How To Stay Calm (Even If The World Is Collapsing Around You) In 5 Ridiculously Simple Steps

In the last few days, you must have seen your social media get flooded with angry, confused parents requesting for school closure and desperate business owners requesting there to be no movement control order.
With the barrage of information incessantly tumbling into your feed, it sometimes feels like you are living in an alternate reality when you look up and see such a beautiful blue sky. It must come as no shock that most of us live lives in our heads and it is imperative that we keep our headspace as clean and organized as we can. More important than that, as parents and educators we need to be in control of our minds as we are responsible not only for our sanity but those of our children.
Having seen parents post the most absurd things regarding the schools re-opening, I thought I might share a series of lessons that I frequently educate all my students, teachers and team members on.
Lesson 1: We live in an ever-changing world.
You could have been the most prepared student for IGCSE then CAIE decides to cancel the exams due to COVID-19. There is no way we can control every single thing in our life.
Lesson 2: Accept that MOST things in life are entirely out of your control.
You might have studied laboriously for your exams but get into an accident a day before the exams. You might still miss the chance of scoring an A in that sitting.
Lesson 3: You have a limited processing capacity.
Your conscious mind can only process 50 bits per second even though the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that with such limited processing capacity, we should probably choose where to place our focus.
Lesson 4: Choose your focus.
There a lot of things that are within your circle of concern. The Chinese occupation of Tibet. The new zit on your nose. Black Lives Matter. Whether the chicken rice aunty is going to be open tomorrow. Way too many things.
Referring to the image below, all your concerns make up your circle of concern. Of course, there are gazillion things happening outside your circle of concern. For example, whether my son had a diaper change is outside your circle of concern but it is something that needs attention. Just not your attention. Let me go check on that real quick before we continue.
Now, let’s move on from the diaper change. So we firmly established that there are certain things that concern you and certain thing that doesn’t. The next step is choosing which of these are within your ability to influence.
As a teenager, you might be concerned if the exams are going to be cancelled. However, you need to accept that this is not within your control.
If you are a parent, you might be concerned if the government will be introducing MCO again resulting in school closure. However, you need to accept that you are no Rosmah and do not control the government.
Well even if you are Rosmah, you can’t. Different government guys. Sorry about that.
So what do you do then?
Lesson 5 : Choose your control.
You should be aware by now that (good news: all is not lost) there are certain things that you can control.
You can control your reactions, your emotions, your efforts and quite frankly speaking the quality of your life despite any external events (read: COVID-19, End Of Days).
Since there is a limited amount of items that we can control and a vast majority of things that we can’t then would it not make absolute sense to place all our efforts and attention on things we can control?
By focusing on things that we can control, we develop what Stephen Covey calls “Proactive Focus” in his book 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (Another book that is part of the required reading list for team members and students alike).
And believe it or not, the more you work on your circle of control the more the circle expands. One day hopefully, your circle of influence far surpasses your circle of concern. Yes, this can happen! Look at Oprah, she is not concerned about the mental health of a woman in Mont Kiara but her shows might end up influencing them.
The opposite is also true. If we spread our focus and attention thin over our Circle of Concern then there is a high chance that we are going to work ourselves to a fix and lose the internal equilibrium needed to guide our children and students.
I know it is so easy to keep scrolling, keep consuming more opinions in order to feel more informed. Unfortunately, opinions from the internet are NOT going to change the facts of your life or mine. What will is our actions. I am choosing to spend this next 2 days chasing my son around our house and hear his cackling laugh. I urge you to go tickle, wrestle or play a video game with your child.
On a more serious note, parents and teachers are leaders. Your children and students emulate what you do. Monkey see, monkey do, remember? Like it or not, we live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. There are studies and statistics that infer COVID-19 is not an isolated incident. We will be seeing more and more of this. The debt cycle, various pandemics, the list of things that will turn our lives upside down is long indeed.
In order to win in this world, our children will need resilience and grit NOT constant worrying. Who better to teach them than us via our own behavior?
Lastly, if none of the things I said made sense I leave you with this :
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
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