January 27, 2021

Three Lessons from Inspirational Thinkers


Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

January is a difficult month at the best of times, with the excitement of Christmas over and the short, cold days making it seem like summer is a lifetime away.

But January 2021 has the added blow of coming amidst the most significant business challenge in living memory – the pandemic.

The personal toll is enormous, with many people anxious over work, family, and lockdown isolation.

In such times, remaining focused and thinking clearly can be difficult, which is why we’ve provided lessons from three inspirational thinkers to help keep you positive and motivated.


Exercise Your Strength of Character

For many, lockdown means long periods of isolation alone with their thoughts.

And according to performance psychologist, Jim Loehr, those thoughts eventually become a narrative for our unconscious brain.

Loehr has worked with high performers from a range of fields including sport and business. His mantra is that strength of character is key to professional achievement and personal fulfilment.

For example, it’s easy to think “not another Zoom call” if you work in sales and feel uncomfortable giving presentations over video calls.

According to Loehr, this negative thinking begins to impact your performance and becomes a reality.

His advice is to reframe that voice as a supportive friend, encouraging you on a journey of improvement.

For example, instead of saying “I’ll never make a sale using Zoom,” you should instead think: “I’m going to make a sale; it might not be today, but this will be good practice in getting there.”


Loehr recommends journaling to capture challenging situations like this so that you can plan how you will speak to yourself next time.

Loehr also believes that energy spawns growth, so if you spend your time telling yourself that you can’t do something and avoid it, it will gain credence and you never will.

However, if you practice investing energy in thinking constructively and developing useful skills, you can reduce your mental burden and eventually overcome the problem.

You can take the same approach with attributes like performance, resiliency and focus. All of these elements be practised and exercised like a muscle to build strength of character.


Grow Your Circle of Influence

The lack of control over aspects of one’s life is a stressor during lockdown, and it’s easy to get upset or frustrated over events that are out of our control.

A useful tool for understanding what you can control is Stephen R Covey’s Circles of Influence and Control.

Covey was a businessman and management consultant, perhaps best known for his influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Imagine three circles, each within the next, getting progressively smaller. The outermost circle is our ‘circle of concern’, this consists of things that affect you, but you can’t control.

The second is the circle of influence; this represents things that you can’t control directly but that you could have an impact on.

In the middle is the circle of control, this represents situations that you have direct control over.

You can categorise all events in your life within these three circles. Covey’s advice is to accept those things in the circle of concern and focus your energies instead on what falls within the circle of control.

More importantly, you should expand your circle of influence by taking proactive action to reduce the impact of factors in the circle of concern.

For example, you can’t control whether your suppliers go out of business, but what you can do is find alternative suppliers who can act as a back-up.

Better still, you can speak to your suppliers, understand the challenges they face and what action you could take to support them.

Expanding your circle of influence in this way not only helps to protect your business, but it also builds relationships and makes you more influential in the future.


Create Balance in Your Life

Social distancing and the closure of bars and restaurants may leave those lucky enough to still have jobs feeling like they live to work.

Homeworkers often complain of not being able to switch off or putting in extra hours.

Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington, has written extensively about achieving a better balance of business principles.

A victim of burnout herself, Huffington believes that many businesses focus on two main factors: attaining power and earning money and that this leads to a negative working environment.

According to Huffington, pursuits like success, wealth and recognition often lead to dead ends, and that good leadership and creativity aren’t possible if you are exhausted and burnt out.

For her, the solution is to redefine what a successful business looks like by giving equal weight to factors such as well-being, inner wisdom and positive perception.

However, more importantly, she believes that you must create a spiritual centre to your life to be fulfilled.

This will be anchored to less tangible pursuits such as religion, art, science and relationships, as these hold the key to discovering who we are and achieving a more balanced life.