Advice taken from The Excellence Book: 50 ways to be your best by Kevin Duncan
On December 1st 1862, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his annual message to Congress. The country was in the middle of a civil war. He concluded:
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Disenthrall. It’s an interesting word.
To enthrall means to capture someone’s attention.
This could be good or bad, depending on what exactly is attracting your undivided attention.
To disenthrall means to discharge, free, emancipate, liberate, loosen, release, unbind, uncage, unchain, or unfetter.
So if you are obsessed with perpetually doing or seeing things in a certain way, you may first need to disenthrall yourself to stand any chance of changing your attitude.
Only then will you have a chance of seeing other possibilities.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO
There is no point in claiming to have a certain attitude, when your actions either fail to prove it, or worse, contradict it.
As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do.”
Thinking is one thing. Doing is quite another.
Gina Miller, the businesswoman who initiated a court case against the British government challenging its authority to implement Brexit, said:
“What’s the point in having a conscience if you never use it?”
The popular blogger and author Mark Manson points this out in his unsubtly named book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck:
“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”
You can rarely think your way into a new way of acting.
You need to act your way into a new way of thinking.
In other words, the action proves the thought.
Without action, it merely remains a concept, and as such doesn’t technically exist.
CULTIVATE A FEISTY SPIRIT
Resilience in the face of adversity is a vital trait.
Life is not a smooth road. In fact, if it were, most of us would be bored.
As noted by Max McKeown in his book #Now, those confronted by extremely tricky obstacles (such as cancer) are said to have a feisty spirit of survivorship.
It’s a laughing-is-winning approach, and is something that can be adopted by anyone, including those facing life-threatening circumstances.
This transformative ability to make good things happen through a positive attitude is a quality you can discover in yourself.
As the famous mountaineer Edmund Hillary pointed out:
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
It’s all about taking control of your attitude to life: one person’s adversity is another’s inspiration.
FEAR = WISDOM IN THE FACE OF DANGER
“Fear is wisdom in the face of danger. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
So said Sherlock Holmes in The Abominable Bride.
It’s okay to be afraid. In fact, it’s often beneficial.
Animals have a clearly demarcated sense of flight or fight.
And it’s driven by fright. Which is a sudden intense feeling of fear.
So being scared can be extremely beneficial for survival or progress.
Not so that you are petrified into non-action.
But so that you fully appreciate the possibilities that may follow from your actions.
Harness the fear to anticipate what to do next.
Flight could allow you to fight another day.
A fight should only be considered if you are convinced you can win.
Confront the initial fear and turn it into a wise attitude.
CLIMB, CONFESS, COMPLY
Student pilots are taught early in their training what to do if they get into trouble:
- Climb: get yourself out of danger immediately by increasing altitude.
- Confess: talk to the control tower and explain what the problem is.
Comply: do exactly what you are told by the air traffic controller.
Climb, confess, comply is a useful attitude when dealing with awkward circumstances.
So next time you are out of your depth, admit it immediately, ask for help quickly, and then do exactly what it takes to resolve the situation.
Don’t dig a deeper hole or paint yourself into a corner.
Climb, confess, comply.
Kevin Duncan is a business adviser, marketing expert, motivational speaker and author. After 20 years in advertising and direct marketing, he has spent the last eighteen years as an independent troubleshooter, advising companies on how to change their businesses for better.