This past week, the NY Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian all ran articles talking about the amount of stress everyone is encountering. It feels like we are in a perfect storm of stressors: The holiday season combined with Omicron rising, political uncertainty and divisiveness in many countries, the trade-offs of lockdowns vs business continuity, as well as supply chain risks, inflation concerns, and climate change causing weather catastrophes and melting ice caps.
This is affecting people at all levels in companies, from boardrooms and executives to the newest lower-level employees. The challenge is what can be done in the face of rising uncertainty, risk and danger?
One place to look for answers is seeing how people who lived many years before us coped in other stressful situations. For our book, Audacious Goals, Remarkable Results, my co-author and I researched three people who dealt with high levels of external stresses:
- The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who was the first to sail the Northwest Passage and the first to reach the South Pole.
- The great Victorian-era engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was instrumental in building the first tunnel under a flowing river, and the Great Western Railway.
- And the statesman Theodore Roosevelt who was the driving force behind preserving land for National Parks and the creation of the Panama Canal.
They were certainly not perfect people, or perfect decision makers. In their work and their lives they faced numerous external stresses. Amundsen risked scurvy, frostbite, his ship catching fire and nearly exploding, and sledging in treacherous Antarctic crevasse fields. Brunel suffered grave injuries in tunnel floods and worked 20-hour days on the railway, at one point jumping out of the way of a falling locomotive being moved from a barge to a set of tracks. Roosevelt faced fearsome political opposition to his work in creating the Panama Canal and at one point an assassin shot him in the chest. Surviving the shooting, with the bullet still lodged in his chest, he continued with his plans for the day which included giving a 84-minute campaign speech.
Though from 3 different professions and 3 different nationalities, they had similar coping strategies. Here are a few of the many we uncovered.
- Keep your eye not just on your goal, but on the great benefits that will be gained by achieving your goal. During Brunel’s dangerous time working in the tunnel, he was focused on both the completion of the tunnel, and more importantly on the benefit to urban living that the tunnel would enable.
- Discomfort is part of the process. Physical, emotional, financial discomfort and risk was all part of the striving to complete an epic endeavor.
- Patience is vital. Amundsen’s quest for the Northwest Passage took three and a half years. The Great Western Railway took Brunel six years to build. The US dig of the Panama Canal took eleven years.
It is clear now that none of the stressors we faced in 2021 will dissipate soon. We cannot wish the pandemic away. The risks will continue into 2022, but we can learn to take them in our stride by embracing the Amundsen-Brunel-Roosevelt approach, as we seek our own “glorious triumphs” (a phrase Roosevelt used in a speech) in the coming year.
What coping strategies will be using?
#resilience #coping #2022 #audaciousgoals #whenyourlifedependsonit #leadership #buildingresilience #goals #newyearresolutions #decisions