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5 Steps To Get Out Of Self-Induced Survival Mode

by Jeremy Nulik

I’m fortunate to know brilliant people. And when I meet with them, I do the Midwestern ritual of politely inquiring about their general emotional well-being. “Ugh. Well, you know. Just so busy – a good busy though. It’s crazy really. I would complain, but, you know … who would listen?” The last three words – we say them in unison like a bad sitcom.

The tragedy of this exchange is that it has become de rigueur. There exists no other way to be. Just busy. Projects are pressed into tight deadlines. Mountains of decisions must be made immediately. And that customer needs a response by this afternoon. These friends of mine with brilliant, creative minds stand before me, and behind their eyes I can see a flurry of emails, appointments and task lists. They are just trying to tread – to survive.

The trouble is that we do this to ourselves. We overload our lives in an effort to be busy – so we can later quasi-lament our busyness. And inside of this harried existence there is little time for imagination, vision, creativity. If you have read this far, you can relate to the feeling I’m describing. And if you are in survival mode, take heart. You are not alone. There are some suggestions below to get out of it:

1. Don’t deny your survival status. The first step in getting out of your way is to admit you’re in your way. Many skip this step because it feels like defeat. It is. Deal with it – however that looks. Exhale. Rub your head. Have a cry. Whatever you need to do. You must resign yourself to the understanding that you cannot, with your current tools, manage well. This acceptance, while brief, creates the earnestness necessary to make change happen.

2. Investigate what need being in survival status fulfills for you. Your busy or stressed-out life is of your making. So whatever that may be doing for you, it is important to know what that is. For some, like me, it provides some momentum. It feels, even on days when there is little meaningful activity, that I am busy and, therefore, productive. Of course, this is a mistaken goal. As is being busy to feel superior or needed or valuable.

3. Create a new routine. Wake up earlier in the morning. I know this is annoying, but there is a reason all the self-help books advise this. It works. Create discipline about how you begin your day. This may include a walk, yoga, making coffee in a French press. It really does not matter. Make a new routine. Try to make it stick.

4. Carve out 30 minutes before work starts to write something. It can be anything. If you have nothing between your ears, then use the time to just fill the pages by complaining about your lot. This practice will unlock language and reshape your ideas. You will naturally begin to vision in an unfettered way. Do this for two weeks, and the content you generate will be the bedrock on which you can make innovations to your business.

5. Let one thing go. This can be as small as a task and as large as a business unit. To achieve some amount of satisfaction and focus, you must clear a path. Based on your new vision and direction, letting go will liberate your mind and your calendar. You will feel free to move in an intentional direction. And you may find yourself letting more things go.

I realize this is a marketing column and you have received a spoon-feeding of life-coachy advice. So be it. Good marketing and sustainable growth spring from minds that are attenuated to vision – the thing that fuels your company’s ability to re-create. Survival mode does not allow for the oxygen to create vision. Look within, seek answers, let things go and you will create new brand momentum from the inside out.

Jeremy Nulik ( is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.


Submitted 4 years 139 days ago
Categories: categoryMarketing Works
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