Life has been less about the work-life merge and more about life and survival lately. Do we identify with this emotion? Do you think a typical corporate employee easily identifies with the stress levels of a student appearing for an entrance exam or a candidate appearing for a job interview?
Moving the spotlight onto India, competition at work increases manifold with the huge workforce in our country. The hard-knock economy takes its toll on basic survival. More often than not most Indian professionals feel the overpowering need to do well just for meeting the basic social needs. Peer pressure and expectations of parents, relatives and society members only add to it.
There’s a common thread weaving the fabric of all these situations - the will to not just survive but also make big and outshine others. But only a handful of people actually shine and what differentiates these high achievers from others is not just talent but kicking in of their Survival Instincts. In this context even though the dictionary definition of survival instincts doesn’t apply but there are its other manifestations which come into play like putting in of long hours, workplace politics, undue stress and unabashed power play.
The Dark-Side Default
Unfortunately, the common-sense mode is not naturally tuned. We are born with a default which is tuned to find the negative. It’s a survival instinct, the reason we are still around.
Accepting things as they are, particularly if they are something we would rather not experience is often the greatest challenge.
Today, though it’s no longer life-or-death situation every day, so we need to make some adjustments to tune our brains into adjusting how we think about what happens to us. It’s a talent that can be very useful especially since we have to negotiate a mood roller-coaster every day.
Triggering the Instinct
As we get used to more convenience in our lives, our comfort zone shrinks and we are less able to tolerate discomfort. Though mild discomforts such as work demands, family conflict, traffic or having to perform under pressure are not life threatening they can trigger brain’s fight or flight reaction. And this response can steer us in the wrong direction including reliance on drugs, alcohol, binge eating, insomnia, phobias, chronic pain, or just losing our temper for no apparent reason. As we get used to more convenience in our lives, our comfort zone shrinks and we are less able to tolerate discomfort. Now, something quite simple can trigger this fear coping mechanism.
Taming the Instinct
The first step in making our instincts work for us is to accept that we aren’t in charge of many things in this highly unpredictable world. Our power lies in the way we control our minds and how we think about what happens to us. There are practical strategies to tame and utilize one’s survival instinct and conquer fear, build resilience, boost decision-making, and improve personal and professional life.
Positive emotions can dramatically improve the decisions we make, the opportunities we pursue, the people we connect with, the direction of our careers, the work-life balance we achieve, and the level of performance at work.
Most of the mood swings are out of our consciousness. We are tugged in different directions without really steering the course. But we need not be bystanders to our own minds. We can take charge of the ebb and flow of emotions, and nurturing the positive and keeping away the negative emotions can have a huge effect on our lives and careers.