COVID-19: Leading Out of the Crisis!

COVID-19 Leadership Tips

Whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your workgroup, here are 5 Tips to improve your leadership abilities.

Remember all of the articles, posts, sermons, and presentations on Vision 20/20 we heard in the last quarter of last year, not to mentions the new year’s messages from presidents to preachers. Who would have thought we would be where we are today!

As we continue to grind through the impact of COVID-19 and begin to see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about mental health.

May is National Mental Health Month.   Here are my thoughts about how to be more resilient in these tough and uncertain times.

I believe these thoughts will empower you as a person, and if you are a leader, they will help you provide clear leadership in this time of crisis.

These thoughts originally came from  Dr. George Everly, I have personally found them invaluable in my own life journey. 

1. Structure is an antidote to chaos. One of the challenges I have had since becoming a “Work at Home” specialist has been in maintaining a routine. In my own life, if I fail to focus, my mind will naturally tend to drift towards patterns of worry. And, we know all that worry does is distract and wastes time.

So, what it the antipode to worry? Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It is the essential human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Another way of looking at is you cannot control everything in life, you can only control your response to it. That is why it is so important to build structure into your life. Structure minimizes distractions and leads to more positive outcomes.

2. People follow confident people, who display optimism, are forward-thinking and have a plan. So, whether you are leading yourself, your family, or your team, you need to show these qualities. Because the only failure in leadership is the failure to lead.

3. Information is a powerful tool. Why? Because it reduces fear and anxiety and fosters hope and resilience. As a rule, people do not want to be taken care of but want information that will allow them to become more resilient by learning to take care of themselves. If you are a leader and you are not frequent and honest communication with your team, someone else might be. Don’t lose your leadership to someone with faster thumbs and a broader social media outlet.

4. Give and receive support. Dr. George Bonano’s book, The Other Side of Sadness, the most incredible boost to the recovery, and the reinforcement for resilience is feeling supported by family, friends, coworkers, and supervisors. Many researchers have shown the single best predictor of human resilience is to feel supported. Whether it is in your family, a network of friends, or your work team, support is the key ingredient to recovery.  Knowing people have your back and that you have theirs has been proven time and time again to be the single most positive influential factor in overcoming adversity.

5. Maintain and expand your spiritual practices, which may include reading scriptures, meditating, prayer, and worship.

In closing, control what you can, accept, and cope with what you can’t.

The ancient stoic philosopher Epictetus put it this way:

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Have you ever read the entire Serenity Prayer, I think it is very appropriate as we gradually begin to move into a new normal. Though attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, some have traced it back to 500 AD.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

I hope you have a wonderful week.

May you rise to the challenges that you are facing, and in doing so, leave a legacy.

Hey, would love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment!

John

PVB356

COVID-19: How to Effectively Lead in a Crisis

COVID-19How to lea

Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist
and the ability to communicate it.
Simon Sinek

What is leadership? It is the ability to influence others.

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a review of leadership in high risk, often life and death situations, Thomas Kolditz and Donna Brazil (2005) concluded that authentic leadership is most valuable. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic leaders who possess high moral character and ethical reasoning. These types of leaders are most likely to create loyalty, obedience, admirations, and respect. These leaders lead by giving purpose, motivation, and providing direction “in extremis” conditions. Authentic leaders exert much of their effectiveness by allaying the fears of and giving hope for those who follow.[i]

In a crisis, a leader must possess a general belief in their ability to make a difference and to be successful, regardless of the challenge. Additionally, this sense of confidence should be communicated to all who will follow. The team must perceive the leader as someone who is trusted, someone who possesses strength and competence to lead those who follow to safety and success successfully.

Throughout history, individuals seek out leadership in a time of crisis. The characteristic qualities that most people seek from a leader are competence, benevolence,  an acute awareness of the present, and a visionary eye towards the future. As a result, leaders seem to exert much of their effectiveness by allaying fears, ensuring safety, and providing hope for those whom they lead.

I have observed the way an organization and its leadership respond to a critical incident that will determine a multiplicity of things.

If the response is reactive, unplanned, or uncoordinated, the response will be ineffective.  A chaotic response will waste resources, and might even be counterproductive. Hurricane Katrina still stands as a dire reminder of the consequences of failed leadership and failed coordination of services. More recently, the failure of key players in the government of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in October of 2017. In both cases, failed leadership and the failed coordination of services cause much unnecessary pain, death, and suffering. NOTE: While the logistical challenges supporting Puerto Rico were massive, there was a significant breakdown of distribution by state and local governments.

