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Glance vs. Gaze: How to Keep Calm (and Be Highly Productive) in Crisis

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Apr 14th 2020 10:06AM

At the time of this writing, the U.S. is in its first week of what could be several weeks to months of widespread social distancing and self-quarantining in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Most international and domestic flights have ground to a halt. Schools and universities are either closed entirely or operating with online-only classes. Gatherings of more than 10 people are discouraged. And most restaurants have closed their dining areas, transitioning to drive-thru or take-out only.

At this point, the impact on expedited trucking is unclear. Perhaps, it could lead to a surge in freight to get critical supplies to areas in need. But if the automotive plants shut down, that could soften demand.

But one thing is clear: While we cannot control COVID-19 or any other crisis that comes our way, we CAN control how we respond—to keep ourselves calm (and be highly productive) under pressure.

How?

That’s what we’re going to unpack in this article.

Whether you’re reading this while we’re still in the throes of the COVID-19 shutdown or at some point down the road where you’re wrestling with another crisis, how do you keep your head about you and be productive when so many others are in panic mode?

Here’s a philosophy I’ve developed over the years that has helped get me through numerous business and personal challenges—and perhaps it can help you, too. I call it “Glance vs. Gaze.”

Putting Things in Proper Perspective
What does it mean to “Glance vs. Gaze”?

It’s about what you look at and focus on.

In other words, when you glance at something, you look at it briefly and then move on. You don’t dwell on it.

But when you gaze at something, you focus on it intensely.

So, to keep my head about me in crisis, I’ve learned to GLANCE at the big picture—the long, challenging road ahead—and then GAZE on what’s on tap for the day, pouring myself into the task at hand.

The idea here is that I look (glance) at my problems but focus (gaze) on the possible solutions.

This way, if I "win the day"—that is, follow through on my commitments today—tomorrow will take care of itself, no matter how bad things seem right now.

But what happens if I reverse the order of Glance and Gaze?

I’ll make a bad situation worse.

That’s because when I GAZE on the hard road ahead, I feel overwhelmed. I work myself up. All I see is so much uncertainty. So few answers. And I feel completely paralyzed, unable to function and do the important work I should be doing on that day.

But when I choose to GLANCE at the problem, I put myself in a more resourceful state to figure out how to navigate around it. And then, I quickly shift my GAZE—to focus my time, energy, and emotions—on the task immediately before me to improve my situation.

The Glance
One mistake we tend to make under pressure is to put our heads in the sand. We’re so overwhelmed at the moment that we can’t bear to confront the problem at hand.

This is NOT what it means to glance.

For example, freight slows, and you start to encounter cash flow challenges. If you're like most people, your reflex response will be fear—where you're afraid to even look at your bank and credit card accounts. You just want to put your head in the sand and hope the situation resolves itself soon.

But, of course, that’s not going to happen. If you don’t confront the issue, you’ll find yourself out of cash—and out of business—way too soon.

“Glance” means to get real with yourself about the situation, where you acknowledge the problem while remaining optimistic that, if you take proper action today, you’ll emerge on the other side much stronger.

I know this firsthand. Whenever I’ve encountered cash-flow challenges in my business, I would set aside 15 minutes as the first item on my agenda to review all my accounts and project cash flow for the next two, four, or six weeks—whatever is necessary.
As I would look at the numbers, I would want to know the whole truth about my situation, no matter how ugly it might be because only then will I know what’s needed to improve it.

And since I would address the issue first thing in the morning, this would free my mind emotionally to be productive for the rest of the day. Otherwise, if I kept my head in the sand, I would have those nagging fears in the back of my mind that deplete my energy and diminish my productivity.

The Gaze
Once you’ve identified and faced the problem, now it’s time to “gaze”—to focus on the solutions.

Begin by asking yourself questions, such as:

  • What can I do TODAY to improve my situation?
  • Who can I call to help me?
  • What expenses can I realistically cut right now?
  • What adjustments should I make to my operations?
  • Who can I call for flexible payment arrangements until we get through this crisis?
  • What is the most important thing I can do RIGHT NOW?

Then create your action plan for that day, with each task prioritized in order of importance—1, 2, 3, etc.

Finally, focus on each item until it’s done and then move to the next one. This way, as you complete each task, you’re building momentum that also builds your confidence in your abilities to tackle the problems of the next day. And the next. And the next.

The Lesson
So what? Why share this with you?

I believe that learning how to strike an optimal balance between Glance vs. Gaze could be the key that unlocks our greatest potential in business and life—no matter what crisis consumes us right now.

So, what barriers are holding you back today?

Could it be that you’ve been GAZING on that obstacle, making it bigger than it really is, where it keeps you from taking that next step?

You know…I don’t have enough money. I don’t know the right people. I’m not good at X, Y, or Z.

But what if you could shift your focus?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, you would GLANCE at the obstacle. That is, acknowledge it. But then quickly shift your focus to GAZE at possible solutions.

The idea here is to ...

  • GLANCE at the problem; GAZE on the solution
  • GLANCE at the plan; GAZE on the execution
  • GLANCE at the goal; GAZE on the task at hand.

When we focus on winning the day—each day—we will discover that tomorrow will take care of itself.