This lesson pairs perfectly with my free workbook you can download here.
Is the COVID-19 crisis overwhelming you with the feeling that you’ve lost control? Right now, the thing we want to gain more control. We want control over our work, over our responses, and frankly to move about like we used to. We want to control not only where we are and what we do, but we want to control what we think about ourselves and about our future.
Before this crisis, I “thought” I was in control when it turns out, I actually wasn’t. You could be fooled too. I’m going to share with you my story about how I “thought” I was in control, and give you a road map that I’ve used since the beginning of this crisis to help gain more control over your life.
My Story: How I “thought” I was in Control
2020 was going to be the best year of my life. I signed several large leadership development contracts that were going to allow me to make a significant difference in the lives of some really incredible human beings and really incredible companies. And, I worked it, Baby! I worked it like crazy. My assistant and I pushed through the first quarter to deliver the best results for our clients.
In March, I had a two-day Leadership Retreat right after a four day weekend. And so I put myself fully into planning this retreat in February and March, and went into hyper-mode during the four day weekend before the Retreat. As soon as I got into that first day session I was so excited. But at the end of that 10 hour day, I got home and I crashed. I crashed hard.
Now I’ve been tired before, but I’ve never been so tired that I actually sat down on the couch (which is something I never do.) And that night, I literally could not get up from the couch. So I spent a couple hours there, before I got up to get ready for the next day. The next day, I got in there and did the best that I possibly could despite my exhaustion. At the end of that day I came home and thought I was on the verge of total collapse.
Later, I went to the doctor and found out that I had this rare condition called hyperthyroidism. My thyroid was hyper. My thyroid was actually reflecting my life. And basically pumping thyroid chemicals into my body so quickly that my body started to do the opposite. It started to shut down.
The next day COVID-19 hit and shut down all my client work. Fortunately for me, unfortunate for those who have suffered, I was forced to shut my body down. If I had not done so, I would not be here to share my story. If COVID-19 had not shut me down, I would have run myself ragged because I know how to do that very well. I am here today to share with you something that I’ve discovered through a lot of conversations, especially with my coach, as to why I came to the point where I had lost control over my life.
I “thought” I Was in Control
I “thought” I had control: I was signing contracts. I was working with really exciting executives and their companies. I was creating great work that was having a significant impact on others. I set goals; I achieved those goals. I was doing what I wanted. I loved it. I was controlling the outcomes of my life.
The truth is, I had zero control over my life. My body was telling me, “you are through, game over.” My body’s response to weeks of 24/7 work told me the truth. I was out of control.
I have spent the last six weeks getting my body back in order so I can truly gain control of my future. But it took an absolute strict diet of supplements, of shakes, or creams, of prohibiting myself from being close to a piece of bread, or a piece of rice, or an egg, or a piece of cheese, or get closer than 100 miles from a cow or a chicken.
How to Gain Better Control of Your Life
How do you gain better control over your life? The first question you need to ask yourself is why do you want to get more control over your life?
You must get deeply connected to why control over your life is so important right now. You need to ask yourself for the sake of what must you have control? What would gaining more control over your life mean to you? What are the most important outcomes you want for yourself, your family, and your career?
The 4 R’s to Gaining More Control
A Leadership Retreat is a time where we stop and we reflect. The first “R” to gain more control of our life is to look at where you were before the crisis. Take some time to reflect on every area of your life before this COVID-19 crisis.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What was great about my current situation?
- What wasn’t so great about my current situation?
- Did I love my work?
- Was I really connected to my family?
- Was I overcommitting and overworking myself?
Reflect on The Assessments You Have About Your Value
Most importantly while you’re in this reflection phase, reflect on the assessments you have around your value.
How do you bring value to people? Is it hard work? Is it being the smartest, the fastest, the most relentless to serve? My assessment probably from the day I was born is that my value to the world comes exclusively from productivity.