If, on the other hand, the response is responsive, planned, and coordinated, the outcomes will be much more favorable. In comparison to Hurricane Maria, the response to Hurricane Harvey in South Texas was handled much smoother.

Now in fairness, you could say I am comparing apples to oranges. Still, when you look at how each area’s leadership responded to their events, I think you will observe a chaotic response in Puerto Rico and a prepared response in Texas.

With that in mind, here are some proven practical things that you can do as a leader.

Begin with the Stockdale Paradox, made famous in Jim Collins book, From Good to Great, is attributed to Admiral James Stockdale (Ret.) Viet Nam POW and Medal of Honor Winner.

 “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail at the end …with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current situation.”

With this in mind, let’s turn out attention to how a leader can maximize their impact in troubled times.

My friend and mentor, Bob Vandepol, is a prominent thought leader in the area of Crisis Leadership And Critical Event Management. He is the Executive Director of Pine Rest Mental Health Services, and Employee and Church Assistance Programs. Before his work with Pine Rest, he was the president of the world’s largest provider of critical event response services to the workplace. He has developed a three-step model, which I was first introduced to in the late ’90s and have used it in close to two hundred events.

Here is one of the best tools to use for communication in a crisis – ACT. [ii]

A – Acknowledge the issue and its impact on people.

In this unique situation, it is wise to acknowledge the fact that so much is currently unknown and that widely different opinions exist.

  • Acknowledge that it is also difficult for you to determine the course of action but that you wish to do so according to the best information available and to protect those you lead and their families.
  • Acknowledge also the impact upon your organization’s operations.
  • Use the real words so that there is no sense you are self-protectively minimizing and “sweeping the issue under the rug.”
  • Do so seriously, but avoid sensationalized language. People may already be anxious, and you do not want to incite greater fear.

C – Communicate pertinent information with both competence and compassion.

Use language such as “This is what we know at this time….” and provide access to credible expert sources such as the CDC, which includes situation updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and printable and video resources.

When anxious themselves, leaders tend to polarize toward either competence or compassion. You need to be both simultaneously. Those looking to you must witness someone who is concerned but not panicked and who has the strength to learn and implement best practices specific to this threat.

This issue is highly personal as people will be visualizing risks to their loved ones, so make sure also to be compassionate. You want people to experience your presence as “My leader knows her/his stuff, is tough enough to handle it, and cares about me as a person.

T —Transition to a future focus.

Do not just share information without outlining the immediate next steps. Immediate next steps. Do we resume operations now? Cancel events and travel? Work from home? How will internal updates be communicated? How and what do we communicate with all external stakeholders? Who are those external stakeholders, and what specific information needs to go to each? 

Also, the ACT Model that is have proven its effectiveness over the years, five proven strategies will help you provide the leadership your team will need, and you move forward.

  1.  Embrace and seize the moment.
  2. Follow the ACT Communication Model

3.  Stay present. Your team needs to see you as a caring, visible, and engaged leader. Influential leaders come out when there is a crisis. There is positive, dynamic energy when the leader leads from the front in both a positive, yet realistic way. (Refer back to the Stockdale Paradox) 

4.  When it’s time to address the media, be sure to plan for every question and eventuality. There is a tendency for CEOs to want to go on camera without thorough preparation because they are used to speaking publicly and know the organization very well. Avoid this temptation and list all possible questions, answers, follow-ups, and counters. Train on camera, relentlessly. An eight to fifteen-second sound bite can ruin your reputation and career. 

5.  Plan your work, work your plan, stay on course, but also stay flexible.

6. Practice Self-Compassion, Self-Care. [iii]

7. Have a consultant or counselor for yourself. 

8. Explore your companies EAP benefit for your organization. These benefits may include counseling, Critical Event Responses, Management Consultations, and Health and Wellness presentation.

In the next few weeks, businesses and ministries will slowly begin moving into an emerging and new routine.

Will you be ready for it?

If not, what do you need to do to prepare for it?

We will get through this!


