In this interview, Dr. Jim Taylor talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, How to Survive and Thrive When Bad Things Happen: 9 Steps to Cultivating an Opportunity Mindset in a Crisis.
“Look at your life. Look at things that you might want to change. Then take action.” ~Dr. Jim Taylor
Dr. Taylor has never been driven by fame or money, doing things he is passionate about, particularly by sharing ideas with others. “Writing is a part of my being,” Dr. Taylor also says, adding that, if he doesn’t write about something, he’s not being authentic to himself. His main philosophical objectives are being true to oneself, following one’s passions and being willing to do the hard work. Dr. Taylor also remarks that, if one is driven by fame or work, one might achieve success with it, but there won’t be passion, meaning or joy in doing so. Where he is concerned, fame or recognition follows from doing what one is passionate and joyful in doing.
Where words are concerned, Dr. Taylor notes that these are descriptive of what one is communicating, as well as creating a shared understanding. Where the word, “crisis,” is concerned, he defines it as “a situation or event that arises suddenly, which disrupts lives and threatens the status quo.” Crises also have long-term effects on individuals and groups, and he notes that, psychologically, human beings don’t like the following things:
Crises thus create instability, which threatens the main human need to survive, and trauma, which has physical, psychological and social elements to it. Where the present situation (December 2020) is concerned, Dr. Taylor points out that there are several crises that are presently and simultaneously taking place, creating a “perfect storm of crises:” Covid-19 (both a personal and global health crisis), a global economic crisis, a personal financial crisis for those who have lost their jobs, a political crisis and a climate crisis, each of which are serious in themselves.
Where humans are concerned, humans are, evolutionarily speaking, hardwired to react to crises, but not in the way that the present situation demands, Dr. Taylor notes. Back when human beings emerged, the crises that they faced was an immediate, physical threat, and to resolve this, humans resort to a “fight or flight” response, which is triggered by the amygdala, whose purpose is to filter incoming information as quickly as possible, to create an immediate reaction. Modern crises, he notes, are different, as these are distant and indirect in nature, as well as beyond our immediate control, and require a different response, a different approach, one which employs the human prefrontal cortex, in what Dr. Taylor calls an “opportunity mindset.” The prefrontal cortex is the thinking part of the brain, one of the things of which it does is to weigh risks and rewards in the long term. This enables us to:
- create a “can do” attitude (“This is a tough situation, what can we do?”;
- be calm and purposeful;
- be deliberate and focused in response.
Dr. Taylor refers to the present situation with Covid-19, pointing out that, with an opportunity mindset, humans will focus on what they can do, to help regain control of one’s life; and where Covid-19 is concerned, Dr. Taylor notes that such measures include wearing a mask, staying at home, taking care of oneself (eating and sleeping well, exercising, looking after family and community) in a conscious and deliberate way, and physical distancing. (Dr. Taylor prefers to use “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing,” as we human beings, he points out, need to speak with other people - something which wouldn’t be possible, if “social distancing” were to be strictly followed.) This, he notes, “takes effort,” but it is possible.
Dr. Taylor also notes that, psychologically, humans like routine, as this creates a sense of familiarity, control and predictability, and that this has been disrupted in the present environment. Social isolation is also harmful to humans psychologically and socially, he remarks, as we are social beings - even moreso because we need to connect to solve the present crisis. Boredom, which is due to lack of stimulation is something which, he also notes, drives bad behavior, such as having too much screen time or drinking or eating excessively.
Dr. Taylor notes that a crisis hits one with “a tsunami” of negative emotions, which is why mental health issues - anxiety, depression and the like - have spiked during the pandemic. Doing something to create positive emotions - joy, excitement, fun, meaning - is important to answering the challenge, as positive emotions “turn the volume down” on negative emotions, making one less overwhelmed with what is going on; and positive emotions make one feel better, which has physical, psychological and emotional benefits. Social support and connection is also very important, as such support mitigates stress, and such support could be personal (such as from friends and family) or technical (such as receiving information from doctors who give proper information on what Covid-19 is all about and what to best do about it). Being grateful, according to Dr. Taylor, has been shown in studies to make one feel happier, by giving and receiving thanks.
Where the present pandemic is concerned, Dr. Taylor notes that we should all stay vigilant; look for ways to make one’s life as good as it can be, given the present situation and mandates given; and don’t get complacent or “fatigued.”
(Those interested in getting in touch with Dr. Taylor can do so at his website, drjimtaylor.com, from where his podcast, “Crisis to Opportunity,” can be accessed.)
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