Episode 56: Finding Positives in a Pandemic

Good morning! Here on Live a Life by Design we start each week with a powerfully positive statement to help you gain traction for a better week. I’m Jimmy Williams, your PhD of Positivity, your Monday morning moments of motivation creator. And I can’t tell you how excited I am to spend a few minutes with you. 

What a beautiful time. You know, our country’s in the middle of a disruptive pandemic, but I’ve got to be honest with you, that’s not what I am focusing on. You know, I’m gonna share with you today some of the tips that I use to make certain that I don’t allow this pandemic to change my course of life. If you’re allowing yourself to see, you drift away from what are your ambitious goals. Your lifetime points that you want to hit to show that you are making progress in your life. Well I’ve got some news for you today. You’re gonna find out the secret acrostic, that basically stands for letters that mean certain things for us in a word. And I’m gonna share with you today something important about my approach to overcoming a pandemic’s impact.

You know, most of us walk around without any type of direction. Without any type of purpose in our step. We’re simply, if you will, going by which way the wind blows. You know these people. They never really achieve anything in life. They’re kind of stuck in neutral, as I say. If you were looking at them on the freeway, they’re the car that everyone is passing because they don’t really know where the exit is. They don’t know which way they’re going, they don’t know why they’re going. Which is most important. And they don’t even know how to get there. But that’s not you, and that’s not me. We wake each day with a plan of action. I set down with my planner and have a plan of action of how I’m going to seize the day. 

So I want you, today, to start off something different. Something, if you will, that’s gonna cause you a little bit, probably, of discomfort. But as I’ve said before on this podcast, you  must become comfortable with discomfort. That’s how we grow as people. Not just in our physical being, but our emotional, and our mental and our spiritual beings. We have to become uncomfortable at some point. You know, many of us fail to grasp the power and control we have over our environment, our minds, our bodies. 

Today, I will share with you this acrostic that I say everyday during my early morning journaling to bring that focus back into my life that I am in control of my world. Do you have a personal vision statement? I hope that you do. I want you to develop one today. If it’s as simple as ‘I am’ and then you finish that sentence with whatever your ultimate goal is. For example, I am a healthy 180 pound, 6 ft 2, man and I wish to run a 26 minute 5k. Whatever you desire that to be is your vision. Write that down. Because, see, the point of writing it down creates on your mind that impression, that impact that it’s something that’s important to you that you will want to remember. 

You know, picture yourself now, on an ark. Yep, that’s what I’m talking about, an ark. Just like Noah and his family found themselves during the great flood. The waves and wind pitched and pushed the ark to and fro with no means of control from Noah. He was simply a passenger riding along. He did not have control of where the ark was going. He had no idea where his destination would be. He had no way to control the throwing of back and forth by the waves that were so great at that time. Now take that picture and ease it out of your mind. 

I want you to now picture yourself on a giant sailing vessel. With your family as the trained crew. Now that may be hard for some of you to imagine, but let’s work with me this morning. The winds, now, have come up, you’ve otherwise been on calm seas. And the waves are getting bigger and your success destination is in the distance, straight ahead. Something comes along that you can’t control. The wind. Immediately and abruptly turns. The wind that was pushing you from the back, giving you great ease as you sailed smoothly towards your destination has now turned and become pushing from the front. You’re now facing a very torrent wind that you cannot control. But you know, you can control how the wind impacts your vessel. 

So, you quickly remember, Hey, I’m the captain of this sailing ship, not an ark. You immediately regain your confidence. You shout the appropriate orders to your crew to trim the mainsail and hoist the jib. To start tacking against the wind. Tacking simply means that you are sailing against the wind and using that same wind that is pushing you, to pull you forward. When I was in the boy scouts, and yes, I was in the boy scouts. I had a great experience by the way, in the boy scouts, my troop leader, scout master, was a gentleman named John Gilson, and he had such a faith in me and helped me develop a lot of my leadership traits as a young boy and man. That I would take into life, so I owe John a great deal of gratitude for that. 

But what I learned one summer in scout camp was how to sail a sailboat. This was a single sail sailboat. It was a single person sailboat, and what I did was, I quickly learned from a master sailor how to utilize the wind to do whatever I wished with that small sailboat across the lake. And the first two or three days, I’ll be honest with you, I was rather frustrated. I couldn’t command the vessel, if you will, to gain the benefit of what I wanted it to do and had given in because of my lack of experience, lack of training, to allow the wind to push me where it was going as opposed to me utilizing the wind to take me where I wished to go.