[i] Everly, George (2008) Psychological Issues in Escape, Rescue, and Survival in the Wake of Disaster; Report Submitted to the National Institute of Occupational Safe and Health, Pittsburg Research Laboratory, Accessed, February 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docket/archive/pdfs/NIOSH-154/0154-010108-everly.pdf

[ii] Vandepol, Bob (2020) Effective Crisis Leadership During COVID-19.  Accessed April 20, 2020, https://www.pinerest.org/effective-crisis-leadership-during-covid-19-blog/

[iii] Lynn, Andrea (2017); 5 Strategies for Successful Crisis Leadership. Accessed April 23, 2020; https://www.fallstongroup.com/blog/5-crisis-strategies/

Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear

Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear. How One Practice can Give You Peace.

How One Practice can Give You Peace in Turbulent Times


Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear, what a crazy title for a crazy time! In this article, I will reveal one practice that can give you peace in turbulent times. It is a practice that resilient people have used for centuries.

What a week! Whoever thought there would be short-term shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And could you ever imagined that we would be starting Shut Down 2020!

There are some explanations for these behaviors, as well as some solutions that I will be discussing in this post.

Who in their wildest imagination would ever dream that Coronavirus, Toilet Paper, and Fear would ever be a title for an article?

It has been weird to see friends posted things like “Toilet paper at Kroger! Or even better, “Don’t go to store Costco or Sam’s they have no TP.

So, why are people doing this!

The short answer is drunk people, and panicked people have one thing in common, they make Stupid Decisions!

In the past few days, there have been some exceptional articles on this process.

Multiple sources have quoted the consumer psychologist Paul Marsden demo raw University of Arts, London, who says the short answer can be found in the psychology of “retail therapy”-where we buy to manage our emotional state.[i]

It is all about the perception of “taking back control” in a world that a least for the moment seems to bye spinning out of control. These types of behaviors, accord ding to Marsden, are best understood as playing to our three basic psychological needs. The two, most basic being psychological needs like food, water, shelter, and rest. The second, according to Maslow, is the need for safety and security.

One reason for this reactivity is what we in the mental health field call fear contagion, a phenomenon decelerated by a 24-hour news cycle and airwaves fill with pundit input. When folks are stress their brain hunkers down, their reasoning becomes restricted, and crowd think sinks in and takes over. If others are stockpiling, it draws you into the same herd mentality kicks in. When you always hear stories of empty shelves and panic, you can get swept into the craziness.

According to Dimitrios Tsivrikos, who lectures in business psychology at the University College of London, toilet paper has become the “icon” of this mass panic.

When uncertainty is in the air, people slip into the panic zone; when that happens, it makes them irrational and completely neurotic.

When there is a natural disaster, like a hurricane, blizzard, most people can prepare because we have a pretty good idea of what we might need. Things like extra water, food, medication, and cash. However, when we have something like a relatively unknown virus, a deep primal fear slowly creeps into our minds, and we get a little crazy.

Truthfully, one reason for this is the result of some mixed messaging coming from our governmental leaders. One truth about crisis management, there is a lot of confusion in the early days, and I think, because of that and a 24-hour news cycle, incremental and sometimes incomplete information goes viral.

Two things drive the toilet paper frenzy, how we think and feel in the moment influence our behaviors.

When there is this deep type of fear, the need for self-affirmation, and independence, it can drive us to do some fairly bizarre things like buying six month’s worth of toilet paper.

So what do we need to do?

First, hit the pause button! You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Second, learn to live in the present.

I am reminded of the Scripture I learned as a boy. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NLT

In modern culture, we hear things like: “

Don’t get caught up in overthinking about the past or the future.”

Be mindful in this moment. Resilient people realize they cannot always control their environment, but they can control their response to it.

Live for the day, Carpe Diem. Which originated with the Roman Poet Horace. In Latin, the phrase literally means to Pluck the day (as it is ripe). Enjoy and embrace the day.

So, from the ancient writing of scripture, early Roman poetry, ads, modern psychology, the message is to live in this present moment. Not dwelling in the past or fretting about the future, but being in the day, a task that can be tough in these modern times

With the rapid global expansion of the Coronavirus, not to mention the crazy pace of the twenty-first century, it is no easy task. We are constantly bombarded with little pop-ups of expectations, which like bugs spattering on your windshield, can be a distraction.

I believe it comes back to having a Carpe Diem type of day.

Living in the moment has been a piece sage-like wisdom for about as long as men and women have walked the earth.

Living in the present moment means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening in this moment, this day. It means that I am not distracted by my past or the future.

