You know the feeling of imminent doom, when your palms sweat, your heart sinks, and your best friend is the next martini. It's the moment when you look up, down, all around and see problems, problems, problems: the critical package was not delivered before the conference so your booth is bare. The phone is ringing off the hook with unhappy customers. The new campaign not only flopped—it was dead on arrival. It's hard to smile to potential clients or greet your Board with enthusiasm when moments like these stack up. How does anyone find the creative energy to solve problems if it's been a crappy day, week or month?
My formula is RITUAL - IMAGINATION - CHOICE in that order.
The first thing to do is make sure your morning routine has an element of peace and gratitude to start the day. Peace means finding ten minutes where alarms, adorable children, traffic, notifications, or media can be blocked out for ten minutes. Gratitude is being mentally aware of the good things in your life even if it's just having Frosted Flakes for breakfast or finding clean underwear when you thought you were out. These few moments of appreciation relieve some of the anxiety bad day/weeks/months bring by temporarily turning off biological stress responses. Science–and Tony Robbins–say that beginning your day with peace and gratitude builds physical immunity and a mental buffer.
Yes, you have problems, but what about the goal? Ignore the problems for a second and ask yourself, "What if?" Pretend you were Elon Musk, Beyoncé or Justin Trudeau—how would he/she approach the problem? What about Harry Potter or Pippi Longstocking? Leonardo da Vinci or Nikola Tesla? Coco Chanel or Amélie Poulain? Your mother or your father? Applying different approaches will unlock new avenues for you to explore. Most importantly, thinking from a "What if" scenario will help you see beyond problems and get back to focusing on your goal. There is more than one way to crack an egg.
Once you have multiple options in front of you, you are back in command. Successful executives are the ones who can take in information and make a fast decision—it keeps the business in motion. Once you've given yourself new avenues to explore, do not over-deliberate; just go for the option that makes the most sense in terms of your goal, has the best amount of data and the least terrifying outcome. Making a choice restores power and diminishes anxiety. If your answer requires approval from others, give them the options as part of your choice not to worry any longer: it's their job now. Often decisions with good data and intentions are wrong anyway; that's just how the universe works. And sometimes, it turns out you have to decide between "do I poke myself in the eye or chew my nails off my fingers,"—a painful outcome either way. Fortunately, humans are wired with a cognitive bias that will support your selection over the one you skipped. Making a choice helps you rebound faster because you exerted control over your circumstances and didn't wallow in self-doubt. It is easier to heal and recalibrate when you feel in charge and did the best you could.