I really thought that the way people value me is just to be productive. I had been trained to deliver. I had been rewarded by meeting deadlines. I had based my worth on making, doing, and delivering. I had signed up for a deal with the devil.
Our American Culture values hard work and productivity over the expense of our health. In fact, a lot of Americans don’t even take their vacations. We’ve learned, especially in the Western world that your value is putting in the hours. Put in the hours, get a bonus. People who put in the hours get a lot of rewards, but it’s also a way to kill yourself (literally).
Time to go deep. How do you value yourself? Is it all about trying to prove something? Is it all about delivery? What price have you paid by creating a sense of value that puts all the CONTROL in the hands of others?
Sit in these thoughts of reflection as you move into the second R: Redefine.
The second “R,” Redefine, is the opportunity to create what matters to you moving forward, so that you get to be in control of your life. By allowing yourself to become more congruent with what is important to you, you set in motion actions that have you feel more free, more connected, and more powerful. Also, through Redefinition, you learn the greatest talent -- how and when to say NO!
1. Get Honest -- How do you currently define the value you bring?
The first thing you do to gain control over your life is to redefine your value. You redefine your value to be something that puts you in the driver seat. You redefine how you want your life to go based on your passion, your values, and you go deep into what people really truly appreciate you for. Defining my value to others as productivity leaves me no room for control. Productivity is not something I am passionate about, it is not one of my most important values, nor is it something that people truly appreciate me for.
Productivity actually masks what I am truly appreciated for, which is originality, creativity, challenge, and vulnerability. These are my inner truths, the truths that put me out there in the world, exposed, dangerous, and open to ridicule.
These features of myself open myself up to failure, but they open myself up to providing the greatest value to my clients. (Funny how life works that way.) And because these values are innately what I am about, they allow me to be in the driver’s seat and control how and when I can bring value to my clients.
How did I lock in on creativity as a way of redefining my value to the world?
It’s more in integrity with what I do, and it’s more in integrity with what people say about me. I remember my friend and my coach Sandor Kovacs said, “You know, Mitch, you’re really, really creative.”
The way to get in control of your life is to own the things that you do better than anyone else, that give you joy, that you are passionate about, and that expose you to who you truly are. Own things that people tell you that you are, that will give you more control. So, I am owning my creativity by creating more content, by demonstrating more vulnerability, and by learning to do the hard stuff which creates greater value.
2. Get Honest -- Reveal you current belief system
The hardest part of this work is honesty. Getting honest with your core belief system is painful, but it is the only way to see how the way you have been living your life, most likely gave you little to no control.
When my value to the world was productivity, I had three core beliefs:
Core belief #1 Clients appreciate me for activity.
Clients appreciate me for the work that I generate. The more I deliver, the more they are satisfied. Can you see how, by placing the control in my client’s hands that this is a recipe for disaster?
Core Belief #2 What I offer to the world innately is work. My value is doing stuff.
Clients appreciate me for delivery. Wow, this really cuts to the bone. If I judge myself on producing, I would only achieve my true value by burning out.
Core Belief #3 I see my value as external
This explains it all. I have given up control to others, to the universe, to anyone except myself.
The Results of these core beliefs
When clients appreciate activity, which I have mastered, then my offer to my clients is “doing the work.” I give up power and control to my clients, by making my value an amount of my time (not my energy, creativity, passion, vulnerability). When my value is judged in time increments, and I want to create more value, I am left with nothing but burnout, which of course leads to zero control in my worklife.
Productivity + Burnout = No control
It also leads to having no control over my personal life. Even though I’m running my own company, the “ultimate in control” (yeah, right) I created a situation where I had no control over my health. I had no control over my time and no control over my priorities.
3. Redefine the belief system
In order to gain control, I must develop a belief system that would support how others appreciate my true value, one based in something that is uniquely me: reativity, authenticity, vulnerability, and insight.
Here is my new belief system:
- My clients appreciate my insight, what my internal thoughts and intuition provide.