Being present in this moment in your life is the key to staying healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. It helps in fighting anxiety, worry, and ruminating over the “what if’s, and if only’s. 

Why It’s Tough to Live in the Present

Living in the day that the Lord has given us is tough because we are always encouraged to think about our past or worry about the future. After all, what will you do if you don’t have toilet paper? 

If you don’t believe me think about how many times your smartphone has interrupted you today, voicemail, breaking news, social media updates, so many different alert sand notices that for the most part, add no value to your day or life. Maybe we need to turn them off for a few hours a day. 

A few weeks ago, I was training a work team made up of former military and law enforcement personnel. In the middle of my talk, I heard about 8 Fox News, Breaking News alerts. The group sheepishly smiled, and I said something like, “So how many of you really needed that news tip?

Before I dig deeper, let me say that living in the present is much like riding a bicycle, you are never perfectly balanced, but you are continually using large and small muscle groups to maintain balance.

With that in mind, how do we balance living in the present, with all of the distraction, from day to day living to manage our response to the Coronavirus?

As a Christ Follower, I am reminded of one particular, powerful, and practical verse, 2 Timothy 1:7 from the Amplified Bible.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

God has given us the power, will, and ability to do what we need to do. But, we have to make an effort, put in the time, and discipline to manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotion.

Simply said, trust God, use wisdom, wash your hands, keep your distance, shop wisely.

Right now, I want you to stop reading and think.

Be still for just a moment, focus on getting four good, deep breaths. 

Now, focus on three things that you are grateful for. Take another sixty seconds and thank the Lord for something that you are thankful for.

Research from multiple sources has discovered, once again, that the ancient practices of meditation and gratitude lead to better mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.[ii] Resilient people practice gratitude.

So, here are some proven, practical things that you can do, as we move into Shut Down 2020.

  1. Write a handwritten note, thanking someone for the impact they have had on your life. It is one way of social distancing that is exceptionally personal and intimate. Oh, and you might even write one to yourself.
  2. Reflect and mentally thank someone. Just the positive thoughts of what others have done for you is a great way to relax and recalibrate in these stressful times.
  3. Begin a gratitude journal. In the words of a very old hymn, Count Your Blessings[iii]We are reminded that when we are thankful, we feel better. Keep a hand-written journal of things you are grateful for, I promise, it will lighten your load and soothe your mind.
  4. Pray. People of various faith groups use prayer as a way to cultivate gratitude and enhance personal peace.
  5. Meditate. Learn to focus on the moment, and as a Christ Follower, imagine the Lord is present with you at the moment.

Here are some additional things you can do to experience a sense of Carpe’ Diem by meditation.

  • Set aside a regular block of time, say five minutes, when you rise and when you are preparing to go to bed. A quiet time.
    • Get in a comfortable position-not too comfortable. Sitting up is the best way. NOTE: One of the best books I have recently read on this is titled  Two Chairs: The Secret that Changes Everything, by Mike Beaudine.
    • Focus on the sounds you hear, slow your brain down and repeat slowly something like, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” four times, slowly.
    • As you are sitting quietly and focusing on this truth, allow yourself to relax, focus on your bodily sensations, the pressure of the cushion, the feel of your clothing on your skin, the sounds and smells of your surrounding, as well as any other sensations that you might be feeling. The remember, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Turn your focus to the thoughts in your head; the things on your heart let them swirl around for a minute and then allow them to exit your mind, knowing that “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    • Finally, focus on your breathing, and for my fellow Christ Followers, remember that one-word picture for the Holy Spirit is the breath of God. So as you breathe out the fear, anxiety, and doubt, breathe in the power of God and biblical principles into your life.

These are unique times, to say the least. I’d love for you to leave a comment about the article, or even better share some things that you are doing to keep your sanity.


[i] Taylor, Taylor, 2020, March 11. Here’s why people are panic buy-in g and stockpiling toilet paper to cope with coronavirus fears. Retrieved March 13, 2020: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html

[ii] Healthbeat: Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Medical School; retrieved March 14, 2020; https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

[iii] Oatman, Johnson, Jr, (1897), Count Your Blessings; retrieved March 10, 2020; https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Count_Your_Blessings/

3 Ways to Manage Stress

3 Ways to Manage Stress exploding head. image shows how stress can be destructive.
From Deposit Photos

How Resilience Makes Your Stronger

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to crash and burn when they are faced with difficult times, and others seem to thrive? Why is it that when adversity presents itself, some people feel forced to defend themselves against hard times, and others will take the same challenge and modify it into an opportunity and pull together their personal abilities to meet it head-on?

