Doing the uneasy thing

When stress hits it’s easy to shut down. It’s easy to tune things out, to burn out, to shrink down. When uncertainty grows, it’s easy to focus on short-term tactics, to discount the future, to lose energy. What’s up with that?

To be clear, genuine uncertainty does require non-standard investment in future plans. If you have no way of knowing what direction the ship will turn then you have to do the strange thing and be somewhat prepared for both. That can be easy when the foundation remains solid, either direction, but when turning left is a world of heavy, dark seas and turning right is suddenly becoming, I dunno, a talk show host, well, then hedged plans are hard to build.

But what’s interesting to me is that when we’re placed in these kinds of situations it becomes easy to do just the easy things. When the world is pitching, you just want to grab ahold of the most stable ground, right at your feet, and hold on for dear life.

It strikes me as a sign of someone who’s really good at seeking opportunity that they might not have those tendencies. When the world turns, they dive in and turn with it. They figure out how to land on their feet no matter what eventuality arises. And then they end up 10 steps ahead of every person who turned inward.

How do you choose to do the uneasy thing? I’ve written before about the cost and necessity of getting good at reorientation. I think that’s about the same here as well.

Someone who’s totally prepared to handle the world in crisis has probably got their options laid out in front of them well before that crisis hits. They don’t get stuck doing easy things because they can take a mental inventory and outline all of their goals and half-implemented, potential plans in maybe 10 minutes. They’re reviewing the stuff they’ve already written down and put on the back-burner.

I’m inspired, as usual lately, by GTD-like systems. They obviously will help with practicing in capturing mental inventories and structuring and laying projects and opportunities. It’s easy to reconfigure when you’ve got a list of your 100 current priorities that you can just run down and re-order to account for your new context. There’s an enormous amount of future self-gratitude locked away in things like Someday/Maybe lists—if your whole world shifts, then these things may be exactly how you can find your focus.

So that’s my best guess as to how you keep doing uneasy things when surviving change. You probably have to have already known what they were. Not just the things you’re spending energy on today but also some sense of the potential future projects which aren’t quite right to start. If all of that is at your fingertips then ”riding the storm” can be as easy as shuffling some files and designing a new set of next actions.

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