- My clients want my inspiration and creativity
- My clients want to in engage in conversations that will transform them
- My clients want to witness and learn vulnerability
- My clients want to laugh and have fun
- My clients want to get better at work and in life
Then write it down. Write down this new belief system. Every single day I’m going to write down in the morning, clients appreciate my insight. I am insightful.
4. Redefine your value
Looking at a more authentic belief system, one that appreciates who I truly am, my value is now self-expression, humor, transformation, and authenticity.
When I make my value about self-expression, expressing my ideas, thoughts and experiences, I not only provide hope, insight, and transformation, I control when to work, how I work, and with whom I work. I also control who I give others my energy.
People appreciate what you have to offer, what you truly offer. They want you and your true value. They don’t want someone who punches in more hours, when they can find someone who pushes out something they can’t get from anyone else.
5. REDEFINE New Rules to Be Successful
If my value is in productivity then to be successful, I must follow these rules
#1 Work Your Butt off
#2 Focus on Your Clients at the detriment to yourself
#3 Ask how high, and jump!
As a result, I’ve achieved success in life, but I didn’t have control. My body let me know that in a big way. Now, I think I have control, but my body told me otherwise. My beliefs were out of control, my activities were out of control of my body, my thyroid was out of control.
The aim of creating new rules is to put you in the driver’s seat, where your true value to the world is unleashed. For me, my new rules are:
#1 Spend my time in a way that builds and unleashes my creativity
#2 Self-express through all my conversations, face to face and virtual
#3 Have more fun
This is the most important stage in gaining more control. You begin anew. You make declarations to yourself and others that life will be different.
You tell someone how it is going to be around your life. You reformulate and share your boundaries. You make declarations about how it’s going to be with you and your stakeholders. Renewing your new way of thinking, your new way of believing in your value, your new beliefs about yourself, and the new conversations you will have is the proof that you are creating a life where you are in control.
In the renewal stage you DECLARE to yourself what the future holds. You make new commitments to yourself and to other people around you. You begin to use this way of thinking, and spot new opportunities to renew the added layer of control that you now have for your life. This stage is a renewal of the “New You” where you become a person with more control than you’ve had before.
We all need to recharge right now. When you take on a new way of being, you must have energy that supports you in something you have not done before. You must ask, what is it that you can do that recharges your energy?
Long walks, yoga sessions, reading books, running, resting, we all recharge differently. Pick what works for you and take some time to recharge as you step into a life where you are in the driver’s seat.
The Shift for More Control
As you shift your value, redefine new values, offers and rules, the last shift that happens is priorities. As these priorities shift, you begin to gain more control. You get a stronger sense of who you really are, the value you bring to the world, how you can be successful, and it opens up opportunities for you to make decisions that give you more control with your time, more control in line with your true priorities, your true values, and your true self.
For example, if you choose, “I am loyal,” you would then choose what actions to take such that it would put you in more control in demonstrating your loyalty. True loyalty requires that you have the energy to to demonstrate loyalty. New conversations would emerge when you share boundaries with those you are loyal to, to create the space for you to do your greatest work. You would demonstrate your loyalty through having these conversations.
This shift is deep. It takes some time in deep thought, working through these deep questions.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your value?
Define the way you bring value into the world in a way that works for you.
That’s your homework assignment.
What value do you bring?
What belief system must you have to bring that value and believe it and own it, and then
what actions might you take every day?
There are horrible things about COVID-19; and, there are some mixed blessings. This process allows us to dig deep, and focus on fundamental parts of ourselves so that we can gain more control, and feel more in control. The silver lining we see is to use the time, the emotions, and the introspection to go on this Leadership Retreat, to reflect, redefine, renew, and recharge.
This blog is a part of a mini-series called “The Leadership Retreat” to help you gain more control of your life to help you thrive through the Coronavirus Pandemic and Beyond.