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How to Make the Best of Hard Times: The ABCs of an Empowered Mindset

“Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” ~John Wooden

Aside from always wanting to celebrate turning forty in Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I had another special birthday dream: to run in an international marathon.

My flight and hotel were booked, and I was going with some girlfriends to Cyprus to run Limassol.

That was the plan.

And that plan, along with the plans of my fellow eight billion humans was suddenly shut down, along with the entire world—literally, in what felt like a matter of minutes.

It seemed almost impossible to comprehend an entire planet coming to a complete standstill, but the past five months have disrupted any experienced or perceived form of normalcy or control over our plans we assumed and believed we ever had.

Everything I was about to do was cancelled: my trip to Cyprus, visits abroad to see my parents and family, my daughter’s birthday party, Passover Seder with all the family, school, all our social and extra-curricular activities, my key note speaking engagements and leadership trainings for teams; even attending a funeral or to grieve with friends in mourning was not allowed.

The emotional and mental turmoil that we have faced these past months is one we have never confronted before. And amidst all these cancellations, lockdown, not to mention the emotional, health, and financial threats reminded me that the one thing we always have control over is our mindset and the choices we make to develop and strengthen our ability to choose our perspective, to change our narrative, and to practice emotional agility.

As someone who is deeply immersed in personal development leadership and mindset mastery, I also know there are very practical and tangible ways we can make this time a little easier and more positive.

As a result of going back to basics, I’ve used the past five months to spend time with my loved ones, appreciate the pause and quiet, complete two new workout programs, and make progress on a number of professional goals that I wouldn’t have been able to tackle had I been dwelling on the negative.

Trust me, anyone can go back to basics. It’s all about setting an intention and following through daily with consistency and discipline. And even working on just one of these will make a significant shift in your mindset mastery.

A – Affirmations

Choose and repeat short, powerful “I am” or “I can” messages every day. For example: I am courageous. I can handle what comes my way. It’s not enough to merely say your affirmations, you have to close your eyes and feel and embody them. Approached this way, affirmations have the profound effect of transforming your state of mind. The more you repeat them, the more you start to internalize them.

B – Beliefs

Make sure your beliefs are helpful. The thoughts you have about what’s possible for you and your life govern your feelings and performance. Make sure your beliefs advance you and propel you forward. We never perform against a belief, so it’s up to us to make sure our beliefs push us toward what we truly want to be, do, and have. The best news is we can change our beliefs.

C – Clarity

Clarity and motivation are very closely related. When we are clear and specific about what we want, who we want to be, and what we want to do and have, that clarity fuels our motivation. Vague desires lead to vague outcomes. Clear objectives lead to clear results. Be specific about what you ask for and what goals you are working on. No one is driven by ambiguity.

D – Dream big

The rule for a dreamer’s mindset is “Anything is possible!” Give yourself permission to imagine what you would love to accomplish, how you would love your well-formed outcome to look and feel. Get out of your own way and leave the practicalities for later. First, you have to dream.

When we dream, we get to separate our dreamer’s mindset from our “realistic” mindsets, which keep us locked in strategy and often clouded by what could go wrong and why it won’t work. The dreamer’s mindset gives us permission to see beyond the here and now and create the future we deeply desire.

E – Exercise

Our mindset thrives on good hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen are all affected by working out. These hormones reduce stress, aid sleep, effect aging, and help with menopause.

Exercise is a crucial part of a fantastic morning ritual. No one regrets a workout, and your body, mind, and soul will thank you too! The natural endorphin high makes us feel good, and when we feel good, our attitude, outlook, and behavior is enhanced for the better.

F – Focus

Whatever we focus on grows. Focus on your strengths, what you enjoy and appreciate, and what you want to create for yourself and others. There will always be distractions and temptations to try throw us off path. Let’s make a concerted effort to focus on what matters most. We always get to choose what to focus on.

G – Growth Mindset

People with a fixed mindset believe that qualities are inborn, fixed, and unchangeable. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that these abilities can be developed and strengthened by way of commitment and hard work. A growth mindset plays a critical role in how you cope with life’s challenges.

H – Happiness

The happiest people I know have a mindset of appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness. They live in the present moment and actively look for the positive. They see opportunities in adversity and lessons in difficult challenges. Happiness is never a destination mindset. It is about being where you are and savoring the moment.

I – Integrity

People with a great mindset live with integrity, in alignment with their core values. They ‘walk their why’ with authenticity and use their values as guiding lights to help them make choices and decisions.

J – Jumping to conclusions

One of the ways we can train our brain to combat cognitive distortions is to become aware of when we jump to conclusions about ourselves, others, and events.  A healthy mindset enables us to remember that our “mental map” is not the true terrain and that we view the world through a subjective lens. Our brain deletes, distorts, and generalizes information. Our job is to put things into perspective, question our assumptions, and unlearn unhelpful thoughts.

K – Kindness

A kindness mindset reminds us to practice self-compassion and empathy for ourselves and others. Life is hard, and kindness is what enables us to take risks, try again when we fall, and grow from our mistakes. It also reminds us that we don’t have to achieve things by ourselves and that collective leadership matters. Everything in life is connected, and kindness reinforces how we impact one another and how our shared purpose and responsibility to a greater good binds us.

L – Learning

A curious mindset enables us to ask powerful questions. The greatest asset a person can have in a disruptive, uncertain, and complex world is the ability to unlearn and learn. Which of your assumptions need to be challenged? Do you question your limits and show up in the world with a healthy curiosity and open-mindedness to see things with new eyes? Do you show up as an expert or do you show up as a life student?

M – Meditation

Meditation is the most wonderful gift to rewire our neural pathways and live with greater mindfulness, calm, and balance. There are so many ways to incorporate meditation into your life using simple techniques and apps. In mindfulness practice, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgment.

