Have you ever had one of those days that start off ok, but before long, the wheels fall off? A client, a colleague or your boss all need your time urgently, your computer crashes, and then your kid's school calls to tell you there's been an accident and you need to come right away. In rising panic and extreme frustration, you rush out, only to end up in a massive traffic jam caused by a downed tree. You can relate to the unlucky, fallen tree.
"Why is this happening to me!" you shout to anyone who can hear you. But this is the wrong question to ask. The real question is, "What am I going to do about it?" The answer depends on how you perceive your situation.
Our emotions dictate our thoughts and therefore influence our actions. If you continue to stress out, your imagination will exaggerate the worst consequences, ramping up anxiety even more. Your mind will be going too fast to make rational decisions and deal effectively with the problem. What you really need to do is breathe, slow down and make a plan. You also need to appreciate that times such as these are opportunities to grow. The fact is that dealing with adversity of all types is where we really learn and our brains literally grow.
Resilience is a key component to success and effective performance, as I explain in my upcoming book Reboot Your Mind: Seven Steps to Success for Mumpreneurs and Working Mothers. Resilience is also the key to personal growth and development. As much as we like predictability -- it gives us a sense of control -- the fact is that life doesn't always run smoothly. For example, you expect your children to develop in the usual stages, but they can still get sick, get upset with a friend, have a brush with a teacher, etc. Similarly, you can get sick, get upset with a client at work or have a brush with a colleague. All of this could happen on the same day. The healthiest mindset is to recognize and accept this and NOT be fazed by that dynamic.
We don't live in a fixed state -- all aspects of our lives are subject to constant change. The ability to deal with that change is critical. If you're not mindful of the realities of change, when it comes you are going to be overwhelmed and stressed. And in an online study of more than 6,000 women I recently conducted (1), that's exactly what I found the majority of working mothers complaining about.
As a working mother, you need to be ready for anything. This may sound like hard work -- and it can be, at times. However, the latest neuroscience suggests challenge and hard work are actually good for you. One study showed that monkeys who had to work very hard to find food demonstrated much greater brain development than monkeys who were simply given the food. Sure, there are days when you wish you didn't feel like a hungry monkey in an experiment, but well... some days are like that. And while it may seem like a pain at the time, making a few extra neural connections is worth the hassle. Doing this consistently is likely to significantly preserve your brain function, as well as develop your adaptability.
Adapting to the unexpected is also critical because our worlds have grown so much through technology, exponentially increasing the risk of a surprise. For example, 50 years ago if an elderly parent needed something, you might not know until they caught you at home on the phone or a letter arrived in the mail a few days later. Now they can text you instantaneously. Everyone can reach you all the time, if you let them. In a more complex world, decisions need to be made about priorities for focus and attention, a useful lesson induced by the need to be adaptive and resilient.
Developing and demonstrating resilience is also a great lesson for your kids. They will grow up in an even faster changing world, so learning to adapt is even more critical for their success.
If you're a working mother, you know that "this happens"... or something like that. When the unexpected strikes, breathe to control your emotions, which in turn will allow you to develop a plan to tackle the immediate issues. And if you have time, recognize the fact that adapting to the unexpected and the difficult will make you -- and your brain -- stronger.
I share my top success strategies, especially for working mothers, in great detail in my upcoming book Reboot Your Mind: 7 Steps to Success for Mumpreneurs and Working Mothers, which will be coming out later in 2015. I hope you'll subscribe to this blog to read more helpful tips and learn when the book comes out.
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1) I conducted an international market research by surveying women online and offline with over 6k respondents. My survey asked five simple questions: 1. what is your biggest frustration, challenge or fear?, 2. what have you tried but has not worked? 3. what worries you? 4. what are you afraid will happen if you don't resolve your biggest frustration, worry or fear? and 5. If you had one question what would it be?