In this age of social media, fake news, individualism and information overload, the certainties we relied on in the past are gone. In our quest for assurance and support, the only seemingly dependable pillar left is other people. So we look to them. But they are unsettled too. And by looking to them, we create and perpetuate our own vicious stress-cycle. As a result, we lose our sensible selves. And we go bananas.
But there is good news. If we look around us, there are people who withstand the collective lunacy and stay calm and confident. They do something that most of us have a hard time doing: they stay themselves. And the best news is that what they can do, you can do too. It doesn’t require any special talents or supernatural powers. It only requires doing.
Drawing from cognitive psychology, martial arts, Saint Benedict, personal experience, and a wide range of other sources, the research for my new book “No More Bananas” revealed that there are nine steps you can follow to get rid of your stress and reclaim your calm and confident self. Applying these steps has helped me a great deal in feeling more relaxed and in control. And since they are universal, they should work for you as well. Therefore, I am glad to share them here.
Step 1: Calm Down: The first step on your journey to bananalessness is to calm down your mind. If you are going bananas, you are too full of thoughts and feelings to act sensibly. Therefore, before you can make any progress, you need to calm down. The way to do this is to shut off the noise and notifications and drastically reduce your information intake.
Step 2: Let Go: Your next step is to stop trying to control the many things that are beyond your control. Going bananas is also a result of keeping too many balls in the air. Once you drop a significant number of them, you will calm down further and free enough brain space to continue your journey out of Bananaland.
Step 3: Take Responsibility: Once you have calmed down a bit and let go of some bananas, the next step is that you take responsibility for the fact that you are going bananas—and for your life in general. You can only make further progress if you accept that there is nothing and no one else to blame and that you are the only one responsible.
Step 4: Dethrone Yourself: The next step is a bit of a nasty one—at least for me. Getting rid of your bananas implies that you have to dethrone yourself. This means realizing that you are not as important as you think you are and that anything you do, say, feel, think or worry about isn’t so important either.
Step 5: Build Character: Now that you have put yourself with both feet back on the ground and taken responsibility for your banana journey, you can start reclaiming your own individuality. That is what this fifth step is about. It helps you to ignore your inner call to conform to what others think and do and live your life in your own way—even if that goes against accepted norms.
Step 6: Detox Yourself: Going through steps 3 to 5 helps you develop the right attitude to beat your bananas. These three steps are emotionally the hardest ones since they imply reconstructing yourself. Once you are that far, it is now time to start detoxing yourself. This means that you start cleaning your mind from all the clutter about what you are supposed to believe, aspire, say and do. Challenge your beliefs about yourself.
Step 7: Get Organized: In the previous steps, you have mainly worked on your mind, on improving the way you think. That is clearly the most important part of getting rid of your bananas. However, you also need to work on the way you work, on how you plan and organize things. This helps you reduce the chances of falling back to your old banana behaviors. So, evaluate how you work and get organized.
Step 8: Think Sensibly: After the noise-canceling of Steps 1 and 2, you have worked on your character in Steps 3-5 and cleaned up your internal and external clutter in Steps 6 and 7. This should enable you to stand firm against the never-ending flow of bananas thrown at you. Now, you are ready to take in information again. When you do so, put on your researcher’s hat, challenge what you hear and from which source it comes and start thinking sensibly.
Step 9: Pay Attention: In the last step, you make yourself fully ready for this banana-rich world. Step 8 taught you how to think and act more sensibly so that you can separate the bananas from the other fruit. In this final step, you actively seek to take in new information and connect to others while staying calm at the same time. This means carefully paying attention to the things that matter, thereby using all your senses.
So there you have it: a nine-step approach out of Bananaland. Applying these steps should make you more calm and confident and thereby help you get rid of stress and reclaim your sensible self. As a result, you feel better, get done more and become a nicer person.
For more details, 45 concrete how-to’s and numerous inspiring examples of how to execute these steps, I gladly refer you to my book No More Bananas: How to Keep Your Cool in the Collective Madness.
This post was published earlier here on my forbes.com page.
Image credit: Getty