But after about two or three days, I started gaining my confidence. I started gaining some experience. I started learning “the tricks of the trade”. And as he kept patiently teaching me, by the end of that fourth day, on this small sailing craft, I was commanding the lake. I never wanted to leave that sail boat. Now it is a lot more work than just sitting on a power boat with a steering wheel and a throttle. But the quietness. The ease, the grace of which you’re sailing across that crystal clear lake, with no noise behind you such as a motor to interrupt your pristine personality of attitude. You’re just out there, just you and the elements. You can picture that in your mind now, can’t you?

What it did for me was teach me that if in fact life throws something at me that I can’t control, I always have options that I can implement to take that particular item under my control and use it. So, how much power does it give you now, that I just explained what you can do. And how much can you help your crew understand that you can take control? You see tremendous confidence that you can conquer wind and wave to reach an ultimate destination is empowering. So why don’t we do this in our everyday lives? Today, I’m gonna give you the secret to “sail against the current force” of this pandemic. 

I’m always reminded of one of my favorite songs, from I believe it was the late 70s, early 80s, Bob Seger, the great singer and songwriter from Michigan had a song he wrote called “Against the Wind”. It was, I’m guessing number 1 hit, at least a top 10 hit. It was a big hit for me. I remembered when this song came out, my sailing days. And how his song is describing that we have to find a way to go against the wind because everyone can go with the wind. With no energy, no thought, really no ambition. But it takes someone that has purpose to go against that wind and you must have a plan. 

Let’s talk a little bit about this acrostic I’m mentioning to you. The acrostic is simply this, GROW. G-R-O-W. Now I know many of you are thinking, and now it doesn’t mean that type of grow. In other words the grow of the waistline. I think we’re all gaining some weight, so we have to step back and use this GROW in another way.

G: Growth

The first letter of the acrostic is G. And that stands for growth. Now let’s start though, with mental growth. The point I’m making with mental growth is, is we must exercise our mental toughness, or our ability to withstand certain things in life that just aren’t what we wish to do. We didn’t order this pandemic. None of us on this planet would have asked for it. But it’s here. If I can’t control the fact that it’s here, then I must control the things that I can. My attitude toward the pandemic. If I sat and focused clearly all day on just simply worrying about how the pandemic got here and what it’s doing to our nation and our world, I’m probably not going to be in the most productive state of mind. My mental toughness would, basically in our sailing scenario, would be simply going with the wind. I would be allowing the pandemic to take control.

The mental toughness I want you to face in this particular instance is to grow your mental toughness by understanding you must, everyday, get up and take control of your environment. Your world. Build it the way you wish it to be. Don’t allow the pandemic to tell you what to do. Now I’m not saying we don’t go out and use protocols that are for safety, such as social distancing or self isolation. I am not saying that. I am saying, though, within those environments, take control of your mental being. 

Too often I tell people that we worry so much about ourselves, that we become a human feeling, instead of a human being. You see the big difference? Too often we allow fear and other feelings of anxiety to take control of our lives when there’s nothing we can do about the outside world. But man, there’s a lot I can do about the inside of Jimmy. The way I frame my mind, my thoughts, set up my day for success. Set yourself up for that success. 

Another area of growth for us is emotional growth. Now what I’m talking about here is, and this may offend some of you, but I hope it doesn’t. You know I’m not a big fan of watching just mindless TV. I watch a very few shows and I love documentaries. I love biographical shows, things of that nature. I love my sports. I basically record a lot of these or I select them off of one of our services, you know, whether it’s Hulu or whether it’s something to do with Amazon Prime’s movies, or whatever. And I love to just focus on those things. I get through watching my show and I’m done. I don’t allow myself to sit there, mindlessly soaking up this information that’s sent to us from those on the video that really does nothing for my life. 

Literally nothing. It is mind numbing. And I will say that the greatest challenge for a lot of us is, to take that critical phase of once your show that you’ve been watching that has some fruitful information in it, has concluded, you must take initiative to remove yourself from the environment. I just believe that if we allow ourselves to sit there and dine on the mindless, numbing issues of the boob tube, it is similar to us dining on chocolate cake all day long. Eventually your mind will become weak. Similar to how your body will become obese. And I encourage you to grow your emotional well being by really thinking I’m in charge, take control, set the boundaries for what you wish to watch. If you have some shows to watch, do what I do. Set them up, put them on your calendar, go watch them when you wish. Because they’re now recorded. You don’t have to allow those that command the time of production and distribution of those shows to be your time. Take charge of your environment. Increase your emotional growth. 