Today we are going to look at 3 ways to manage stress and how resilience makes you stronger.

Our personal resilience to stress, though times, change and other adverse events depend on our inner resources. And while you and I do not have any control over these external circumstances, our personality, or our intelligence, we can learn to manage our response.

Circumstance doesn’t make the man, it reveals him to himself.”

James Allen

Did you know that we are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for? We are created and equipped to be adaptable to what life throws at us. This article will look into practical tactics and helpful tips that will help you address stress in a variety of circumstances. You can even welcome it as something that can enrich your life.

Why? Because developing a resilient mindset, improves your sense of well-being which results in higher self-esteem, better relationships, and improved business performance.

What do I mean by resilience to stress?

Basically, any positive response to stress is a manifestation of stress resilience!

George Valiant, a respected Harvard researcher, followed a group of 30 Harvard graduated for 30 years and discovered that those who had lived successful and happy lives was their ability to use effective coping strategies as opposed to regressive or defensive responses to stress.[i]

An individual’s response to stress can shift with various levels of intensity, exposure, and durations and can have a definite impact on the body, brain, and soul.

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has developed a constructive model of the various types of stress responses. They have developed three kinds of reactions to stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. As described below, these three terms refer to the stress response system’s impact on the body, not to the adverse event.[ii]

  • Positive Stress Response is a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. 
  • Tolerable Stress Response activated the body’s alert system to higher degrees as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties. This can be buffeted by both an internal attitude as well as supporting relationships.
  • Toxic Stress Response can occur when someone experiences intense, frequent, and/or prolonged exposure to adversity-such as physical or emotional abuse, exposure to violence. Left unchecked toxic stress responses can lead to health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. Research shows that supportive, responsive relationships can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress.

If you see an event as threatening, the body can go into a fight-or-flight response, and over time we learn to avoid these highly stressful situations. When we learn to see an adverse or challenging event as an opportunity for growth, it generates an entirely different outcome.

Always living in the fight-or-flight mode will have long-lasting effects on our body, mind, and spirit. It can, as the Harvard studies show, lead to anxiety, depression, chronic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Victor Frankl

“In life, our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find it good and bad? In me, in my choices.” Epictetus

“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.” Ryan  Holiday, The Obstacle is the  Way  (2014)

Our view of stress can be the most critical factor in how we respond to adverse events. We have discussed the impact of living in the fight-or-flight perspective, now let’s take a look at a healthier, more resilient, enduring, and robust path.

I believe there are two healthier, more enduring choices.

First is the challenge-response, which motivates, boosts confidence, and stimulating personal growth.

One of the most exciting trends today is in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the introduction of the concept of Post Traumatic Growth.

For those who have experienced trauma, it is common to feel like life will never be the same again. As evidenced by a growing body of research, though, humans have the ability not to only “bounce back” from trauma, but to yield a positive life on the other side of the traumatic experience. Those who study and practice in the field of mental health refer to this as post-traumatic growth (PTG), defined as positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges to rise to a higher level of functioning.[iii]

When we respond to an adverse event with the challenge-response, adrenaline, as well as cortisol, combine to release energy. The significant difference between the fight-or-flight response and the challenge-response is the positive response makes us focused and allows us to perform under pressure and ultimately improves our outcomes. 

The result of the challenge-response is enhanced concentration, increased, focused performance and more confidence. You feel focused instead of fearful. 

Here are some questions that can help you utilize a challenge-response:

  1. Where do I have control/influence/leverage in the event?
  2. What specific action plan can I take?
  3. What resources do I have at my disposal?
  4. What allows me to know that I can handle this?  This could be previous experiences, the examples of others, faith, any number of contributing factors.

The second positive choice is to see adverse or challenging situations is the tend and befriend response. This response pushes us towards caregiving, increased courage, and strengthened relationships. In other words, this type of reaction can help transform stress into courage and connection. Social relationships are vital resources for managing the demands of responding to stress.

Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the suffering of others, the way to find hope is to connect, not to escape, to engage, not isolate. The benefits of taking a tend-and-befriend approach is that it makes people more caring, and when we care for others, it changes our biochemistry, activating systems of the brain that produce feelings of hope and courage.[iv]

As I close today, let me ask which way do you deal with stress?

