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Why being bothered about other people’s problems actually helps you.

You can listen to the audio version of this blog via Spotify.

The yin and the yang.

According to the people who apparently know about these things, it’s best not to write blogs and social media posts about the Coronavirus because everyone is fed up with it. Of course they are, we all are but this is life Jim, but not as we know it. It’s global and it affects everyone. The effects ripple out to every facet of our lives. And it’s not going away any time soon. Therefore, addressing our mindset is one of the key things we can do right now to enable us to have some semblance of normality. By keeping our mindset in check, we are able to weather the storm. If we work on our mindset daily, when life throws the crazy stuff at us, we have the tools and strategies to deal with it. Sometimes it takes time but we at least know it’s possible.

COVID-19 thing is having varying effects on business. Last week, I wrote about how some business leaders are able to see the opportunities and pivot in order for their business to survive. But there are sectors for whom this isn’t possible such as sports, entertainment and tourism sectors to name just a few. All adversely affected with some only now getting back on their feet.

I came across two people in the past week who demonstrated the light and the dark of these uncertain times and the resulting mindset we might adopt.

A penny for your thoughts

One guy is a landscape gardener and he fixes garden machinery such as lawn mowers, garden tractors and ride-on mowers. He was fixing something for a friend and I got chatting to him when I popped round. He’s rushed off his feet working six, sometimes seven days a week and even then, he wouldn’t get it all done he said. A manufacturer of ride-on mowers is also after him to be a supplier in the area but he says that’s just too many plates for him to spin. A nice problem to have.

Meanwhile, a friend of a friend is married to an airline pilot. Of course, he’s not exactly in demand at the moment and his future in that role is uncertain. It’s not easy for airlines to diversify to other lines of work…

The landscape gardener is rushed off his feet with very little time off, lamenting lack of time with his family, no time to catch up with admin and wishing he could just have some time off for some R&R rather than be constantly chasing his tail. Funny that he didn’t even mention the financial side of things – how the busy times meant it was keeping the wolf from the door. But then he doesn’t need to give it a thought because the money is coming in...

The airline pilot has worked in the industry all his adult life, so knows nothing else. With the travel and tourism industry looking uncertain, his primary concern is how long he'll have a job for. Whilst he's had plenty of time to spend with his family and has enjoyed that luxury, his focus is now his job security; although money has never been a priority for him, it now comes into stark focus when he doesn’t know how long the pay checks will keep coming.

During Lockdown, some people who consider themselves introverted were happy to be behind closed doors, happy that they didn’t need to venture out, nor mix with people. Happy that they no longer needed to come up with excuses to decline invites to nights out and dinner with friends. They were content with their own company.

Cut to the elderly lady who misses chats with her postman and brief exchanges with delivery drivers. She enjoyed watching folk come and go past her window; she loved it when the kids got off the school bus and some friendly souls would wave to her – knowing it made her day. Every morning she’d pop to the local shop for her newspaper, maybe some bread and milk, hoping to see people she knew so they could have a natter. But then all that stopped because for her safety, she needed to shield.

Then there are parents who’re pleased to have their children back at school, thankful there’s now a routine for all, in the vain hope that six hours at school will stimulate their brains, they’ll get more exercise and thus the moods, tantrums and hormones might be kept more in check.

But then there’s the Mum who’s enjoyed the home-schooling. Especially as her little one has a respiratory condition which means any cough or sniffle plays havoc with their health. That Mum lives in fear of gossip amongst parents that so-and-so has had a COVID test. There was initial panic on the return to school about kids being safe but now everyone seems to have calmed down and they’re almost blasé about the whole thing - outside the school gate, social distancing seems to have gone out the window. This Mum feels a nervous wreck and almost prays for another Lockdown with the kids needing to be at home.

Two sides of the COVID-19 coin.

Draw me a map

There’s always a flipside to every situation. Always someone who’s life is so very different to ours. Yet do we see it? Or do we walk around with her head so consumed with our own concerns. I remember when my children were little and one of them was having a hissy fit in the middle of the street. I was failing miserably to calm them down and an elderly lady stopped and asked if I was OK. She said: ‘It’s hard sometimes isn’t it? But you’ll get through this stage.’ I appreciated her making the time to stop with her soothing words. And just as I felt a bit better about things, a woman with two grumpy looking teenagers walked past. She looked harassed as they trailed behind her and I wondered which stage was better…!

So, how does it help us to step into someone else’s world and understand things from their perspective? Well, for a start, it gives us perspective. Whilst it might not smooth our furrowed brow, it’s important to know we’re not the only one facing challenges – that others face tough times too but maybe of a different nature. And that some people do it with a smile. Maybe they see the gift in what they do have, and this helps them to navigate the more testing moments. Gaining some kind of perspective on our troubles gives us a kick up the proverbial – maybe enables us to reframe the way we are choosing to think about things. I know it’s all relative and I am not negating anyone’s woes or troubles, I’m saying that for some, they might need to get overthemselves.com

It’s understanding that we each have our own Mental Map – how we view the world through our own prism according to our individually held values, beliefs experiences etc. If we take a moment to understand why others are who they are and why they do what they do, we can forge greater friendships, make strong connections, and get along with people better. Rather than to be concerned with what’s in your headspace and your world all of the time, comprehending the Mental Map of another allows more empathy. Because if we’re not careful, there can be limitations imposed by our own Mental Map on our ability to understand others. I am not saying change your Mental Map to get on with people but be aware of others and expand your own - without compromising your values.

 Through your eyes

Oprah Winfrey once said: “I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'

Being interested in what others are interested in, shows them how special they are. And I think it’s more important to be interested in others than be interesting; that’s what makes a great leader, manager, parent, friend.

We see the world as we see it, not as it is and therefore, if we’re going to rub along in this big ole world  - which actually, since the global pandemic, feels quite a bit smaller – I think it’s important to get perspective on our worries, issues and challenges and to appreciate that other people have theirs too. It’s all relative so be kind to yourself but in a world where we can be anything, it’s important that we’re kind and understanding too.

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