What works better? Restrictive Lock-downs or Freer Open-ups?

We’ve just come through two tough years of a pandemic. If that wasn’t difficult enough, almost every day the federal and state governments and various parts of the private sector gave us new or conflicting information on how we were supposed to behave.

I just so happened to have offices in two different states that took totally opposite approaches to the pandemic. One was heavy on lockdowns and the other was free of almost every restriction.

Which one got better results? I have my opinions and a layman’s observations, but I’m not a scientist or a medical doctor. It will probably take several years of data analysis to answer that question.

However, I am a doctor of communication and psychology. And I can tell you which approach works better in your personal and professional lives. You need BOTH restrictive lock-downs AND freer open-ups in your head to achieve your goals.

The key is knowing what to lock-down and what to open-up. I prescribe the following.

►1. Lock-down your negative emotions and attitudes.

I learned that lesson from a World War II pilot, Bernard Brunsting, whose job it was to fly a B-17.

It was winter, the skies were overcast, and the fog and rain made flying extremely difficult.

To make things worse, Bernard was low on fuel as he was heading home to England after a mission. He was stressed out from ten hours of flying in combat conditions and he was annoyed by his crew chief who was his usual cheerful self.

Bernard couldn’t take it any longer, so he asked his crew chief for an explanation. How could he be so cheerful? His answer was magical. He said, “Captain, when the facts won’t budge, you have to change your attitude.”

How true! You didn’t have much power to change the “so-called facts” during the pandemic, but you had and still have enormous power to change your response to those “facts” or any other “facts”.

You could have let all the negative news get to you. You could have developed a negative attitude, that we’re all going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it. And parts of that negative attitude may still be hanging around in your head.

Or you could have said “I refuse to let this situation or any situation determine how I feel. I’m in charge of my feelings, my attitude, and my reactions.” Lock down and put away any useless negative attitudes.

► 2. Lock-down your negative expectations.

You pretty much get what you expect in life. If you expect it to be a tough day, it probably will be. And if you expect some good things to happen, you will find them. So lockdown your negative expectations.

In a very sad way, Karl Wallenda taught us that. Back in the 1960’s, the flying Wallendas were seen as the finest circus act in the world. They took the art of tightrope walking to the great extreme and the very dangerous. But Karl Wallenda loved it so much, in 1968 he said, “Walking the tightrope is living. Everything else is working.”

His wife noted that never once in all his life, in his entire career did Karl even think about falling. But in Puerto Rico, with his rope stretched between two skyscrapers, and with thousands of people watching, Karl fell to the pavement and his death.

His wife later said that for the last three months of his life, Karl had been concerned about only one thing — falling. He never thought of it before, but now that was all he thought about.

Karl did not understand that worry is negative goal setting. He did not understand that you will be drawn to the very thing that fills your mind. As Mrs. Wallenda later said, Karl put all his energy into falling rather than walking and the minute he did that, he was destined to fall.

So be very careful when you say you’re worried about your finances, your marriage, your job, or whatever. You want to be careful that you don’t draw those negative outcomes towards you. Lockdown your negative expectations.

► 3. Open up your optimism.

As the pandemic numbers went up in the world, the mental health of billions of people went down. Negative emotions grew and optimism dwindled. And even though the pandemic “may” be over, we’re still seeing the emotional after effects.

Well, that’s something the government can’t fix, no matter how much money they spend. But it is something you can do for yourself. Open up your own optimism.

I’m not saying that a positive attitude would have prevented the virus from spreading, so don’t send me any nasty emails, please. But I am saying that optimism can help in many ways.

Take Dr. James Strain, for example, the director of Behavioral Medicine and Consultation Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He compared pessimistic and optimistic men who had heart attacks. In the first group of 25, 21 of the 25 pessimistic men died within 8 years of their heart attack. But only 6 of the 25 optimistic men died during that time.

One lady in one of my audiences testified to the power of optimism. I met Betty at a school district where I was speaking. She told me how bleak, how depressed she felt when she was diagnosed with cancer for the third time.

But then she decided to live. She decided to act with optimism. She told me she decided to sing, to really sing. She sang upbeat songs for an hour each day before she went to school, even though she didn’t feel like singing. She said somehow or other, she began to feel better. She kept it up. And with sparkling eyes and an infectious smile, she said, “I sang the cancer away.”

What are you doing to open up your optimism? What else could you do?

► 4. Open up your hope.

The Bible says, “Without vision, the people perish.” In other words, you can’t live without hope.

And vice versa. With hope you can get through anything.

Terry Waite, who spent 1763 days as a hostage in Lebanon during the 1990’s, talked about that. He said, “To be in solitary confinement is not easy. I was helped by faith. I could say in the face of my captors, you have the power to touch my mind, the power to break my body, but MY SOUL IS NOT YOURS TO POSSESS.”

Terry said that simple affirmation “enabled me to maintain hope.” He went on to say, “And if in situations of difficulty, you can maintain hope, you can survive.”

Those are powerful words. Do something today and every day that builds your hope.