My friend Amit shared a personal story that made me rethink how I handle crisis situations.
The first client at the management consulting firm where he worked, had terminated the project.
Obviously, his boss and teammates blamed him. Every attempt to defend himself proved futile.
“I don’t remember the last time I felt so low,” he said. “It was like even strangers on the street were judging me.” He simply didn’t know how to fix things.
A few days later, he was exercising at the gym, still deeply worried about events and their effects. Suddenly, a question popped in his head, “Do I need to think about it right now?”
Instantly, his mind raced to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to why he sometimes breathes deeply while playing a match. Dhoni often does this to bring himself back to the present moment, and to feel grateful for the opportunity to play for his team.
Amit resolved to do the same. He breathed deeply and said, “At this moment, I’m safe,” over and over again.
“Because I was safe,” he told me. “My boss, teammates, clients… none of them were around. The only people with me were my workout buddies — my friends who pushed me to do better. And I felt grateful.”
Amit kept telling himself the same thing for the next few days. As his mind grew calmer, the dust settled. He could figure out solutions to problems other clients faced without letting emotions cloud his mind.
But he didn’t stop there. Amit went a step further. He used the crisis to become better. He learned and applied complex concepts. He collected feedback to strengthen his knowledge and make himself a better consultant.
Within two months, he’d helped an ailing unit of a company post its first profit in three years. He began delivering effective results for other clients as well.
He got assigned the biggest project the company had bagged. His boss introduced him to the new client saying, “He’s the best consultant we have.” His teammates agreed.
The 2-Step Framework to Handle a Crisis
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” — Sun Tzu.
We often let negative emotions blind us during a negative situation. Consequently, we fail to spot opportunities in them. (We even want to strangle anyone who tries to show them to us.)
But a botched situation is not the end of the world, no matter how terrible it appears. It’s a golden chance to learn and improve, and become a better version of yourself.
The combination of living in the present moment and practicing gratitude calms the animal brain and lets your rational brain take over.
As a result, you learn to back yourself to figure things out rather than getting crushed under their weight.
You respond to arguments and misunderstandings better (often by sleeping over them).
You develop a positive mindset and improve your mental health.
You build grit and take one step at a time until one day, you reach a beautiful destination, even if it’s not the one you planned for.
I now apply Amit’s technique each time I feel anxious about the past or future, or over something outside my control. I breathe deeply, remind myself that I’m safe and ask, “What should I do now?” The fog clears to reveal the way forward.
If I can take action right away, I do. If I cannot, I put the task on my to-do list and stop thinking about it.
Damn, it works! It allows me to give the present task my best. It makes me productive and happier and keeps me in control of my life.
Life doesn’t have to remain complex. We hold the power to simplify it.
Stressing over things feels easy. But like in most things, doing what’s easy is often harmful, while doing what’s simple makes things (and us) better.
Each time you feel stressed, remind yourself that you’re safe, that you’ve got what it takes to handle it. Then do what the present moment calls for. Eventually, things will fall in place.
When you look back, you’ll feel proud not just of what you achieved, but also of the person you’ve become.
You deserve to live a meaningful life. Go out and build it. I’m rooting for you.