Engaging Leader Diary – Making the most of Family Lockdown
‘The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities. The virus respects no borders. Combatting this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, co-ordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity. We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat’. (G20)
Are you doing your best right now as a family and business person to keep spirits up and operate in solidarity with family, friends and colleagues? Though perhaps feeling moments of anxiety about the current situation and what the future holds? Possibly seeing the fruits of your labour collapsing around you whilst concerned about the fallout for family, friends and employees. The virus may or may not have hit your family yet, however, few could say that there is not a contagious wave of anxiety that can become all encompassing if you allow it. How much we choose to let this anxiety impact our wellbeing is though partly up to us.
Although we have space to think we are likely to have some serious issues on our minds right now and anxiety is justified. In my life friends have had cancer surgery postponed indefinitely. We worry about my mother in law in her 90th year with dementia. I call my mother each day as she is on her own. Relatives have been ill with the virus and two stranded in Goa. My work with some clients has rightly slipped from front of mind. New opportunities have gone on hold. My pension advisor called me to tell me how much my pension had declined (I would rather have not known), the rental payment on my investment property is late, some clients are spreading payments….
Then there are bigger questions. Will business ever be the same, we will we ever have it so good again? It feels unsettling and at times scary. Though strangely there is hope.
A New Dawn
Within all of this there are though special moments and I find myself enjoying food more and more grateful for the simple things. Deeper conversations are occurring with my wife and children. My 10 year old Daniel for example said to me ‘Dad, has God done this to us because we are not looking after the planet well?’ It got me thinking and quite a conversation ensued.
My garden has never looked so good this early in the year as I take on projects. I am gaining pleasure from these simple tasks and my wife and children have planted a myriad of vegetable seeds. I am connecting with clients and old friends at a deeper level. We are seeing engaging acts of kindness in multiple small ways. In the next village (Desford in Leicestershire (c3500 people)) a message was circulated. ‘If anyone is worried about paying for utilities or food now the children are coming home, I am in touch with someone locally who wants to pass the message on via me that people need not worry. If there is a genuine need your financial problems will be sorted’. I have time to teach my kids some of the principles of life development and I have resilience to do this as I see this time as a golden opportunity.
There are laughs. The boys decided to sneak off and give themselves peaky blinder haircuts with my electric razor. The results were hilarious and who cares – no one else will see them! I went to oil my bike chain and mice in my garage had chewed my oil carton and consumed the lot. I guess they won’t be squeaking anymore!
A Dunkirk like spirit is developing which I am loving to experience in many of my conversations. People are stepping up and we are coming together. We are stronger together. New ways of online working are emerging. The climate is getting a break!
Keeping your head in a positive space
There are several things in my daily discipline I am finding really helpful to keep positive and productive. So I will share in case valuable to you. These can be done with yourself, with your family, employees or in collaboration with friends online. The key I think is being disciplined and determined to keep up momentum.
1. Each day focus on Head, Body and Heart – I am personally working on getting my head and our families into the right space everyday. This includes daily family huddles. I am scheduling time into my diary to get up and using Apple reminders carefully plan in the time. In family huddles we discuss what we have learned that is new and what we will learn tomorrow. We all make commitments to learn new things each day. My eldest son age 13 (with an aversion to reading) is now reading Victor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ – by reading it and explaining it he also gains pocket money and valuable life insights.
I am finding deep breathing helpful. A deep breath through the nose for 4, holding the breath for 4 and then breathing out for 4. My way of meditating.
A tip for working well at home is to work when your head is most productive by structuring home working around your natural productivity rhythm. I discovered a profile when reading a book called ‘Boundless’ by Ben Greenfield and based on the work of Dr Michael Breus that you can take for free which helps you understand your ideal daily routine based upon your chronobiology. You can discover your profile by going to thepowerofwhenquiz.com. You will discover whether you are a dolphin, lion, bear or wolf. Dolphins are light sleepers and often diagnosed with insomnia. Lions tend to wake up early full of energy by early evening they are exhausted. Bears (me) like 50% of the population rise and fall with the sun and wolves have a hard time waking up early and are most energetic in the evenings. Through getting to understand this you can decide when you should be doing what to be most effective. For me I am best up at 7pm, light exercise, breakfast. I used to try and follow those American gurus who get up at 5pm with larks. It did not work for me. Planning for me is good at 9.00 and doing more complex important work and emails 10-12. Then having lunch and going for a walk, perhaps a nap and not working again until 3pm. I am then brilliant 3pm-6pm. Exercise alternate days at 7pm and in the evening family time or brainstorming between 8pm and 10pm. All screens off at 10pm and sleep by 11pm.
