Through conversations with friends and family, and from social media, you may have noticed that some people are recovering from the shock and horror of Trump’s victory far more quickly than others. This is not a function of how much each person cared about the outcome, but rather how skilled they are at bouncing back from failures and adverse circumstances. While some people seem to be born with a more resilient temperament, it is also a skill that can also be developed with practice. As a coach, this is an area that I work on with clients; after all, how we deal with adverse events is a major factor determining our happiness in life as well as our ultimate success. Here is an outline of steps you or your demoralized loved one can take to get grounded again and move forward in the face of setbacks or even tragedies. While this is applicable to all kinds of situations, my examples focus on the election.
(1) Process the emotions – This could involve commiserating with friends, prayer, expressing yourself on social media, meditation, hitting a tennis ball while envisioning the ball as Trump’s head, screaming at the top of your lungs in your car (so as not to freak out the neighbors) among other activities.
(2) Separate facts from interpretations, opinions, predictions and fears – Once you have spent a little time feeling your feelings, it’s time to get grounded in the concrete reality. Make a list of the facts. What do you know for sure about this situation? Here are some examples of facts: Trump won a majority in the electoral college; Hillary conceded; Trump said that he would build a wall; and there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Whereas, the following are not facts—even if you and everyone you know believe them to be true—Trump is racist; Trump is unfit to control nuclear weapons; illegal immigrants will be deported; and women will lose the right to choose. If it hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t a fact. A good rule of thumb for separating fact from interpretation is that if ANY reasonably sane person, meaning someone who functions normally in society (they work, raise kids, etc.) has a different understanding of a situation, then it is an interpretation.
(3) Look for positive interpretations, silver linings, and new possibilities –When someone loses a job it can seem like a disaster, but for many people such an experience ends up being a turning point that starts them on a path to greater satisfaction and more financial rewards. The reality is that we simply can’t predict the future and believing we can do so only limits our thoughts, actions and ability to affect outcomes. Nothing is 100% good or 100% bad, and research has clearly shown that positive outlooks are highly correlated with happiness and success. Here are some examples of positive interpretations, silver linings and new possibilities:
· We don’t have to watch a President Clinton be stymied at every turn in her policies, and deal with constant hearings and inquiries.
· We don’t have to deal with any more sex scandals related to Bill Clinton.
· An infrastructure bill that would repair crumbling bridges and highways and create jobs, is likely to be enacted. The fact that Obama was promoting such a bill for years but that Congress was unwilling to take action may be frustrating, but at least it could finally happen.
· A Trump presidency could generate a whole new level of activism among people who want to see social, economic and other changes in our country.
· Good people who never wanted to deal with the nastiness of politics might be so horrified that they decide to put their reservations aside and run for office themselves.
· There could be a major overhaul of the democratic party that could make it stronger and more aligned with the things people care about.
While these are also predictions and interpretations, like those we separated from the facts in step two, the value of this exercise is that it creates some balance, perspective, and a sense of possibility.
(4) Identify your concerns – Make a list of the concrete issues that you are worried about, include those that may affect you and your family directly, as well as those that are more general to your community, your party, the country or the world. For example:
A. I’m worried that Trump will back out of international agreements to counteract climate change.
B. I am worried that Trumps presidency will lead to economic ruin and that I won’t be able to support my family
C. I am scared that a Trump presidency means that sexism and racism will continue to win out and that all the efforts of the last hundred years have been for naught.
D. I’m worried that the incidents of police killing black men will increase dramatically.
E. I’m worried that people I love will be deported.
(5) Brainstorm some actions you could take to address these concerns – These actions should be relatively small, but in alignment with larger goals. For example, if you want to offer some sort of multicultural training at your child’s school, the action might be to call the school and make an appointment to discuss it with the principal. It should be possible to complete the action within a week, at most. Some examples:
A. For political/social/environmental issues:
a. Write to my representatives about this topic
b. Join (or explore ways to increase my participation in) an organization that works on this issue.
c. Attend a Meet Up group committed to this topic.
B. For financial concerns:
a. Have a conversation with my spouse about how we prepare ourselves for any future financial problems.
b. Update my resume.
c. Ask Jennifer what networking events she finds useful.
C. For sexism and racism concerns:
a. Make a list of 50 pieces of evidence that things really are getting better overall (despite this setback).
b. Look for ways to be supportive of a woman or minority person. (Offer them an opportunity, compliment their work, extend a social invitation, etc.)
c. Talk to a Muslim colleague and tell her how sad I am about the political rhetoric and find out how she is doing.
D. Police violence:
1. Learn about relevant police policies in my neighborhood.
2. Research the disciplinary procedures for my local police.
3. Look for opportunities to interface with the police about this issue, for example at events to promote dialogue between community members and police, seats for community members on relevant committees, etc.
E. For loved ones possibly being deported:
4. Visit my (illegal immigrant) grandmother once per week.
5. Start putting aside $50 per week so that if she is deported , I will be able to help her with her financial needs.
6. Speak to an attorney to better understand my grandmother’s options.
(6) Choose one action that you will take to address each of the worries and also decide by when you will complete that task – You can always go back to your list and do more later, but start with choosing one. You don’t want to get overwhelmed, but rather to simply gain some clarity and get into action.
(7) Start taking the actions.
The truth is that we are not helpless and the world is not actually ending. Following these steps helps people to get grounded in reality (rather than fears) and find a path forward. Good luck to you and yours!