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  • Janeen Shaffer, PCC

Remaining buoyant in intense times

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

People are hopeful for changes that provide a sense of normalcy, yet in the same moment, many people are tired. We are trying to find ways to absorb the good things happening while managing the intensity still around us. The word buoyancy keeps coming up. How can we intentionally be buoyant and not let the unpredictable waves sink us?

Identify actions that can bring you from under the waterline to above it: I have a client who started a new role that she loves. She is drinking from the fire hose to learn new information, responsibilities, and processes. She was beginning to feel as if she was drowning even though she was very excited. We talked about what would help get her head above the water. She came up with the idea of running for 15 minutes longer because the time helps her to rebalance her body and thoughts (mind-body tools). She thought talking more to colleagues at her level to address questions, cultural norms, and her understanding of expectations would be helpful (gathering information and grounding assumptions). Finally, she decided to outline what she believed was most important to accomplish in the next 1 to 3 months and confirm that with her boss (expectation clarity). These three efforts don’t require considerable time and energy, but they provide a huge return in helping her to feel buoyant.

Identify actions that will keep you above the waterline: I have a client who was a self-proclaimed “not great and not bad” swimmer when he was younger. He found that if he tried to swim fast he tired too quickly and could not complete the number of laps that everyone else could. He became more skilled at the strokes and became a robust, long-distance swimmer as he slowed down. How can he apply that to work? Where can he remain steady and consistent and be a reliable source for the long-term? With all the changes happening in his organization (a new CEO and COO being announced next month), he can remain focused on three areas. His top priorities (demonstrating targeted focus during change), maintaining the quality and timeliness of his work (demonstrating commitment to values during change), and sharing creative solutions to senior leaders around challenges (demonstrating emotional regulation during change). Identifying ways to manage what you can control during transitions helps you tread above the water and provides a healthy headspace to figure out the emotional and physical methods required to support yourself.

Recognize what you need to adjust to stay above the waterline: In these days of unpredictability, you may find that all of your tools may not be enough at certain times. The signs are subtle at first. Perhaps you are becoming less patient, less creative, and less willing to listen. Perhaps you are more tired than you think you “should” be. Perhaps your ability to focus is less than it was two weeks ago. These are warning signs of a leak in your boat. What do you need to do to plug the leak? Remember, small actions produce significant returns. Focus on mind, body, and soul activities to rebalance your energy and mindset. You may need to turn off the TV and phone and go to bed earlier for a week or two (rest). You may need to meditate for 10 minutes longer (reconnecting with self and soul). You may go outside and look at the sky for five minutes (grounding). You may carve out time and have fun with friends (joy). You may listen to inspiring music or read something you want to learn about (creative energy). What are 1 or 2 things in the next two weeks that could shift your energy and move above the waterline to where you can breathe and function?

There are three types of buoyancy: Neutral (not sinking or floating), Positive (floating) and Negative (at the bottom of the body of water). Some days we can feel like the water is choppy and we aren’t sinking but we are only surviving. There are days we feel the heaviness that accompanies being at the bottom. There are glorious days we are in a flow and regardless of the water patterns coming at us, we are conquering all of them. I believe our lives are designed where most things are continually changing or adjusting. We have the ability to assess, adjust, and take action to handle the waters we are in. I hope this article helps you recognize you have all the internal strength and external tools you need to be buoyant.

Janeen Shaffer is a PCC certified coach helping individuals and leaders with their internal development and external performance. If the article resonated with you, follow me on LinkedIn and check my other articles. Contact me at,, IG @janeen.shaffer.


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