And the last area of growth to me is very critical. It’s spiritual growth. Now, I’m not gonna tell you how to worship, but rather I want to give you the strategy I use to get to a worshipful mindset or meditation. I prefer the early hours of the day, because the elements of the day have not shown their presence in my world. Too many of us don’t wake up until it’s 7:30. We have something to do, we have to get done by 8:30. We run freneticly all over the house, you don’t have anything prepared. You didn’t perform your evening shut down routine the night before. You are scrambling, you now feel unease. You also feel like you’re ill prepared and the day just got started. It is downhill from here. And so you don’t have a very good starting foundation to get your day off to the point where you can take advantage of the elements you set up because you did not get them done the night before.

So, what I try to do is simply put, I am at peace, quiet and undisturbed by emails, phone-calls, slack messages, etc. My own family is not even risen for the day. So I have that quiet time to really focus, plan and prepare to implement my day in the manner I choose. If you will, it’s me setting that mainsail for my success destination. You know, I read my bible. I pray, and my day is set. My face has a big smile planted on it, and I jump into the world, even if the wind is in my face. So the letter G stands for Growth. 

R: Reconnect

The second letter to our acrostic is the letter R. And it stands for Reconnect. During this time of pandemic, you may find additional margin in your day. Or some time that you really have nothing planned. Use this time to mend or even better enhance your relationships with people. Don’t simply send a meaningless text of a few characters, or an email that’s wrote, that you use for everybody else. But rather a hand written, thoughtful card, or letter. I chose five people each week and send a handwritten note to let them know how much they mean to me. And the joy I receive from their friendship. The funny part to this, though, is that I get a call a few days after mailing these letters or postcards, and all of the friends tell me the small gesture or token of communication that was in their mailbox lifted their spirits and gave them a better day than they had been experiencing previously. 

You see what I did there? I actually am sending these cards and letters, handwritten, the envelopes, hand addressed, I even put the little self adhesive stamp up in the corner. I don’t use the postage meter from our office machine. And I will tell you, I gain a tremendous amount of increased emotion, support, I just feel empowered by doing this cause it’s allowing me to show my feelings toward others that mean so much to me and my life. But the byproduct to that is, they’re calling me saying it made their day better. So to me it’s a win win situation. And I will tell you, isn’t that what life is all about? 

You know there’s always this game of competition, I’ve got to be truthful with you, I am a competitive person. I can’t even play dominos with friends unless I feel like I’ve got to win. I’ve just have always pursued winning, and in this game of reconnecting with my friends and family, I’m getting a win and they’re getting a win. To me that is the pinnacle of success of reconnecting a relationship. As a matter of fact, today we take technology for granted. It is so easy to pick up your phone and dial any number in the world, you could talk all the way across the planet, they may be at night and you at day, but you can still talk to them and reach them in a few seconds. We can take that phone and we can text a message and send it to anyone all over the world. But to sit down and write, purposely write out a letter, or a postcard. Put it in an envelope. Address it by hand. Put the stamp on it. This shows the people that are receiving this particular form of communication that you truly care, because you took something most valuable of yours that can’t be replaced and utilized it for their well being. I’m talking about your time. 

Now these five people that I send these postcards or letters to each week, it takes about an hour and a half, two hours of my time most likely to do the whole process and send it out. But to me, that hour and a half to two hours is well invested. It helps my mental capabilities understand that there’s more to life than just sitting in my home during this pandemic. I have connected with people out there. I didn’t allow the pandemic to shut me in and create me as a hermit that isolated against all of the world. Nope. It allows me by writing to get my brain involved. But writing they see that I’ve handwritten it, now I’ll grant you this, my penmanship has slacked a little since I’ve gotten in a hurry during my professional career which is why I dictate most of the letters I do now, but my point I’m making is that act of writing is something that impresses upon the receiver that you cared enough to take valuable time to send them a message of hope. A message of love. A message that you sincerely care about how they are doing during this pandemic crisis.

O: Open

The next letter is O. The O stands for Open. Open your eyes. Go outside of your home and see. Don’t just look. There’s a big difference between seeing something and looking at something. Really focus on the beauty that’s in your world. The trees, flowers, birds and other beauty in your midst that you may have missed entirely when you were running your frenetic life, can now be enjoyed because you have been forced to stay at home. See your home with a fresh set of eyes. Look around the room where you’re now sitting. I’ll be you, you haven’t noticed what’s around you. You may have had your soul mate, or your wife, or your sweet mate, someone may have changed something in the room that you’re just now noticing, and you wonder, hmmm, wonder when that got changed. You see we often miss those things in front of us because we don’t really see what’s going on. But we look around us. 

