10 Life Lessons Lockdown Can Teach You, with Arjuna Ishaya
- 29 April 2020 29 April 2020
“Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.” — Epictetus, Greek philosopher
Within life’s greatest challenges are our greatest opportunities.
A cliche? Absolutely. But all cliches are so because there’s truth in them. At the moment we’re being asked to do things very differently but also be with a huge amount of uncertainty. We can freak out about these challenges or we can make the most of what we’ve been given and take the opportunity to learn to do life better.
I get this is uncompromising, but let’s face it: challenges in life aren’t going to go away. The sooner we learn to deal with the unexpected the better. And what a great time to practice.
These ten life lessons will help you to be more resilient, calmer, clearer and happier, no matter what’s happening around you.
1. Accept what you cannot change
Thinking and worrying about what you can’t control is wasted energy. As a fight against reality, it’s brutal on you. It just creates frustration, depression, a feeling of futility. Trying to change what you can’t is like hitting your head against a brick wall: it only hurts you. You have got to learn to accept what you cannot control.
2. Focus on what you can control
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Even when it feels like you have no options at all. Feeling powerless is the most stressful thing a human can experience, psychologists say. Yet while there may be little control at the moment, you always have choice. Always.
Victor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Jew, saw this in the Nazi concentration camps: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
Making the choice to see the glass as half-full may seem insignificant, but it will make ALL the difference in your ability to help yourself, and others.
3. It is what it is
Whoever said this first was a genius. It is what it is. Embrace this moment for what it is without wishing it was different – embrace these words, make them a mantra.
4. Is this happening TO you, or is this happening FOR you?
Is this a disaster or a gift? You get to decide. You are always deciding anyway, so make the conscious choice that this is happening for you rather than to you.
5. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and scared
These are uncharted waters you’re being asked to sail into; whether it’s home-schooling, working with remote technology, dealing with your family 24/7 or coping with extreme financial uncertainty. You will feel unprepared, overwhelmed, inadequate, anxious … and that’s normal. But don’t give into it.
As psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson wisely said: “You don’t learn to not be afraid. You learn that you can cope and be brave. And those are way different things.”
You are asked to evolve and grow, and this is always uncomfortable. It creates all kinds of feelings of uncertainty. When you expect these feelings, you can manage the anxiety and overwhelm so that it doesn’t swamp you. Be courageous and keep moving forward.
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6. Stay present
It’s very tempting to get involved in overthinking about what might happen sometime in the future. But don’t give in, it’s a recipe for panic. Stay as present as you can. Take days one step at a time and stay with what you know for certain: this, here, now.
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7. Put your own oxygen mask on first, and regularly
In order to help everyone else, you have to look after your own energy levels, well-being, and sanity. As busy as you may be, it’s crucial. When you’re at 100% everyone wins; but when you’re not, no one does. Take time out to plug yourself in and recharge regularly.
8. Embrace change
This will change, that much is certain. When? We don’t know. But it will change, everything does. So hold tight. As Winston Churchill reportedly said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going”.
9. You are helping others
People with an attitude of helping others are not only happier but healthier. When our lives become about contributing to something bigger than us, they become meaningful. There’s a huge difference when you wake up each morning, you dwell less on your own problems, and there’s so much more satisfaction even in the most menial tasks, all because you’ve found something to contribute to. Maybe it’s your family, maybe it’s your neighbours, maybe you can impact your community or your world: keep reminding yourself of the difference you are making.
10. “Today is a good day to die”
I don’t want to be morbid or casual with this, because people are dying. But death is important to talk about, to prepare for, and ultimately to live for. These words come from the Lakota and are a reminder, in the middle of all this uncertainty, to truly live.
Drink it all in. Make the most of this moment as if your time was short. Don’t just skim, living on fast-forward and ignoring what’s in front of you in a blaze of multi-tasking, over-thinking and/or petty grievances. Life is too short.
To be a better human and learn to live through tough times means you have to become more self-aware. More aware of stress levels, what thoughts and emotions are threatening to sink the boat and when you’re focusing on something that is opposite to everything above … all so you can make another choice.
Choosing differently will take practice, like any skill. But this skill is truly valuable. You are finding your way to being so internally stable that no external event can rock your peace.
Your practice of internal connection, calm and clarity is not a luxury in times like this, it’s a necessity. You have to prioritise it. Learning to become more free and more able is the greatest thing you can do for everyone.