My work in the business world, which has included helping companies survive crises of all sorts, has revealed eight dimensions that distinguish those who respond well to a crisis from those who don’t. Your ability to reject the crisis mentality and cultivate an opportunity psychology depends on your developing these essential capabilities.
Emotions. Emotions are the most primitive and visceral part of human functioning, emanating from the lower brain long before the higher-order cerebral cortex ever began to assert itself into our lives. Making the transition from the crisis instinct to an opportunity psychology begins with emotions. In other words, when faced with fear, frustration, anger, or despair, you have to keep from being overwhelmed by these negative emotions before you can do anything positive. Easier said than done, of course. Do you feel threatened or challenged by the crisis? Are you stressed or calm? And do you feel like a victim or a master in the face of the crisis?
Mindset. Once you have your emotions under control, your mindset is the next step in changing a crisis mentality into an opportunity psychology. Unfortunately, a crisis, and activation of the primitive brain, tends to turn a mindset immediately and powerfully negative, which can then create a destructive self-fulfilling torrent. Do you interpret the situation as a crisis or an opportunity? Are you despairing or do you have hope? Is your thinking rigid or agile?
Vision. A crisis suggests that the status quo has broken down and what has worked in the past can no longer be counted on to work now. This condition requires that you have the vision to see the crisis in a different light and approach it in a new way. Do you have myopia or are you far sighted? Do you engage in fantastical or realistic thinking? Is your thinking about the crisis stale or fresh?
Motivation. Your ability to respond positively to the crisis will depend on your motivation to take action when inaction might seem like the safest course of action. Your will to act on your opportunity psychology and apply yourself effectively to confronting the crisis will determine whether you emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. Are you in survival or growth mode? Is your life in disarray or are you disciplined? Are you resigned to failure or determined to persist?
Behavior. Opportunity psychology matters little if you aren’t able to express the emotions, mindset, vision, and motivation in your actions to the crisis. Your ability to take positive and constructive action will ultimately determine the impact that the crisis has on you. Are your actions panicked or purposeful? Do you “circle the wagons” or do you confront the crisis head on? Are you distracted or focused in your efforts?
Leadership. If you’re in a leadership role, whether in the corner cubicle or the corner office, you have more to worry about than your own psychology; you have the psychologies of everyone on your team. For your team to work constructively through the crisis, you need to provide leadership that will resist the crisis mentality and foster opportunity psychology in everyone. As a leader, what you think, feel, and do impacts everyone around you, so it’s essential that you send the right messages. Does your team see you as pessimistic or optimistic? Are you acting on emotion or reason? Are you hesitant or decisive in your actions?
Culture. An organizational culture will develop based on the individual psychologies of everyone involved and the leadership that is offered by those in authority. How your company responds to the crisis will depend on the nature of that culture. Is your company’s culture demoralized or energized? Is everyone blaming everyone else or are they taking their share of responsibility? And is your organization’s culture fragmented or unified?
Change. Your ability to overcome the crisis mindset and capitalize on a psychology of opportunity depends on whether you can produce meaningful change in the above seven dimensions. Change means being able to take control of your psychology and direct it in positive and productive ways. Do you have immovable inertia or are you impelled to change? Are there parts of you that will resist change or are you fully committed to change? Are there obstacles in your path or can you make progress?
By understanding where you stand on these eight dimensions, you will be better able to ensure that they work for you rather than against you as you confront the inevitable crises in your work life.