Call to Action

You and I cannot control what happens to us, only how we respond. With that in mind, review the following ancient text and ask yourself, how can I apply this to managing my stress?

Take a look at these three pieces of ancient literature and see how you can apply them to any stressful situations that you find yourself in.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

James 1:5 (NLT) If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Proverbs 12:15 (MSG) Fools are headstrong and do what they like;  wise people take advice.


[i] Barber, Charles. (Winter 2013). What a Decades-Long Harvard Study Tells Us About Mental Health. Retrieved December 2019: https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/winter-2013-is-democracy-worth-it/what-can-decades-long-harvard-study-tell-us-about-mental-health/

[ii] Staff. Toxic Stress. Retrieved February 23, 2020: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/

[iii] Lees-Bank, Adena. (2019, April 19), Posttraumatic Growth, There can be Positive Change After Adversity. Retrieved February 23, 2020: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-thriving/201904/posttraumatic-growth

[iv] McGonigal, Keyy, Ph.D. (2015, May 13. How to Transform Stress into Courage and Connection. Retrieved February 21,202: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_transform_stress_courage_connection

Resilient Leadership Wins, Part 1

“You must manage yourself before you can lead others.” Zig Ziglar

Your true leadership abilities or lack of them will reveal themselves in a crisis. 

At that moment when the crap hits the fan, you will either rise to the occasion or crash and burn. You will either be a resilient leader, or you will cower to the pressure.

I know this from personal experience as a Certified Corporate Response Specialist.

Over the past 12 years, I have responded to over 150 disruptive workplace events ranging from layoffs to mass shootings, and I have personally observed both exceptional and impotent leadership

In this article, I will give you some of the best researched and most up-to-date strategies for being ready for whatever crisis comes your way. You have both the joy and the responsibility to be a resilient leader to those you are responsible for. Why? Because resilient leaders make things happen in both their personal life and in the business world.

When you implement these principles, you will be able to be a compassionate, clear-headed leader, even on your worst day.

Preparing for “bad days” really means becoming more resilient both before, during, and after an adverse event, even natural human-made disasters. Being ready can be one of the most valuable things you can ever do, especially when facing potentially life-changing circumstances (Everly 2019).

In reviewing people and companies who have overcome adversity, there seem to be five core psychological/behavioral factors that leaders have to take their organization through tough times. Here they are:

  1. Active Optimism – the deep belief and conviction that life events will turn out well, primarily because one believes she/he can contribute and assist in making things turn out well. Active Optimism is much more than just a belief. It is a mandate for change. It is a gut reaction to move forward when others are retreating.
  2. Decisiveness – the ability to overcome the “paralysis by analysis and make difficult decisions. You must be decisive and act to move forward. You have to acquire the courage to make difficult decisions. Making these decisions is easier when you are rooted in your…
  3. Moral Compass – the ability to evaluate one’s actions against the gold standard of honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior. Once you make your decision/you will need to employ…
  4. Relentless Tenacity, Determination, and Grit. A key ingredient in being tenacious is knowing when to pursue a course of action, and when to quit. To discover hidden opportunities, build your resilience, and boost physical, spiritual, and psychological energy, you will need to rely on…
  5. Interpersonal Support – Who has your six o’clock, your back. While we are more connected than every before, research tells us that we are more lonely than any time in history. To be effective, you have to have to be connected to others.

Of these five, there are two that stood out as the most influential, and they were Active Optimism and Self Efficacy.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged Optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Paul’s reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active Optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, and the world is all rainbows and lollipops.”Dynamic Optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic Optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation. (Thurman 2017)

My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset. I do not believe it is a matter of faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my Optimism?

Part of developing active Optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. (Thurman 2017)

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they think they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking”patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration, you can make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history, and He has a vibrant, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.

From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset, here are four more ways to increase Active Optimism. (Thurman 2017)

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past achievements, no matter how small, are the building blocks for future achievements.

2. Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observe the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these years, she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression, and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their problems with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers, and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey confidence, which translates into proactive resilience.

So, what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.

I do provide private leadership coaching, if you ae interested in a free 30 minute consultation email me john@johnthurman.net. Type Free Consultation in the Subject Line.

Blessings.

Use Active Optimism to Push Back Fear & Doubt!

