Written by Kate Billing, Founder & Creative Director, Blacksmith

(Part Five in a seven-part series) A 5 minute read

Here are the links to the previous blogs in my series on using my COVID-19 acronym as a recipe for thriving in ‘the current situation’.

Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down, and round about.

The COVID-19 rollercoaster has had my emotions all over the place!

First the shock of its impact on our business. Then the impact on my life. Next the impact on people, families and communities around the world as numbers of the afflicted rose.

Grief for what was being lost. Anger at what was happening. Frustration that I couldn’t change things. Panic that we might be f@#&ed by this.

I find that it helps me to process my thoughts, feelings and experience by turning them into a model or some kind of graphic representation. Below is my attempt at capturing this rollercoaster experience.

COVID-19 Rollercoaster

In the first weeks of the COVID-19 reality, following the W.H.O global pandemic announcement, I thrashed around in the fear and catastrophizing of the Chaotic phase for some, only rolling on to Controlled thanks to a major stock take of the state of our life and business. Then I began to see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, as thoughts of what might be possible and the opportunities this situation had created came into view. My Confidence came back, slowly but surely, like a rollercoaster being cranked up the first big hill on a ride.

As I sat with all of this for a while, observing the world from a more neutral place, Creative thoughts and ideas came streaming in. What a relief. What excitement!

But then…a sense of going over the top of that BIG hill. The feeling of gravity taking over as the coaster cars rolled one by oneover the top and built momentum heading down into a tight, deep turn at the bottom…back to Chaotic!

Round and round I’ve gone for weeks, getting more comfortable with the ride, building a level of optimism and handling The Dip of Discouragement at the bottom of that big drop every time it comes.

I say Dip of Discouragement but it hasn’t always felt like that. Early on in the ride it was closer to despair. Recently, it’s been more like niggling doubt.

The Dip_3rd dimension of The dip of discouragement

Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction about something and it’s a day-to-day part of creative and innovative practice. Thinking up something new and taking action to make it real in the world comes with ego vulnerability, fear of judgement, and the chance of failure. It’s natural to have a pause for thought as you move forward, taking your ideas out of your head and making them visible to others.

Discouragement is more about a loss of confidence or enthusiasm for the creative work in hand. You take a few knocks – either from other people or inside your own head – and the doubt deepens to something more solid. It impacts your energy, attitude and ability to create. This is a danger zone where we can lose momentum, get stuck in inaction, and let our ideas and their potential impact wither.

Despair is a much MUCH deeper hole to get out of than doubt or discouragement. In his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl described despair as ‘suffering without meaning’. It is a state of losing hope, railing against reality and getting caught up in catastrophic stories in our heads about the future. 

Each of these levels of The Dip are natural and human in response to any particular set of circumstances. Recognising where we are and choosing what to do about it is what matters most.

DISCOURAGEMENT IS YOUR ALLY!

Our relationship with discouragement as a necessary part of the human and creative experience demands consideration. If we don’t understand that it’s normal to experience thoughts and feelings of discouragement when we’re responding to or creating change, then we risk missing out on the power of the possibilities and opportunities contained in that change.

Experiencing discouragement means we’re pushing forward, trying new things, taking risks, and potentially failing. It means we’re on a growth path!

Observing your personal experience of discouragement, to understand what is at its core for you in any given situation, promotes this growth:

  • What experiences have you had before that are similar and what can you learn from them?
  • What are the ways in which you see yourself lacking that are causing you to feel discouraged?
  • What are the beliefs you have about yourself, the work you’re doing, other people, and the world that mean you’re feeling discouraged? 

Answering these questions allows us to observe our own experience and identify what’s going on so we can do something about it.

So what can you choose to do when you find yourself in The Dip of Discouragement?

  1. Accept that’s where you are, remember it’s normal, and become curious about why you’re there and what you’re experiencing – basically journal the sh*t out of it!
  2. Identify the qualities you feel you’re lacking, for example “I don’t feel creative” or ”I don’t think I’m organised or disciplined enough”. Then look at the people around you and identify people in your world who demonstrate these qualities. Connect with them. Acknowledge their possession of those qualities and how much you admire them for embodying them. Ask them if they ever feel discouraged  and what they do to handle it.
  3. Solve a small, doable problem or challenge that will build some confidence. “Action alleviates anxiety” is a saying that has held me in good stead over the years.
  4. Create a new mindset that you feel will support you in overcoming your discouragement. One I created years ago that helped through a particularly challenging time in my life is that everything is always working out, especially when it feels like it isn’t.
  5. Practice a Random Act of Encouragement each day for someone around you, at work, home or in your community. Acknowledge their energy, attitude and something specific about them that you personally value.

To sum it all up, feeling discouraged is human and it’s bound to be part of your experience of the COVID-19 ‘loop the loop’. See it for what it is and use it as momentum to build your self-awareness, your growth mindset, your confidence, and your connection with those around you, the people who are there to support and encourage.

Next week we’ll explore the sixth part of our COVID-19 recipe for thriving: 1-2-1 Each Day. In a time when everything seems to be about being in the company of other humans constantly, be it group meetings on Zoom or living in our ‘Bubble’, we’ll look at the importance of one-to-one time with ourselves and with those we are in relationship with, at work and at home.

KateB

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