Heroic accounts of survival have always captured my attention. Something about adventure, great peril, survival against all odds. The hero’s journey. Because deep down, we would like to be Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker. Triumph against all odds.
Have you noticed that in many of these stories, morale plays a big role in the survival and success. In many cases, morale seems to trump every other strength, skill, or advantage.
Let me give you an example. In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton interviewed prospective candidates for his trans-Antarctic expedition. He was so keen on the issue of morale that one of his interview questions was, “Can you sing?” He wanted to know whether his crew members could maintain a positive outlook in the face of danger and extremely harsh conditions.
In the context of doing business, hopefully we’ll never be subjected to extremes like those of war veterans or polar explorers. But, in their own right, the challenges and trials of building and running a business can be grueling at times. The question then is, “Can you sing?”
Here are 5 sure-fire ways to keep up your morale and that of others:
Continue to work on meaningful tasks
Under severe trial, it’s easy to crawl away into a corner and feel sorry for ourselves. Even if not that extreme, suffering often paralyzes us. But retreat and inaction are some of the worst possible reactions in such a situation.
An old proverb states, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” When we’re idle, we brood over our situation. We tend to focus inward and lament over our miserable plight. To combat these tendencies, we need to stay busy. But not just for the sake of keeping busy. There is great reward in seeing a task completed or creating something worthwhile or beautiful.
Therefore, keep pressing on even when your work seems futile.
Refuse to speak negatively, complain, or whine
The spoken word is very powerful, especially when we hear ourselves say those words. This is why verbal pledges, vows, and commitments carry so much weight. When we talk negatively about ourselves or our situation, we believe what we say. And what we believe, we act upon. So we act out our negativity.
Occasionally, I hear people argue that if they didn’t complain they wouldn’t be honest. This is foolish thinking. Honesty does not require expression to exist. A meal may taste awful and be recognized as such by all the guests, but honesty does not require that we humiliate the cook by telling him so.
Replace negativity with positive talk, thanksgiving and gratefulness.
It’s not enough just to refrain from using negative talk. Speaking positively — even in the middle of a dire situation — can do wonders for our morale and that of those around us.
In fact, even if you have to fake it, speak positive words instead of negative. For if you do this long enough, your heart and head will catch up with your mouth. Expressing thankfulness and gratefulness in tough situations offers us great methods for positive talk.
Look for ways to serve others, even in small ways
When we’re suffering or experiencing severe trials, we tend to focus exclusively on ourselves. Someone has observed, “I had no shoes and I complained, until I met a man who had no feet.”
You may be suffering, but consider others around you in the same or worse conditions. When we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others, we improve both their and our condition. Often, it’s the smallest of kind gestures that lift others’ spirits. And when we lift someone else’s mood, we elevate our own. Pour someone a cup of coffee, rub their shoulders, compliment them, seek any excuse to serve another person.
Employ appropriate fun and humor
Comedian Victor Borge would say, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Laughter may also be the quickest route to a positive outlook! It’s notable, that in horrific situations, those who survived often did so by living on rations of humor.
By the way, don’t wait until things get bleak to practice these five strategies! Keep your morale positive by following these actions every day. Also, by practicing these strategies daily, you’ll be fit to endure whatever comes your way. Oh, and don’t forget to sing.