What makes people move through tough times?

In my last post, I talked about resilience and its importance in being an overcome in life. Resilient, tenacious people make things happen.

My friend and mentor, Dr. George Evelry has made it his life mission to understand resilience and the impact it has on people. In his first book Resilient Child (2009), he looked at factors which influenced children on the road to resilience. In 2012, his book Resilient Leadership (Everly, Strouse,& Everly), he was able to identify and explain leadership factors which build resilience in their teams and organizations. The undaunted researcher continued his studies and released the book Stronger (Everly, Strouse, & McCormack, 2015). In this resource, he looked into the psychological and behavioral factors present in professional athletes, U.S. Navy Seals, as well as those civilians and wounded service members who recovered from catastrophic injury.
What I find most exciting about his research is his discoveries can enable us to understand ourselves as we seek to have an impact on our families, ministries, and work.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Pauls reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, the world is all rainbows and lollipops.” Dynamic optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term was coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation.
My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset.  I do not believe it is a matter or faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my optimism?

Part of developing active optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The new Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they believe they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking” patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you have the ability to make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and He has an active, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.
 
From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset here are four more ways to increase active optimism.

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past successes, no matter how small are the building blocks for future successes.

2.Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observes the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these two and a quarter decades she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their challenges with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey a confidence which translates into proactive resilience.

So what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.
 
I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to leave a comment.

(c) 2017 John Thurman All rights reserved.

10 Steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble World: Part # 2

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(c) 2014 John Thurman
As I begin this installment of 10 Steps, I wanted to let you know that on I will send out the third installment of 10 Steps Thursday evening and the next three to four blogs will be be very focused on depression, and things you can do to help yourself and others get better. Growing up watching  Robin Williams, I am 62 and he was 63, it was very sad to hear about his suicide. While I strongly disagree with how some media outlets went into the gory details of his death. This sad story reminds us of the power of depression. The blogs will not be negative, but will contain principles out of my book, Get a Grip on Depression and out of 35 years of counseling.

Now back to the 10- Steps for surviving, which by the way, are key to pushing back depression and moving forward in life.

4.  Practice generosity and kindness – unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

5.  Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations.

The Apostle Paul illustrated the importance of this principle in Romans 8:38-39.
“I’m convinced that nothing-living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (The Message)

6.  Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)

Philippians 4:6-8 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)

7.  Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.

2 Peter 1:5-7 – “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, and no day will pass without its reward as you mature in the experience of our Master Jesus.” (The Message)

I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to comment.

Avoid 6 Stinking Thinking Traps

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(c) 2014 John Thurman
6 Thinking Styles to Avoid

by John Thurman

Have you ever noticed how quickly your mind can get distracted? Things seem to be just fine and then out of nowhere you begin to have these intrusive, negative thoughts? Thankfully, it is a problem nearly every human being experiences from time to time.

Today, I am going to give you a quick overview of the Top Six “Stinking Thinking” patterns that I address in my book, Get a Grip on Depression. I will also give you some key questions to ask as well as practical things to do to lower the impact of these negative thinking patterns.

Here they are:

        Jumping to conclusions: Being confident about the situation despite having little or no evidence. Action Plan:Slow down: Do I have any evidence to show I have been wronged or am I jumping the gun?

        Mind Reading: Assuming you know what the other person is thinking, or expecting him or her to fully understand what you are thinking. Action Plan: Speak Up: Did I express myself fully, so the other person didn’t need to try to read my mind? Or did I ask for information from the other person rather than attempting to read his or her mind?

        Me, Me, Me: Believing you are the sole cause of every problem. Action Plan:Look outward: How did others or circumstances contribute to my current situation?

        Them, Them, Them: Believing other people or circumstances are the cause of every problem you encounter. Action Plan: Look inward: How did I control or fuel my situation?

        Always, Always, Always: The belief that adverse events are unchangeable and that you have little or no control over them. Action Plan: Grab control: What can I change? What can I influence?

        Everything, Everything, Everything: Thinking you can judge a person or your own worth, motivation, or ability on the basis of a single situation. Action Plan: Look at behavior: What specific behavior explains my situation?

 2 Corinthians 10:5 …we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NLT)

For a more in-depth look at these patterns as well as some scriptural stories that illustrate them check out pages 77-93 in Get a Grip on Depression. Also available at Amazon and Kindle.