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Slow Down to Get Through a Crisis

As a hiker, I know the first rule is to be prepared for anything to happen. Pack the right food and water, wear layers of appropriate clothing, have the right gear, including a topographical map and compass, tell others where you are going, hike with others, and make a plan.

Why is it important to slow down in a crisis? So we can think. I have read many stories of hikers getting lost in the mountains and the effects of their panic on their ability to make good decisions. When panic strikes, we have less oxygen flowing to the brain so it is harder to think. A crisis or potential crisis can throw the calmest person into a panic.

On the adventure reality TV show Dual Survivor, professional survivor instructor Cody Lundin tells his partner Joe to stay calm, sit down, and think his way out of a difficult situation so that he does not make a problem worse. This does not mean to stop for a long time, but just long enough to assess the situation, see things more clearly, weigh the options and make sound decisions.

In my work with clients, I see panic quite a bit. Leaders deal with crisis all the time, and sometimes their instincts tell them to run faster when they really should slow down, check to see they are moving in the right direction, get counsel from others, do some research, or look at the problem from a new perspective. Slowing down is very hard to do in the office when the clock is ticking and people are pressuring you, or on the hiking trail when sundown is approaching and you’re lost without a plan.

Crises can be caused by failing to plan, failing to think ahead and devise “what if?” scenarios, failing to plan for alternatives, and neglecting to study changes in the marketplace. Other times, just as often, crises can be totally random and unavoidable. In crisis, though our instincts tell us to move faster, slowing down can help us determine if we are moving in the right direction, analyze the data and come to thoughtful conclusions.

Here are seven ways to slow down, even in the midst of a fast-moving crisis:

  1. Change your vantage point and perspective. This helps you see the situation more clearly.

  2. Sit down, take deep breaths, and think.

  3. Gather information and take inventory of your situation and resources.

  4. Seek counsel from others you trust.

  5. Calm yourself – this will help others calm down because they will mirror you.

  6. Prioritize and act on the most important issue first. If it is nightfall, seek shelter. Triage the situation.

  7. Once you have taken this time to slow down and get clear on your priorities, then you can move quickly in the right direction and out of the crisis.

What has been your experience with slowing down in the midst of a crisis? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedInTwitterFacebook or email.

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