You know, this is very fortunate for us that we can take advantage of this isolation time to really gain perspective of our dwelling, of our apartment, of whatever we’re living in. And whomever we’re living with that you can now really and truly see what’s going on in your world. You know, some of us are so busy, as I said earlier, that we get up late, we run into the kitchen. We fix ourselves something to eat real quick, we throw the dishes in the sink, and we leave not even noticing the surroundings that we have built. The environment around us could have changed and you missed it all because you weren’t really seeing what’s taking place in your own home. 

So, you know, we live, in my opinion, in one of the greatest countries if not the greatest country on the entire planet. I think it’s the greatest. We have some issues in our country, like any other country, but I will tell you it’s the greatest country on the planet, and the reason I know this is it allows us to create comfortable safe places that we can live and thrive and grow our families. And help us to become better citizens of this country, if we so desire. 

The next open I would use, besides opening your eyes, would be to open good books. I know what you’re thinking, you’re going, Jimmy, you’re trying to force me to read and I’m just not a reader, well, I’ve got news for you, you can be. This is a skill that’s learned, just like any other skill. I mentioned about me learning how to command that single sail sailboat on the lake as a child, as a young man. And now I’m trying to say to you, you can do that again by learning to read good books. Yes, if you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time you know that I am a veracious leader, and reader. During this time of remote working I reviewed my wishlist of books that I haven’t purchased and I got started ordering them. I got to tell you, it is crazy how many times a week that we have UPS, or the Postal Service, or FedEx deliver us books and other things from online orders. But I’m telling you we are not allowing the economy to stall on behalf of the Williams family. We’re keeping it moving as best we can.

And currently, though, I am reading a book that is outstanding. Its title is Clarity First, by Karen Martin. This is a great book, and it can be ordered through our website, if you wish to bring greater clarity to your life, your business, your entire world. And other great books that I highly recommend are found on our website at livealifeby.design/resource/book. We don’t gain anything from you ordering from our website, it’s just a simpler way for you to click that button, order the book and enjoy something great that will bring your mind some growth that will help you find answers to the questions of where you are in life and how to get where you wish to go. 

You know, other great books on that website would not be hurtful to your mind. So feed your mind. Feed your creativity. Feed your imagination by opening up a great book today. The last item I open is my mind. Until we find a quiet space for us to safely turn off our guard and let our mind simply relax and breathe, we can’t achieve consistent growth. Your mindset is so powerful, it is the main sail, referring back to our sailing metaphor, one of my mentors, Zig Ziglar, coined a great phrase that I use all the time. “Stinking thinking did nothing for nobody.” If you’ll allow me to use the double negatives that Zig used. So Open is the letter O. Open.

W: Workout

Now our last letter of the acrostic is W, and here we go, it stands for Workout. This letter folks, is on the physical being, while the other three letters are focused on other aspects of your being. Everyday, during a term of disruption and distress, you must release the stress you’re holding by working your body. You must get the tension out of your system. Go for a walk, bust out some push ups. Perform some sit ups. And if you’re feeling particularly energetic, hit the floor and do some burpees. Just do something to release the tension and stress caused by the daily barrage of bad news seen on TV and read in newspapers. Scientists have proven that our bodies react differently during times that we are stressed. Cortisol, a hormone, is ordered by the brain and released by the pituitary gland to fire up your adrenaline. In other words, it’s that fight, flight, or freeze mode, right. To remove this powerful hormone from your body you should meditate, maybe some stretching exercises such as yoga, eat fewer carbs, or at least more healthy carbs and purposely get plenty of sleep.

What we’re saying is, if you don’t seek this balance between workouts and relaxation, your body reacts in some harmful ways. High blood pressure, muscle weakness. Mood swings, rapid weight gain, etc. None of these is good for you in the long run. Remember the acrostic. GROW. G-R-O-W. This week, let’s purposely turn off the TV, stop reading the bad news. Reconnect with a dear friend. Open up a great book and work your body so that you are setting the mainsail in your life. You are not an ark. You are a powerfully created sailing ship, with an experienced captain at the helm. Take a minute and go to our Live a Life by Design Facebook page and leave a message of what you will do differently this week, to take control of your days. 

Go now, take charge of your week by seizing today, and always Live your Life by Design.

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