As the pandemic wears on, people are struggling more than ever with bandwidth challenges.  Of course, internet bandwidth is a common problem since everyone is constantly on video calls but limited mental bandwidth has become a prevalent topic with my coaching clients.

Lack of Focus

It’s not surprising that lack of sleep, stress, multi-tasking and distractions are affecting our ability to focus.   Right now I’m distracted by the hole we had to cut in my wall to get to a broken pipe caused by one of the worst ice storms in Houston’s history.  You might be struggling with home schooling your children, trying to get a vaccine for a family member or forecasting business results in an ever-changing economic environment.

Three Strategies

When you feel yourself starting to shut down, these three strategies can help increase your mental bandwidth:

  • Heighten your awareness: start by identifying the things that are the most distracting and why it’s essential that you change how you deal with them.  Texts and emails are persistent culprits but it might be your pet who is more fun than fully engaging on yet another team call.  Building relationships leads to more effective teamwork which impacts the bottom line.
  • Make a plan: explore resources like Ready for Anything, Essentialism and Getting Things Done to find solutions to prioritizing what is most important.
  • Enlist support: whether you need administrative support, a coach and/or an accountability partner to check in on your progress, you’re much more likely to succeed if you don’t try to go it alone.

I suggest you give yourself a break, acknowledge that things are tough and then refocus to increase your bandwidth.

Every single one of my clients has struggled with a difficult relationship – personal, professional or both.  Do you know anyone who hasn’t?  Sometimes we give up because nothing seems to work.  And then…we come back to a place where we decide it’s worth trying again because the relationship is too important.  What can we change in ourselves to achieve a better outcome?

How You Can Reconcile Differences

These steps are essential to reconciling differences and moving forward:

  1. Be clear — about what you want and what you’re willing to do
  2. Be aware — of the boundaries you need to define so you both feel safe
  3. Be brave — make the first move
  4. Be honest — acknowledge your part of what isn’t working
  5. Be open — listen without judgement
  6. Be accountable – do what you say you’ll do
  7. Be imperfect – apologize when you fail and keep trying

Do Your Homework First

Any attempt at reconciliation has a better chance of success if you first spend some time reflecting on each  step.  Picture a flight attendant demonstrating the importance of putting your oxygen mask on before trying to assist someone else.  You’re ready when you can let go of your expectations and the need to be right.  Contact cheryl@csbryan.com to find out how coaching can support you in this process.

“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,” Bob Seger sang in “Against the Wind.”  Reflecting on lessons learned can be painful.  It can also be productive.

You Can’t Go Back

When my clients get tough feedback it’s my job to help them process their new awareness of what isn’t working.  They can’t go back to not knowing that their overly direct communication style is perceived as uncaring or their lack of timely follow-up is considered disrespectful.

You Do Have a Choice

Accepting feedback without defensiveness is the first step.  That isn’t always easy but it’s critical to moving forward.  The next step is choosing to change behavior as a powerful way to turn awareness into action.  Specific elements of a different approach might include tone, word choice, body language or time management tools.

I invite you to make time for reflection and the awareness that comes with it.

In 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India to celebrate His Holiness’s 80th birthday and share perspectives on finding joy in the midst of suffering.  The Book of Joy chronicles their conversations and their agreement that our greatest joy comes from doing good for others.

Taking the Focus Off Ourselves

The Dalai Lama pointed out that we cannot survive without other people so we must build trust by showing genuine concern for their well-being.  Research suggests that cultivating joy by taking the focus off our own suffering helps us to be available to others.  In a wonderful circle, the more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we can bring to others.

Meaningful Ways to Do Good

We are individually and collectively experiencing suffering beyond what most of us could ever have imagined.  I am challenging myself and you to find more meaningful ways to do good, consider the other person’s perspective when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, and spread joy.  That might be speaking up as an ally for someone who is treated unfairly or listening without judgement to understand opinions different from our own.

As Archbishop Tutu said, “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.”

So many people have lost more than their jobs in this pandemic – they have lost their identities.  They don’t know how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

Safety in Numbers

Since humans are wired for connection and belonging, it makes sense that we gravitate toward people with similar interests and perspectives.  As we share experiences, our relationships deepen and the safety we feel as part of a group reinforces our identity.  When you lose a job that severs your connection to a work group or professional association, you may struggle with how to define yourself and your value.

Who Do You Want to Be?

If you consider who you want to be and how you measure your professional and personal value, your answer might be, “I want to be a partner, parent, friend and team leader.”  Bruce Shaffer, whose position as Director of Human Resources and Internal Communication for Schlumberger’s subsea business was eliminated recently, explained that he was able to move from bitterness to acceptance by getting clear about who he wants to be.

Bruce recognized his value to family members and former colleagues who needed his support.  As he reflected on what success means, Bruce said Ralph Waldo Emerson described it best:  “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children … to leave the world a bit better … to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

What would it mean for you to believe that you are more than the job you do?

Three weeks ago I lost my dear friend and mentor Cecilia Rose to cancer.  The world isn’t the same without Cecilia but it is a better place because she was here. As a person of deep faith, I have no doubt that she was ready for her new life.

Gifts that Last

I’m remembering many, many generous gifts of Cecilia’s time, her wisdom, her wit and her joy.  She helped me expand my thinking and feeling through Systems Dynamics work, her insightful questions and her ability to listen with empathy.  Cecilia was always in my corner and willing to lovingly challenge me to see other perspectives.

Follow Their Example

Cecilia fought until the end to beat cancer with the same determination she applied to everything in her life. As I considered how best to honor her, I decided that trying to follow her example would be most meaningful.  I will continue to practice what Cecilia taught me and share her gifts with others.