‘What Can I Do?’: Empowering Ourselves

The Engaging People Company

This year has brought many challenges. Including a new one I hadn’t envisaged.

The technology terrors.

Back in the very early spring, setting up meetings could bring with it previously unentertained anxieties. No sooner would I pop a virtual appointment in my calendar than my mind, like the DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies, would race forward to a few days hence. What if my Wi-Fi drops out? What if my laptop freezes? What if my microphone stops working? What if ditto my camera? What if I can’t get the grips with the settings? What if-

And when not thundering into some future parallel universe, my mind would cast back to times gone by, experiences when the technology had failed. And these unwelcome memories brought very literal reminders of the feelings of worry that they had provoked at the time.

Like a rocking horse, I oscillated unhappily between the ‘what ifs’ of an unknown and increasingly concerning future scenario and past reminisces of previous technological mishaps. And with each new thought, I could feel my anxiety increase until my worry had formed itself into a low, unhappy hum, prodding me annoyingly.

STOP.

What can I do?

I can set up my laptop closer to the Wi-Fi

I can go do a ‘test run.’

I can spend half an hour familiarising myself with the settings.

And that was it. Anything else that might crop up was out of my control. So if my laptop suddenly froze, or the internet dropped out, or if a power cut rudely and abruptly shut everything down, I would deal with it in the moment.

Such a simple, every day and minor challenge. But an example of how by realising we always have a choice, that there is always something we can do – as well as stuff about which we can do nothing – we can mitigate and manage worry and stress: and unnecessary worry and stress at that.

In any situation we have power. The key is realising where our power lies.

What can I control? What can I influence? That’s what we focus on. There is always, always something that we can do – even when we feel like something is happening to us rather than with us.

And what can I do nothing about? This is the stuff that we have to let go. Especially as these are the things on which we exert so much of our mental energy, ultimately bringing worries and stress and anxieties. It’s so often the ‘what if’ aspect of our lives, such as in my case. I had no way of knowing what would happen, I’m not a psychic, so getting lost on that turbulent train of thought was futile. And ultimately, unpleasant.

Because as well as realising where our power lies, focusing on what we can control and influence, is freeing. If I cannot do anything about it, then why I am giving it such head space?

The pandemic which we find ourselves in is a prime example where we can find and focus on the things within our control and influence. What can I control? Washing my hands. Wearing a mask. Keeping my distance. What can I influence? Others behaviours’ through my own.

But I am not an epidemiologist (there’s a word I couldn’t say never mind spell a year ago). I’m not a scientist. I’m not a politician. The pandemic offers many tempting opportunities for ‘what if…’ thinking but is this helpful? Or is it just creating further anxieties in an already challenging time?

Of course, that’s all very well said and done: it’s a pandemic after all. But it can be an invaluable tool. And, when we find ourselves on that slippery ‘what if’ path, we can remind ourselves that the only moment we need to focus on is this one. Right now.

*Oh, and those technology terrors are long since banished. I’m happy to report that I’m more than au fait with a good Zoom quiz these days.

This article was shared with permission from The Engaging People Company

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