If I’ve learned anything over 50-some years, it’s that seas get rough and rogue waves are unavoidable. I’ve weathered my share of volatility this year–from a flood of raw sewage in my home, to my mother’s ongoing struggles with Alzheimer’s, to the untimely death of a dear friend. No sailor can control elements like these.
I take heart in this image of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a recent gift from someone who understands the way my year has gone. For me, it acts as a reminder of unpredictability—that the sea will do what it does and that we’re helpless against it.
So, in the spirit of the giving season, I wanted to share how I’m surviving the chop. These strategies have little to do with marketing, but everything to do with the mindfulness that serves leaders well in running small businesses. In my experience, these are the things that make me a better human—both personally and professionally—and bring a little more peace into my world.
1. Cultivate equanimity, come what may.
We all know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. Your heart races, your shoulders get tight. Your breathing becomes labored. If you’re like me, your mind runs amok and your dentist tells you to stop grinding your teeth.
When you introduce adversity into the mix, it becomes even more challenging to keep an even keel.
For me, maintaining a quiet, peaceful mind is a necessity, so I make meditation a daily practice. It’s taught me to think of stressful events and emotions as waves on the ocean. They rise. They fall. I know that if I ride out the ups and downs and just keep breathing, the seas will eventually calm.
This in no way indicates resignation or indifference. Remaining unperturbed with myself, with others, with my experiences in life—whether foul weather or a political environment gone afoul—requires commitment, focus and discipline. Still, the evenness of mind I receive is worth the effort.
2. Regularly celebrate one thing you love.
Those men in longboats likely weren’t joyriding when they confronted the claw-like crest of the Great Wave. But if they had gone to sea for the sheer love of it, they’d have been doing right by their mental health, even as they rode the barrel.
One of the best ways I’ve found to unburden my brain, mitigate stress and recapture control is to do something I love every day—without technology. I don’t always feel that I can spare the time, but I force myself to press on. When I close the laptop and escape in the water, I emerge in a different emotional space. Whatever pressures I may have felt seem diminished.
My advice? Put your phone down. Take a break from Facebook. Create time for yourself as if your life depends on it—because the quality of your life does.
3. Take immeasurable joy in giving back.
Being of service to something—a person, a community, a cause—changes us into people who give instead of those who just take. That, in and of itself, is healing. Doing something kind or selfless generates a sense of gratitude that makes me happier, more optimistic and more resilient.
I volunteer at the local community center, where I teach 3- and 4-year-olds how to swim. It makes me feel good to support the facility where I count my laps and it gives me the opportunity to impart a life-saving skill. More than that, blowing bubbles with giggling girls and boys in ill-fitting swim goggles is enough to make anyone forget their troubles.
When I’m with the kids, I feel like I belong to something larger than me—something that keeps me accountable, gives me new purpose and makes other people’s lives better. It’s no wonder volunteering has been proven to profoundly affect psychological well-being.
Have happy—and peaceful—holidays, my friends.
Don’t think that I stream sunshine through every stormy circumstance. Waves far less ominous than the Great One have pulled me under.
Now, though, as I continue to work at keeping my balance, I’m becoming convinced that keeping my balance is working—both as a preventive measure and, occasionally, as a life preserver. Focus on what’s important, I’ve learned, and happiness will always bob back to the surface.
And with that, I wish you all the best this holiday season.
May you be merry.
May you be grounded.
May you be present.
May you feel connected.
May you give with your whole heart.
May you receive with your whole heart.
I’d love to hear your strategies for staying calm and balanced in the face of rogue events. Everyone stands to benefit from your thoughts!