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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Ways to keep your wits when things are beyond your control

Despite contingency plans, outside events can change businesses in a split second, but your reaction is within your control

You cannot control how the economy, a war or global crisis affect your business, but if you keep in mind that the only thing you can control is your reaction to situations, you will go a long way. Adam Glanzman / Bloomberg
You cannot control how the economy, a war or global crisis affect your business, but if you keep in mind that the only thing you can control is your reaction to situations, you will go a long way. Adam Glanzman / Bloomberg

Last month I went on a vacation with my family. I was looking forward to unwind before taking the busiest month of the year for my business, head on. But as things happened, I injured myself and ended up with a broken arm during the holiday.

It was the end of the year, and I had a month full of plans – a new business project to launch and countless personal engagements to attend.

Sitting at the hospital’s emergency room, with the doctor giving instructions for me to follow including barring me from activities critical to my business, I knew the situation was beyond my control, and that I may have to put many of my projects on hold until I fully recovered.

In business, just like in our personal lives, we plan, we forecast, we prepare for the worst, we strategise and draft risk management plans.

Despite all of that, things happen that are beyond our control, that can put everything on hold in a split second.

I’ve always strongly believed that how we handle and react in those situations is what sets us apart from everybody else; how a change of perception is crucial not only in business, but in life in general.

When I went through the accident, it was an afternoon, and my family and I had planned an outdoor movie night. Our forecast radar never detected an accident ahead, but it happened, and there was no way to go back in time and stop it. Nevertheless, I didn’t let it ruin my night. We still had our movie night, even if it was in a hospital and not exactly as I had planned.

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Now that I look back, I realise it was one of the most memorable movie nights, and it probably will be one for some time to come.

While many of my projects are on hold, I found a way around my situation, and I considered my recovery time as an opportunity to reflect, meditate and plan the year’s projects.

In the end, it actually turned out to be a good thing for me. I read more, slept more and caught up with so many personal matters that I didn’t have time for.

Here are three ways to help you cope with situations that are beyond your control:

You cannot control everything

There’s only so many ways you can prepare for the worst case scenarios. You can have all the plans in place, and the best team on board, but some situations are beyond your control. You have no say in how the economic situation or how a war or global crisis affects your business, but if you keep in mind that the only thing you can control is your reaction to situations and your attitude, you will go a long way. Maintaining a positive outlook not only will help you keep your health in check, but will also help you keep calm as you think of a solution.

Focus on what you can do

While you can’t force someone to share your business passion, you can create an environment at work that would foster this passion, and make your team feel like owners and important stakeholders in your business.

Stress management

The first thing that will hit you when are facing an unexpected situation is stress – and that is one thing you don’t need, as everything from your work performance to your health will just spiral.

Schedule time to engage in healthy stress relievers such as yoga, reading a book, or coffee with a good, positive friend. Your unhealthy habits such as smoking, or sleeping late, will only worsen your situation. Hear it from someone who used to stay up till the early hours of the morning; I can say my business performance was negatively affected.

The good thing is that with practice you can always turn your brain to react differently, and while we can’t make things happen the way we want, we still have full control over our emotions and reactions.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi.