Week 5 of the partial government shutdown comes with a new range of emotions – fear, disillusionment, anger, disbelief, and sadness, to name just a few. Millions of Americans are suffering, our national security is compromised, and the immediate and long-term economic outlook is shaky. In a recent interview with CNBC, Jamie Dimon, the J.P. Morgan Chase CEO who has been bullish on the U.S. economy, said a protracted government shutdown “could wipe out growth from the world’s biggest economy.”

In addition to aggressive cash management, continued contingency modeling, regular communications with your employees, compassion, and advocacy with your elected representatives as I have recommended in my last three Shutdown Survival Articles, we need to find a way to navigate our own emotions so that they don’t get in the way of what is needed and expected from us as leaders in our families, businesses, and communities. Those who look to us for answers are in need of compassion, honesty, authenticity, level-headedness, and comfort.

I have been searching for meaning since my last article to you, just a week ago. I won’t lie. This one has not been easy as I navigate the painful impact to my own life and business of 20 years. Fortunately, I found inspiration in the lessons of Christine Comaford and the SmartTribes Institute – how to thrive in the midst of change. Recent research from the Center for Creative Leadership suggests that 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including:

  • Inability to handle interpersonal problems;
  • Unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or
  • Inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.

This research suggests that our role, as leaders, is not only important in helping our respective organizations navigate difficult financial situations, but that we are responsible for how other human beings respond, survive, and thrive during challenging times.

So, the most difficult question I have had to answer for myself this weekend as a business owner and leader is: What is the reality that I am going to make of this?

My truth is that I stopped sleeping close to two weeks ago and, as my employees can attest, have been doubling down on carbs… as if that next potato chip, Butterfinger, or cookie contained the answers that I had been searching for since the Shutdown began. I have been fraught with worry for my employees, my customers, our community, and our country amidst this crisis and war of words.

But, I have finally decided that I will not be owned by these emotions any longer. I have a serious job to do to continue to protect my employees, my family, my business, and my community. I am not giving up my life of service because someone else wants to tell me that I do not matter or that my life’s work does not make a difference. I have decided to claim my power and choose the reality that I am going to make of this tragic event.

Every day, I get to work with some of the most impressive leaders and professionals of my entire career, bound together by more than just a job – bound together by a passion for service, responsibility, and a commitment to creating a better future. I owe it to them to rise above this.

Following is the Outcome Frame (YouTube video, runtime 2:01) that I developed for myself this weekend to help me gain clarity on the choices that I was going to make for myself and the reality that I would create:

  1. What would I like? I would like to remain focused on what is for the highest good while I deal with the short term crisis that is before me and prepare for the long term recovery that lays ahead. I would like to be at peace with myself that I did everything that I could.
  2. What will having that do for me? I will be able to make better decisions aligned with my values and free myself of the emotions that are standing in my way of supporting those I care about – my employees, my customers, my family, and my fellow Americans.
  3. How will you know when you have it? I will finally be able to sleep, not because I am no longer concerned for those around me and myself, but because I will be stripped of the useless emotions that are impeding my ability to be the leader that others are expecting me to be.
  4. What of value might I risk/lose? What side effects may occur?  I may lose some key employees that I value, care for, and need for the recovery phase. I may also lose all of my retirement savings and my home. (deep sigh)
  5. What are my next steps? Establish clear goals for myself, my business, and my employees. Finalize my plans for the next two weeks. Get input from my employees. And give my employees as many choices as practicable so that they can own their own reality and regain some sense of control in the midst of this chaos.

I am ready to own my truth, accept that this is awful, and claim my power. I have choices. And I am choosing MY reality. This is a horrible experience and I don’t wish it upon anyone, but my emotions about it will not serve me, or anyone who needs me, any good. So… bye-bye emotions.

I am reminded of another painful time in my life nearly seven years ago when I was in the midst of battling cancer and fighting for my business, and a good friend of mine said to me, “Life always deals the cards, Alba. But it’s up to you to play the hand.”

So, on Day 32 of the Shutdown, how will YOU choose to play the hand? What reality will YOU create for yourself? What meaning will YOU decide to make?

Be well. Do good. Play the hand.