Gotta Minute?

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his team of 26 scientists, sailors, and explorers – and a stowaway – embarked on a dangerous mission to dogsled across Antarctica. In the days before radio, even if everything went as planned this would be risky, stretching the limits of human endurance.

Everything did not go as planned.  Their ship was crushed in the ice, and the team cast adrift on the ice flows.  When they did not show up at the pick-up site, they were presumed lost.  No one would come to look for them. The men survived 634 days in the Antarctic, living for a while on the damaged ship, and when it sank, in tents.  Yes, even in the Antarctic winter.  They self-rescued, itself an epic that took months.  All remained in good health emotionally and physically.  And half of the group signed up to try it with Shackleton again.

What can we learn from Shackleton’s team about staying strong in the storms? 

Research tells us that high-performing teams are aligned and committed to shared values and vision, working together towards common objectives. Shackleton instilled in his team the idea that no matter what came their way they would survive if they worked together.  Shackleton’s team believed each other. They shared values and vision and worked together. They practiced positive affirmations and acted every day as if they would get through it all. They all not only survived, they thrived.

Using the One Minute Pause.

Here is a trick I use daily to stay focused, positive, and on task in my heart – mind, will, emotions.  Call it a “One Minute Pause” (hat tip to author John Eldredge for this moniker).  It is based upon the words of William James, who stated, “The greatest weapon against stress is the ability to choose one thought over another.”

When I notice my mind, will, or emotions are off-course and turning negative, I stop to identify the cause.  It is often in my thinking.  Usually I have allowed distractions, fear, fatigue, anger or stress responding to turn me to the negative. 

Once identified, I choose to lay these negative thoughts aside.  I then focus on thinking positively about myself and the situation and choosing better thoughts and attitudes.  I then begin to speak these to myself.  It might go something like this:

“I am feeling angry at _____________ and am losing hope that it will get any better.  I am tired and weary.  I lay all of that down right now. I am done with them.  I choose to forgive __________.  I reclaim hope for this situation.  My life is much greater than these difficulties.  I am grateful for what fills my life.  This situation will pass, and I will get through it in good health.”

I will dwell on the positive thoughts for about a minute, and then return to the tasks at hand.  Doing this keeps me positively focused and working toward the objective. It shuts off the negativity that would damage me and spoil the team relationship.  I can do this in a meeting, working with others, driving, walking, or anywhere it is needed.

Here are some tips for using the One Minute Pause to stay strong in the storms.

Tip 1 – When you feel stressed, discouraged, angry, hurt, lost, or hopeless, take a minute to pause.  I sometimes do this a dozen times in a day, maybe more.  I remember to speak the positives to myself, out loud if I am alone.

Shackleton had daily rounds with his men, doing much the same thing with them individually, in groups and as a team. His team credited his daily positivity as one of the most influential factors that allowed them to thrive.

Tip 2 – Do the One Minute Pause with others.  You can channel you inner Shackleton by taking time each day to “go positive” with others.  In helping them identify the positive factors in their lives, the gratitude points, and the gifts each day, you will strengthen both of you.

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