N – New

Scientists have discovered that novelty perks up the reward system of our brains, inciting our sense of adventure—exploring or learning something new. Our brains are made to be attracted to novelty. And it turns out that it could actually improve our memory and learning capacity.

There’s a region in our mid-brain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area. This is essentially the major “novelty center” of the brain, which responds to novel stimuli. This is closely linked to areas of the brain called the hippocampus and the amygdala, both of which play large roles in learning and memory.

O – Optimism

Optimism is the ability to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. This outlook enables confidence and hope. It creates the emotional space that helps you to remain positive in the face of adversity, be creative in finding solutions, and persevere through obstacles on the way to reaching your goals.

P – Perfect

Actually, there’s no such thing! Life is messy and hard, and nothing (and no one) is perfect. The moment we realize this, we are free to move forward and make progress without “perfection” holding us back, keeping us stuck, and limiting us.

The moment we drop the need for “perfect” we drop the imposter syndrome that says we’re not good enough and stop comparing ourselves to others. When we have the courage to embrace imperfection, we stop procrastinating and put our creations into the world even if they don’t seem perfect enough. We move away from the “waiting place” and start fully living.

Q – Quiet

Spending time alone in silence is a wonderful way to quiet the psychological noise we endure on a daily basis. It’s harder than it seems. Our lives are filled with stress, and the noise in our minds has many sources: fears, doubt, excuses, other people’s opinions, and expectations—so much pressure.

Quiet time is exactly what we need to relax, rejuvenate, replenish, and nurture ourselves. Self-care is not a luxury. A healthy mindset requires quiet down time. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing is the very best use of your time.

R – Reflection

True transformation and growth are about action and reflection. We don’t want to live on autopilot just doing what we’ve always done. We want to consciously pause and reflect on what works, what we want to adjust and change, and what we want to continue to do. Making reflection part of our mindset development means we care about pausing and improvement and we are committed to doing better.

S – Scribing

Journaling is the most magical way to bypass cognition and get into your subconscious. When we scribe, we can tap into our deepest thoughts and emotions and start to bring to our awareness valuable insights that can advance our success.

Journaling helps us understand ourselves and gives us a safe space to clear our minds and connect to our feelings. Emotional intelligence always begins with self-awareness. Journaling helps us solve problems, work through complex issues, and make sense of things that in our minds remain tangled. Journaling provides a private space for self-talk and opens up doors to discovering limiting beliefs and heartfelt wishes.

T – Time Management

A healthy mindset is a mindset that honors priorities. Do you make time for what matters most to you? Do you get your highest value activities accomplished first thing in the morning? How do you set yourself up for success? When we manage our time and realize that time is the only resource we can never regenerate, we live with purposeful intentions and are less anxious. In fact, time management is far more about freedom than getting more things done.

U – Unique

What makes you special? There is only one you! You have an exclusive combination of talents, gifts, and qualities that no one else has, and your purpose is to unwrap them and share them with the world. There is only one you. That is your superpower.

V – Visualize

The most successful people know what they want, and they visualize themselves already living that life. When you can see in your mind what you aim to achieve, you can start to create it.

Many people aren’t aware of how powerful visualizing can be. The trick is to always visualize what you want as if you already have it. It is so important to recruit all your senses so that you experience the high-resolution details of your vision. This creates powerful mental rehearsal so that you start to get comfortable and familiar with what you are striving to accomplish and who you ultimately what to become. You get to meet your future self!

W- Winning

A healthy mindset begins when we create our own definition of success and stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It’s important to focus on winning (meaning living your own ideal life), not winners (other people who you think are doing better than you), and feed your mind with positive thoughts about what’s possible.

X: eXpectation

Manage your expectations to put yourself in a better mental state. Failure can take a massive toll on your emotions. What’s important is your mindset before and after disappointment.

Disappointment sometimes comes from the mismatch between reality and expectation. When you are disappointed, ask yourself: What were my expectations about these circumstances? What expectations did I have about myself? What do I expect from others and circumstances that are not in my control?

Y – Yes!!!!

Say yes to opportunities that challenge you. Get out of your comfort zone. Say yes to new experiences, say yes to challenges that are going to propel you forward, say yes to investing in yourself and your dreams, say yes to making a difference to others, say yes to becoming as helpful as you can be to enable others to win, say yes to loving yourself and giving yourself permission to try.

Z – Zest

A zest for life will change the way you process hard times, failure, or roadblocks. It’s a mental shift that opens up faith, excitement, possibility, new horizons of success, and a much deeper satisfaction. Change is tough, but zest helps you cope, pivot, and adapt more effectively and most of all, gives us the bandwidth to truly appreciate the magic and wonder that life has to offer.

Everyone I speak to is feeling a sense of grief, insecurity, frustration, exhaustion, and concern right now. I know that going back to basics won’t magically dissolve the real difficulty and mix of emotions we are all experiencing. But they truly do help us feel better.

And when we nurture courage, resilience, hope, optimism, faith, and thankfulness, we’re far better able to work with what we have, to learn through and from tough times and find strengths we never knew we had, and to bring out our absolute best and make the absolute best out of our challenges.

Challenges change us.

Let’s leverage this challenge to change us for the better and propel us toward becoming the best general managers of our lives and choices.

About Andi Saitowitz

Andi is a Professional Life Coach, Global Personal Development Strategist & Lumina Practitioner, published author, motivational speaker, blessed mom of 3 awesome children, and lover of books, coffee, kindness and sport. In her spare time, she is involved in charity work and community. Andi’s coaching practice incorporates techniques and tools from the fields of Behavioral Science, Organizational Communications, Psychology, Mindfulness & NLP. andisaitowitz.com

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