Daniel Pink: How to Not Be Overwhelmed Right Now

Social distancing notwithstanding, you have plenty of company if the global pandemic has you feeling extra emotional or even sometimes frantic. Maintaining your focus may be only a matter of making few adjustments to your routine and mindset, according to management expert Daniel Pink.

Pink, whose best-selling books include Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, shared his tips for business leaders in Inc.‘s latest Real Talk: Business Reboot streaming event in a conversation with Inc. Editor-in-Chief Scott Omelianuk.

Here are three of the top takeaways from the session. 

1. Start with small wins.

Not long ago, popular business thought encouraged leaders to aim “for the moon” to motivate themselves to stay on track in pursuit of goals, says Pink. But research has shown the opposite is true, he says. People are best inspired at work by making meaningful, day-to-day progress. 

How? Pink recommend finding the unique personal contribution you can make as an individual, rather than on changing the whole world. Try to move toward your goal by just a few feet, one day at a time, he says. 

2. Infuse your goals with purpose.

These smaller goals should be still in service of some type of purpose, Pink says. Having a greater meaning is what distinguishes your daily accomplishments from busy work or leisure activities. Beating a record in his golfing app, he says, isn’t a small win, but a “small indulgence.”

Citing an example from his own life, Pink says, when recently writing his forthcoming book about the science of regret, he lost his handle on the project’s overall purpose. A coach advised him to explicitly write down why the book was important to him. He ended up with a two-sentence “North Star,” which is now on a piece of paper affixed to the wall of his office.

“The act of saying ‘What’s the purpose of this?’ is, in itself, clarifying,” Pink says. “Sometimes, you actually don’t know what you think until you start writing.” 

3. Lead by example. 

Leaders can help employees set purpose-driven goals with their own example, Pink says. Good leaders will focus on helping their team feel safe and as if they belong as a vital aim of the business, rather than a “nicety,” Pink says. Start by being more intentional about building community and psychological safety.

Ask yourself: “What can I do in my word and deed to establish that sense of belonging?” he advises. 

Despite the economic downturn, particularly for small business, Pink says he hopes the pandemic will act as a “reset” for the U.S. to build a more equitable and lucrative future. 

“Is a time of extraordinary peril? Yes. Is this a time of extraordinary opportunity? Yes,” he says.

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