This election season has taken a toll on our psyches, both individual and collective. Many are questioning what it means to be [fill in the blank] and I don’t blame them; I’m finding it difficult, too.
Last month, I gave a QCommons (think TED for the Christian community) talk on Building Community as Lifework where I urged conference goers to get out of their comfort zones and echo chambers because that’s where change happens. Because outside of our comfort zones is where the good work is most needed. So it feels weird to be here now suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we all need to go back into our burrows for a moment so that we don’t sacrifice the work that we will undoubtedly need to do over the next four years.
Now, more than ever, it is important for us to put optimism into practice through visioning and goal setting.
December is the month where I prepare for a refresh. Instead of thinking about everything I didn’t accomplish in the previous 11 months, I start looking forward to what I have planned for myself in the upcoming year. It’s the month when hopefulness about the future collides with the prevailing energy of the season of giving. Everything usually just feels…lighter. But this year is different. Just last night, I found myself looking for the “time-out” button on Facebook. My newsfeed is consumed with others’ confirmations of their worst-case scenarios—worst-case scenarios that I then start to consider and find myself researching for validity or probability. I know this is unhealthy for me. I want to remain connected to my friends and what they’re doing. I also want to be informed and up-to-date on current events. Now, though, I’m feeling as though both of these desires are coming at a steep cost.
Our thoughts are magnetic and have the power to shift the world around us. That means our work in this moment is to thrive despite uncertainty. We have to allow room for our collective consciences to step in on our behalf.
Setting goals and envisioning your future needs two necessary ingredients to take shape. The first is the belief that anything is possible and all that you desire is within your reach. The second is the knowledge that you are in control. It’s difficult enough to become our best selves when our environments feel relatively stable. How then, can we do this in the midst of post-election chaos?
It’s simple: we choose to.
Now that I’m able to recognize how the national (and in some cases, international) climate is affecting my mood, I am taking a few deliberate actions to preserve my sanity and position myself to be able to use December in the way it was meant: for reflection. I am inviting you to do the same over the next 30 days.
The Post-Election Reset
1. Filter your networks.
Perhaps instead of asking the crowd to avoid retreating to their echo chambers, I should have recommended practicing discernment. Review the list of news and “news” outlets you’ve liked. Are they all legitimate? Are there any that you could do without? You will likely never be able to read every take on the same issue so identify the source that is most credible for you and abandon the others.
2. Share your news.
Instead of sharing the news of the day, share your news of the day. What moved you? What brought you joy? What did you learn today? What issues are you struggling with and would like your network to help you address? Put yourself back in the center of your universe and allow others to renew their connections with you.
3. Acknowledge your real fears.
You can’t own others’ fears and when bombarded with information it can be hard to decipher which fears you genuinely hold and which ones you’ve adopted. So take a moment—a short one, don’t dwell in negativity—to acknowledge what is scaring you right now. What is driving your post-election anxiety? Are there any underlying fears that are resurfacing for you at this time? Write each one down on its own piece of paper. Then…
4. Draft your vision.
Where are you this time next year? How will you feel? What will you have accomplished? Who are you in relation to those fears? This is your vision. Write it down in first person, present tense (i.e. I am a successful author of a newly published novel.). Frame your vision (literally!) and seal your fears in an envelope.
5. Choose your fount of positivity.
In the first step you filtered your networks of sources that can prompt or fuel negativity. Now it’s time to find spaces that encourage and nurture positive thinking. Is there a blog or newsletter you enjoy reading? Is there an online community that you would like to be a part of? If you cannot find an existing resource, create your own. Start with one. Whatever it is that brings you peace and joy, find it, and find ways to bring more of it into your life.
Whether it’s post-election anxiety or a general desire to reset, these steps will help you adjust your mindset, reorient yourself towards what’s positive, and set the stage for some major growth in 2017.
Candace Hollingsworth is a management consultant and coach based in the Washington, DC metro area. You can join her community of dream-makers and risk-takers here.