Mind the Gap: strengthen your mindset to get through tough times

Posted January 26, 2015 in Latest News & Insights

Over the past year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with some amazing leaders at Target Canada. My heart truly goes out to them as they wind down operations this week and let go of the dreams and aspirations they had when they joined that company two short years ago. As I listened to them talk through their experience earlier this week, I asked them to reflect on what positive experiences they had gained from their time at Target. Their insights were beautiful, grounding and generous. Even though the emotions they are individually processing are difficult, each leader managed to find laughter, gratitude and inspiration. This experience made me think of how easy it is, especially when times are difficult, to lose sight of all we’ve accomplished and gained.

In September 2013, I started swimming again in a Masters Swim Program.  Most of the people I swim with are Iron Man competitors, triathletes, or competitive swimmers. I am none of those things. I was a lifeguard as a teenager and swam a bit in my 20’s. That’s it. The first morning, I got into the pool in the slow, slow lane and I thought I was going to die. I was completely miserable and the only reason I went back was because I signed up with a friend and she was picking me up.

I got through my first week, and then month and now it’s been over a year and a half. In that time, I haven’t grown to love getting up at 6 a.m., or the first few lengths of the pool (I always wonder, why the hell am I there) but I’ve graduated to the slow lane (not the slow, slow lane) and when I got out this week, I realized I’d swam 2100 meters. Yay me! The fact that I hadn’t even come close to completing the 2700 meter workout was fine. I was focused on my improvement.

As human beings, we have a wonderful capacity to focus on what we didn’t do, what we had left to do, how we screwed things up, how we’re inadequate compared to others…etc, etc.  It’s so painful!  But also preventable.  One of the things I’ve learned is that the key to happiness and contentment is to focus on what you have accomplished instead of focusing on what you have left to do (or didn’t get to do). Recognizing your progress, accomplishments and growth, all create positive feelings and can put negative situations in a better perspective. It doesn’t mean that the tough stuff is going to go away, but it does mean that you will be able to strengthen your mindset and navigate the rough waters more easily.

So, if you, like my dear colleagues at Target Canada, find yourself suddenly with the rug pulled out from under you through a layoff, or a horrible professional misstep or some other perceived shortfall, try this exercise:

  1. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished over the course of your career that you are proud of; list your successes; list your progress. Nothing is too small. Ignore the voice that may say “well, that was just doing your job”. Bullshit. It’s progress…capture it!
  2. Think about the people you’ve helped; think about the successful relationships you’ve built.
  3. Think about how far you’ve come from that person you were 6 /12 / 18 months/ years ago.

Now… take a deep breath.  Doesn’t that feel better?  Look at all that you’ve done!  You’re AMAZING! All these talents and experiences are going to come forward with you, whatever your next adventure may be. How fabulous is that?!

As for me, every extra length I do in the pool, that’s one length closer to completing that elusive workout. Maybe I’ll even make it into the medium/slow lane next year!

Happy leading!


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One Comment

  1. Melodie Barnett says:

    Wow, needed that this morning. Thanks Glain 😉