficult’ labels at bay. 

Annabel Lovick, Positive Life Transitions Coach, would love to connect with you on Enterprise League.

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