Whether it seems silly or not: when I bought these new workout shoes, it lifted my mood significantly. It’s hard to stay positive these days. Is it time for you to buy a new pair of shoes?

There’s a theme emerging in our conversations with executive leaders: we can feel the walls of our home offices closing in. The anticipation of a cold dark winter is making it harder for leaders to find the positivity required to be good leaders in a pandemic.

Three quotes from coaching calls last week illustrate the point: I simply asked the question: How are you doing this week?

  1. “Normally I love my work, but today I just want to run away…I’m so sick of Zoom calls I could scream and I have no more positivity to give the four other people I have to talk with today. I need your help to find new energy…to start fresh again.
  2. “I’m extremely frustrated running this business from a video telephone booth. I haven’t connected with my full team in over six months. MS Teams just doesn’t cut it for me anymore…I can feel myself getting short with people. And our business is doing great!  We are flush with cash…so I should be happy, but I’m not.
  3. “I’m not doing well. Really, the team is doing well and our business is coming back nicely. But the mornings are really dark now, and I just can’t seem to find my groove by the time I have to do my work.

Real-world psychology

Believe it or not, our brains are hardwired to overly focus on negativity. Especially when we are isolated. I’ve written about this many times before – most lately in the book How Goodness Pays. The amygdala part of the brain is hard-wired for what’s called “negativity bias.”  It’s useful in the fact that when we’re stressed or feeling lonely, it goes on high alert to protect us from harm. That’s what’s going on with the three clients I just mentioned.

The simple solution: we need to invest in ourselves to keep our spirits high.

Our theory: we’re not experiencing enough change

Normally, Autumn is a time of significant change. Kids go back to school. We buy new clothes as the fashions change in the stores. And business often surges after people return from the lazy, hazy days of summer. But not much is changing this year. And many of us are getting ornery. One leader told me this week: “I’ve got lots of money in my personal bank account from all the travel that got canceled, and it’s pissing me off!”

Here’s what I did to get myself on a better path. I bought some new shoes. Actually, three pairs. The shoe salesman was really happy to see me. Practically everything was on sale. I bought some rugged running/workout/jogging shoes…the kind that’s good for older athletes. A pair of shoes to wear to work. And a great pair of warm, winter athletic boots.

Damn, that made me happy. Go figure…I’ve never considered myself to be a “shoe guy.” But it really helped my mood. So, is it time for you to invest in yourself and buy a new pair of shoes?