Secondly, it is important to keep the body fit. Setting little fitness goals. I have just completed a 5 series race event on Zwift in a virtual world called Utopia. Over several weeks I went from being in the bottom 30% of my category to finishing in the top 21%. My eldest son is trying to beat each day his one mile run record. We are having daily walks together with the dog.
Thirdly focus on keeping your heart glowing. Who have you helped today? Even if it is simply saying hello on-line for kids to Grandma. I make a point each day of connecting with at least two different people that I have not spoken with for a while with the intention to leave them in a better place. We are looking at positive deeds that we can daily to help others.
One idea that is helping our heads and hearts is studying ’11 strategies for living with joy’ courtesy of my friend Barry Shore who was so successful as a serial entrepreneur he lives in Beverly Hills. One day he became ill with a rare disease and within an hour had lost the ability to move. Complete paralysis! Barry has already experienced a paradigm shift! He spent 2 years being turned over, 4 years in a wheel chair. Today he still needs help 12 hours a day, however, with floats swims 2 miles a day 6 days a week and has dedicated his life to helping people live life joyfully. Oprah Winfrey endorses his work.If you visit barryshore.com listen to his free 11 strategies for joy. I am sharing 2 videos a day with my kids. So far we have covered as a family SMILE which stands for See Miracles In life Everyday! Be kind, Always. Don’t complain, Don’t Blame. Be a Friend which includes ‘only look down on someone when you are helping them up’. Be happy by choice. Get Uncomfortable. There is also a link here to where he interviewed me and explains some of these principles this month on his River Works Radio Show.
Another good exercise I find helpful each day is 3 x 3 x 3 – this discipline was shared with me by Stefan Wissenbach the founder of Engagement Multiplier:
What are the 3 things you are grateful for today? It might even just be waking up in the morning, the sunshine, something I have read.
What are the 3 things I will achieve today
What are 3 things I did well
Make this time a positive one for you and your family . See it as a gift. We do not know what will happen in the future. Who except Bill Gates would have predicted this? Not me anyway. Best thing is to make the most of now, live a bit more simply perhaps, concern is ok, fear is pointless or else we are simply fearing fear itself. Focus on what you can control and seek the gifts in it. Know that this will at some point be over. Though don’t set a time limit on it. As Viktor Frankl noted from his time in a German death camp that those people who lost the will to live did so because they decided this would all be over by Christmas. When it wasn’t, they became ill and died. Live in the now, cut your costs perhaps and use it as a time for bonding and building great seeds for the future within the family.
Leaders are people whom others follow. Be a leader in your household and in your communities by keeping your head in great shape when others may be losing theirs. Get efficient with your time and use the time well. You may never receive or even want another opportunity like we have right now. Keep fit and contribute with your heart. Remember life is precious so make the most of it. As my friend Stephen Sutton who died of teenage cancer once said to me ‘Cancer has given me less time but so much motivation, yet I see so many people in this world with so little motivation but so much time – Chris when I am gone please tell people to make every second count’. The chances of us each dieing from coronavirus remain slim, however, for those who have gone before and those who are sadly losing their lives right now let’s in their honour make every second count and enjoy life rather than fear fear.
Chris Cooper helps leaders to elevate their leadership, teams and build highly engaged workforces. He is host of the Business Elevation Show the most accessed business show on Voice America (the world’s leading online platform) and Co-Author of The Power To Get Things Done (Whether You Feel Like It Or Not) . To contact Chris to see how he and his business can help you : Chris@chriscooper.co.uk