Cultivating an Outward Mindset to Navigate Uncertain and Challenging Times

COVID-19 has thrown all of us into an incredible space of adaptive challenges– which are those that have no known solution and require us to shift our mindsets and elevate our resourcefulness in order to solve.

The unprecedented challenges we’re facing with this global pandemic can, and in many ways is, inviting us to operate from what The Arbinger Institute refers to as an inward mindset.

When we operate from an inward mindset, others around us simply don’t matter as much as we do – which means their needs, objectives, and challenges don’t matter that much to us either. In fact, with an inward mindset, many times we’re not even aware of what others are experiencing.

Consequently, we become ME-focused around our own needs, objectives and challenges – and, our own fears. The problem with this is that we stop seeing people as PEOPLE and start seeing them as objects, for example:

  • Vehicles we use
  • Obstacles that we blame
  • Irrelevancies that we simply ignore

What’s worse, when we operate from an inward mindset, we invite others to do the same, putting us in a vicious cycle of blaming others and seeing them as a problem.

Then what happens is that the stories we tell ourselves spin and spiral, and we end up making our problems worse. This becomes even more prevalent when we don’t see people due to social distancing. I am seeing an exponential display of an inward mindset throughout our country and world. People are ignoring the guidance of experts with how to bend the curve of this virus, having self-pity parties because of the inconveniences, businesses making rash decisions to protect their bottom line while ignoring the human impact, and more.

Our “life-as-normal” has fundamentally changed. And we WILL get through this! To do that,  we need to move from fear-based decisions to rally our own resourcefulness and call ourselves and those around us to greatness.

We need to leverage an outward mindset so we can recognize that other people matter just as much as we do.

We need to see others as PEOPLE who have their own needs, objectives, fears and challenges; they matter to us and we realize the impact we have on them.

5 Tips for Cultivating an Outward Mindset

  1. Practice Pausing – Yes, our world is moving at warp-speed these days. Yet we need to move from reacting to being intentional. Taking a few seconds to pause and set clear intentions to look beyond ourselves is a hallmark of the most effective leaders.
  2. Move from Assuming to Being Curious – It’s easy to make assumptions and then act as if our assumptions are true. We have to be intentional to check out our assumptions; be curious and learn as much as we can about other people’s current needs, objectives and challenges and their current reality. We need to ask how we are impacting them.
  3. Stay Rooted in Reality – We all create stories to interpret what is happening. More often than not, we end up working with the distorted interpretations we’ve created versus the facts and reality of the situation. We need to ask ourselves, “What do I know for sure, and what am I assuming?”
  4. Leverage Video Technology – Physical separation can make it even easier to feel disconnected and start operating from an inward mindset. Use zoom or another video platform so you can see people’s faces and get as close to personal interaction as possible. Schedule virtual lunches, happy hours, and more. Think of this as social solidarity or social respect rather than social distancing.
  5. Actively Appreciate Others – We can foster our connectedness by actively appreciating others. In our hectic times, it can be easy to overlook this. Leverage the F.B.I. Feedback formula:
    • Feeling – how you feel about what a person did; this brings the heart and humanity into the message.
    • Behavior – specifically acknowledge what the other person did; this is not a time for generalities. Specific is terrific!
    • Impact – share how the behaviors of the other person impacts you, your family, community, etc.

I’ve seen incredible displays of humanity and an outward mindset in the past couple of weeks. People are finding their resourcefulness and coming up with creative ways to stay connected:

  • My son’s Taekwondo school is recording weekly video lessons and then leveraging videoconferencing so the kids can continue earning stripes towards their next belt.
  • Friends are staying connected through virtual get togethers, like book clubs
  • Neighbors are picking up essentials for each other at stores to minimize risk exposure or inadvertent exposure to others
  • People and organizations are offering free or reduced-price virtual workouts and yoga
  • Musicians are offering free virtual concerts
  • Families are writing encouraging notes for health-care workers and those in nursing homes

In some ways, it’s almost as if our required physical distance is inviting people to be even more intentional about how they connect with others and nurture relationships. Yet our humanity will get the best of us. So, when you notice yourself or others stuck in fear, blame or judgment, here are some questions you can ask:

  • What do I/you think [person/group] might be facing or experiencing here?
  • How might I/you be able to add value and help here?
  • What would it look like for me/you to be successful with this?
  • What is it I/you think I/you don’t understand?
  • What is it I/you are assuming that may not be true?
  • What do I/you need to ask for help for?
  • What might I/you need to let go of to take the next step?

When we all can leverage an outward mindset, we’ll be much more effective at navigating the knowns and unknowns we are facing. We will all get through this together! I’d love to hear some of the ways you’re leveraging an outward mindset (or are seeing in your communities). Please comment and share.

Never dull your sparkle!


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