A little over a month ago daily life for a significant portion of the planet came to a screeching halt with the onset and rapid global expansion of the Coronavirus. Our once busy lives filled with work or school, deadlines and exams, and rushing one child after another to some after school activity quickly became teleworking while juggling home schooling. In between worrying about the health and safety of our loved ones, millions around the globe are left without work and a source of income and understandably wondering – “what’s next?”. Yet, if we really think about what we left behind, most of us were dealing with a lot of stress, anxiety, tension, frustration and if you have kids probably not having enough time to do much of anything for yourself.
At least, that is my experience in Los Angeles with two kids and two dogs in a typically American lifestyle with two parents working and both kids enlisted in at least 2 or 3 extracurricular activities. I don’t miss dealing with traffic for 2 hours in the morning or unrealistic expectations to meet deadlines, and I certainly don’t miss the morning routine of picking up my phone the moment my eyes open and going into work mode because there was always something that needed to be handled. I am partially guilty for allowing this to happen because of course, I wanted to advance, I have to save for retirement, and I want to retire with some level of comfort. But, if we forget to live and take care of ourselves now, we may never get to that retirement healthy enough to enjoy it.
The Opportunity for Change
Let’s be honest, I don’t really miss the existence we had before this all started. Sure… I miss the gym, eating out, seeing people socially, hugging and to some degree the ability to go to the mall even though I rarely had time for it and tend to shop online anyways. It was just nice to have the option, but now that we are all sequestered in our homes anxiously awaiting the next Zoom meeting or Netflix binge, perhaps we need to look at the opportunity that has been presented to us.
For once in our lives since we were children, we are being forced to live in the present. Nobody knows what the future holds, not your parents, not your teachers, not the very well educated economists or the politicians speculating the next depression and filling us all with fear. There is simply no real way to know what the outcome of all of this will have been until we get through it. Instead of allowing ourselves to get anxious about the unknowns, perhaps we need to really give some love to the knowns. What I’m talking about are all of the basic facts, a checklist, if you will, of what you do have. For one, you are presumably still here and breathing. For two, you likely have people who love and care about you that you might have even had more time to connect with because of this situation. For three, there is an entire world of people that are in this with you – you are not alone. Once you get through this basic list of things to be grateful for, try to think about the potential positive outcomes of having all of this time to focus on you (and your family).
This strange time off, which in many ways has been busier than my typical day pre-Rona, has become a catalyst for me to change my lifestyle. I was making a slow move down the path of re-engineering my life to focus on the things that drive my purpose (inspiring and encouraging others through writing and speaking), but this forced me to take a look at my life and consider if I was really even that disappointed in the change. Nope. I’m not. Now, in my mission to keep this new lifestyle, I have adopted a warrior-like approach to setting my mind and my habits in the direction I want to go. Despite all of the uncertainty around the future of my companies and ventures, and the even bigger uncertainty of launching a completely new career at the age of 44, there is a tremendous amount of certainty in the present moment.
For example: I know I don’t HAVE to be any where today, except home. I also don’t really have deadlines or things due for work because like most of the people in my company, I am juggling work with home schooling and struggling to keep 2 kids entertained for the entire day. Not surprisingly, they don’t care at all about my deadlines or my work. Despite the craziness of my new schedule, I have more time to do the things I enjoy. I get out for walks and bike rides, write, message with friends, and spend time with my family. Certainly appealing than working like a dog trying to keep the half dozen or so things I am juggling in the air at any given time in my “normal” day. I am more in control of what I do and the freedom of not having a real schedule allows me to say “sorry I didn’t get to that today, I will try tomorrow”, and have the person on the other side understand because more often than not they are living the exact same life I am. Stuck at home and struggling with the new normal, but also secretly relieved as this may be the first time in a while feeling a sense of freedom.
So, What’s Next?
I am certainly getting a little stir crazy and tired of seeing the same walls like most of you. To counterbalance that, I am generally enjoying all of the time I have to think about what I really want for my life. If this pesky thing called work didn’t get in the way, I would probably spend most of time traveling, hanging out with my partner and kids, exercising (our new family hobby), cooking healthy food together and writing. Which begs the question, why can’t it be a little more like this and a little less like it was? Perhaps the real opportunity has been this rare moment in time to hit reset, shift your priorities and invest in the present. So before you allow yourself to drop into the abyss of the unknown future, give yourself a moment to think about what makes you happy today. If you do that, the future may become a little less uncertain.