It feels like the world’s a mess.
From uncertainty in the world, change in our job, chaos in our career, disruption in our business, randomness in our life, it feels like nothing is secure, certain or predictable.
We often get so consumed by all the change going on in the world and the troubling headlines that we forget what we’re here to do. And that lack of clarity is what makes us feel worried, stressed and stuck.
So what do we do in times of change and turbulence?
Build. Get busy building a body of work that you’ll be proud of at the end of your life. Be useful in building bridges. Be useful in building relationships. Be useful in building up people not tearing them down.
Give. Be useful to someone in your life. Help someone work through a problem they’re struggling with. Be honest. We all know someone who needs help. Don’t deny them because you don’t have time. Giving your skills and support gives your life a renewed sense of purpose.
Work. Be useful to your work. Show up early. Act sooner. Complain less. Call a customer. Return emails faster. Be proactive. Instead of killing an idea, encourage an idea. Dedicate yourself to a cause bigger than yourself.
Engage. Be useful in how you speak to people. The words we use matter to others and to ourselves. Use meaningful words. Words that say what you really mean. Don’t dance around a topic. Get straight to it. Be the person of substance that you are by using rich, bold, powerful words with real meaning, emotion, intelligence and pragmatism.
Solve. Be useful in solving your problems. Stop overthinking your mistakes and what went wrong. Stop blaming yourself or other people even if they are to blame. Do something useful to solve your problem. You’re the only one who can. Get out a sheet of paper and start writing your plan and take action.
Contribute. Be useful to someone who needs help but doesn’t know how to ask. There isn’t a soul who doesn’t need help once in a while but either they’re too ignorant or innocent to realize it. Tell people the truth. They can handle it. Tell someone you believe in them and watch how it changes their life.
Create. Be useful to move things forward when your workplace is undergoing a big change. Don’t fight change at work. You can’t. It’s no point because that’s life. Things have to change and evolve. Embrace it. While everyone else is doubting the change in the workplace, become an advocate of it. Take charge of it. Don’t try to escape it. Shape it.
Learn. Be useful to your career by learning something new. Upgrade your skills and capabilities. Don’t be shy taking a class at your age. Take a walk and explore a new city. Learn a new language or checkout a video no YouTube on how to write that book you always wanted.
Collaborate. Be useful to a co-worker who doesn’t know how to cope with change. Ask, inquire, listen and offer. When they gripe, talk them out of their whining because whining about change never helped anyone.
Support. Be useful to your spouse when they’re overwhelmed. Don’t be so tough. Be gentle, kind and thoughtful. They’ve got your back too.
Lead. Be useful to your kids, even if they don’t want to talk to you. Spend time with them doing something they enjoy. Tell them a story. Share your philosophy.
Think useful thoughts. Do useful things. Become a useful person.
Why Be Useful?
Nothing moves us forward beyond our often limited thinking during times of change than the desire which compels us to contribute.
Being useful gets us out of our head.
Ask a parent who has been laid off work how she responds when her daughter gets ill. Talk to a retiree who has to be a caregiver to his wife and see how he steps up to the challenge. Look to those who always volunteer – they’ve often got more tragedy in their lives than those who don’t. Yet they continue forward with every breath and every action, being useful to others.
One of the main reasons that compelled me to leave my corporate job after two decades was that I felt I wasn’t being useful anymore. It bothered me to a point that I couldn’t sleep at night and I always felt anxious. After starting a new career with a small startup I feel really good because I know I’m being useful. While the financial rewards pale in comparison to my other job, I feel so much better with my life because I know I’m being useful to something bigger than me.
Nothing helps us break free from the chains of overthinking and worry during times of change, uncertainty and disruption than to focus our mind outward on taking practical action to make a contribution.
Being useful focuses what you CAN control
In times of change, we feel helpless with a complete loss of control. So we end up paralyzed because of confusing, conflicting thoughts. Feeling stuck. Feeling overwhelmed with the heaviness of the world’s problems.
This notion of loss of control is what a lot of us feel right now.
What I learned in my own journey of job change, career chaos is that this notion of control that we have is an illusion. We never had control in the first place. What can we really control? Can’t control our job, career, spouse or kids. Can we control the way this world is changing? No. But here’s the good news: We can control ourselves. We can control our thoughts, words and actions.
Being useful is about focusing our energy, effort and resources towards the things we can control. Being useful focuses outward exactly during the time you’re facing inward.
Being useful gets us unstuck moving us forward towards a life of potential prosperity, success and meaning.