How to stay calm, happy and focused in tough times

THIS MONTH’S WISE OWL | Stuart Baldwin – Live BIG®

Stuart Baldwin is the creator of Live BIG® – a way of thinking and being that stops us playing small. A highly sought-after global speaker, trainer and coach he takes big ideas and translates them into simple, practical steps that empower leaders to be great and teaches them how to do the same for their people.  Find out more at


It’s not the events that happen to us that define our happiness and success, but how we interpret them.’

The Coronavirus crisis has presented us with an historic moment as each of us face unique challenges. On the flip side, it also presents us with opportunities, and one of them is to become skilled at managing our thoughts and emotions as we confront and overcome these challenges. Although it’s not always easy, it is possible to remain happy, focused and calm whatever difficulties we face.

In this brief article (and accompanying video – see the link below) I’d like to take a quick look at how our brains work to determine how we see life, the opportunity we’re given to choose how we think, and the impact that has on how we feel and what we do.

In 1985 Dr Martin Seligman was studying insurance salespeople in the Met Life company. He found those who scored above average for optimism sold 37% more insurance policies. Optimism is a massive driver of our performance. When we are in a positive state our brains are flooded with Dopamine, a chemical which lights up the learning centres of our brain. Optimists are 31% more productive, 3 times more creative and 10 times more engaged in work and life. Optimistic doctors diagnose patients 20% faster, optimistic toddlers put blocks together 50% faster and, best of all… optimists live 20% longer than pessimists.

Optimism can help us to deal with what’s happening with less stress and more clarity. To remain healthy, happy and energised. To be kinder to those around us, and to even learn, grow and achieve through challenging times.

But how does it work?

Optimism is driven by two key mindsets. Firstly, our ability to Accept something for what it is. Stuff happens. You can’t control everything around you. We certainly can’t control the Coronavirus, our Government’s response to it or what other people do. Then secondly to Shift our attention to focus on what we want instead.

This is an incredibly useful skill at all times, but in tough times, it becomes essential. We cannot afford to brood on what we have lost, on that which we cannot do or control, or on that which does not live up to our expectations of how life should be. We need the ability to say, ‘okay, fine – that’s how the world looks right now’. To release our anxiety, stress or frustration, and choose where we put our energy, our attention and our focus, so that we can be happier, more constructive and move forward

This works because of one simple, psychological truth – ‘What you focus on you get’.

Have you ever just come out of a long relationship and, suddenly, everything on the radio is a love song? Our brain does not see the rational truth of what is happening around us. It processes the world based on where we put our attention – and we don’t even realise it’s happening.

There is a part of the brain called the reticular activating cortex that filters all the stuff that comes in through our senses. Only 0.001% of all the things our subconscious mind is aware of get alerted to our conscious mind. This tells us is how crucially important it is to learn to tame our mind. To have the skill of choosing what we focus on. Because that’s what drives the way we see the world and how we experience life.

So… The Optimism skill teaches us to Accept ‘it is what it is’ and stop worrying about the things we can’t control. Then to Shift our thinking, to focus on what we want, rather than dwelling on the problem.

I’ve only been able to scratch the surface here but in this accompanying video we teach the Optimism skill more fully. It’s usually only available as part of the Live BIG leadership programme but I’m sharing it now with everyone because I truly believe it’s one of the essential skills we need to help us to deal with what’s happening right now with more happiness and less stress. I’ve shared this training with tens of thousands of people over the last 15 years and it has changed lives. It’s beautifully simple and can be incredibly powerful in the right moment. See for yourself.

Free live webinars

To further support people, I’m running a free webinar series on the mindset and leadership skills necessary to be at our best though the Coronavirus crisis. There are episodes available to watch on-demand and new ones to sign up for here:

And please feel free to connect with me on Linkedin