"I love a challenge" I grunt to myself through gritted teeth.
I use this phrase to engage a more useful lens on the world when I'm swamped with minor inconveniences and they're getting the better of me. It's the lens that I want to look through when I get hit with one set back after another. These four words are often the difference between a terrible day, and a challenging, yet satisfying one. After all, no one would brag about climbing Mt. Everest if it was easy.
Are you aware of your lens at the moment?
Everyone sees the world through a different lens. No two people interpret the same event, discussion or stimulus identically. These 'lenses' are coloured by our experiences, our views, our values and principles. They tint and focus everything we see.
Everyone has a lens on, always.
Everyone sees everything through that lens for the period of time that they're wearing that lens.
These lenses constantly change, sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually.
These lenses can either change automatically, or consciously and deliberately.
There are an infinite number of lenses and often they're used in combination. They can't be labelled and reduced down to "everyone who fits into this group sees the world like this". To demonstrate though, here are two example of lenses that people sometimes wear. They are both equally powerful and self-perpetuating:
The Midas Lens: Sometimes you wake up in a good mood. You've had a string of recent successes and you feel like you can do anything. You feel like everything that you touch will turn to gold.
The Reverse-Midas Lens: Exactly like it sounds, it's the opposite of the above.
You believe that everything you touch is going to turn to crap.
Using "The Midas" & "The Reverse-Midas" lenses, what do you think the outcomes would be in the below situations when viewed through each lens?
You are set to give a presentation in five minutes time, at 10:00am. You're sitting in the lobby waiting to be admitted to the board room. Winning this account would mean huge things for your business. One of the managers you are scheduled to meet with comes to inform you that the other attendees are running late, but are still keen to meet. Because they want everyone to be there, can you move your presentation to 11:00am?
You've just applied for a job as a police officer and are eagerly awaiting the outcome. You think the first interview went well but there are still a physical and psychometric test to pass. You receive a call to tell you were successful in your first interview, congratulations. They normally space out the physical and psychometric tests by a week or so, but due to tight scheduling, they'd like you do both tomorrow.
Triggers - how to rapidly change lenses for the better:
By recognising your mood and using short phrases (triggers) that you have prepared beforehand, you can quickly change your outlook for the better. Here are a few of my favourites along with short descriptions of how and when I use them:
"I love a challenge" - when it feels like everything is lining up against you, and you might want to give up at the next hurdle. This phrase helps me rise to a challenge and push through adversity
"Energy begets energy, get up" or "Motivation comes before action" - these two are slightly different but I use them both when I'm feeling flat or tired and noticed that I feel like I don't have the energy or willingness to start something. No one ever got on a roll without getting started. Depending on the situation and the outcome that I want, I do a small but useful action to get going. This could mean I do a few quick squats to get the blood flowing or even task myself to sit and write for five minutes without interruption and see where it leads to.
Some variant of Hanlon's Razor "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect." I usually substitute neglect with "fear, stupidity or laziness" - highly useful if you notice that you feel like people are out to get you or you feel like there's rifts in all of your friendships lately. In nearly every case, people just aren't being attentive or they're too swept up in their own life to care deeply about yours at the moment.
"Make it good enough, then make it better" or "Race to the first failure" - with perfectionistic tendencies, it's easy to rationalise yourself out of something you think is going to be hard or that you might fail at, even if you really want to do that something. For example, the thought of people seeing pieces of my work that aren't finished and perfected makes me cringe. That said, in a lot of cases, the work that I'm putting out has been good enough for general consumption for a long time already, even though I don't consider it done. That last 10% I want to add to perfect it might take just as long again as the first 90%. I need to remember that I can almost always revisit and improve things once they're released. Ideas are nothing without execution so it's important to remind myself that if I think it's good enough, it almost certainly has been for a long time.
By checking in with yourself regularly and recognising your mood, you can quickly take stock of how you're feeling and acting and make a conscious decision to change this for the better. By doing this, you can change the story-line running in your head.
Once you start noticing your moods and lenses, you can notice the warning signs that precede the unproductive ones. Once you can identify these warning signs, you can put measures in place to quickly prevent or correct them.
Stop and check in with yourself for a moment, which lens are you wearing right now?
I'd love to hear if you have any trigger phrases that you use to choose your lens, if you have any favourites, drop me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org