For many of us, 2020 has been a difficult year. There’s the lockdown, the threat of quarantine and the never-ending stream of panic-inducing media coverage. And with all of this negativity, it’s easy to despair.
We start worrying about getting ill, ending up in hospital and maybe even dying. And we cry out about the ongoing restrictions that encroach upon our freedom, prevent us from seeing friends and stop us from leading a normal life.
But in these difficult times, it doesn’t help if we obsess about things we can’t control. We’d only end up feeling more disheartened. Instead, we just need to acknowledge the fact that we don’t know for sure if we’ll stay healthy – no matter how many masks we wear or much we isolate ourselves from the outside world. We don’t know when we’ll be told to stay indoors again and when we’ll be stuck in our own house, unable to travel.
But amidst all these uncertainties, we can still embrace the opportunities that this year presents. And that’s why I’m writing this post – to encourage you to adopt an opportunity mindset and find ways to benefit from the current circumstances.
Opportunity #1: Chance for introspection
One of the greatest opportunities that this crisis presents is the chance to shift our attention back to ourselves.
In the past years, we may have lived our lives in ways that didn’t really benefit us. Maybe we’ve been working in a job we hate to look good in front of others. Maybe we’ve been doing certain things to please friends and family. Or maybe we’ve kept up certain habits because they are convenient, and not because we really want to.
Now, with our social lives coming to a near standstill, and restaurants and cafés closing, we can take some time to think about whether we’re really living the life we want. We can free ourselves from the expectations of others and realise our own image of who we want to be. With life slowing down again, we can reflect on the choices we’ve made in the past and set new standards for the years ahead.
If your plans have been previously thwarted, consider whether you really want them to go ahead. Maybe there is an even better opportunity waiting to get noticed. Or something that you’ve always wanted, but never had the courage to do? Like write novel, start your own business or shed some weight…
For me, I was originally planning to study in Granada for a year, but what I really wanted was the chance to take a year out of university and get some experience in the working world. And whatever the big dream may be your – now is the time when you can make it come true.
Opportunity #2: Learn to deal with difficult emotions
Normally, we have so much going on that it’s easy to suppress difficult emotions. We just distract ourselves with work, or social events, and we know the fear and anger will subside. We focus on the positives in life and shift the negative emotions to our subconscious.
But deep down, we know that we’re really holding on to the negativity and we let it accumulate for years and years. As long as we can cover it up – it’s fine.
But the current crisis ruthlessly brings all our supressed emotions back to the surface. It uncovers our fears. It unleashes our anger. And it forces to face all the emotions that we’ve refused to acknowledge before.
This makes the crisis an ideal opportunity to learn how to deal with our feelings in a more sustainable way. We can let go and practice forgiveness. And we can learn to understand the messages behind our emotions.
For example, some most common fears triggered by the crisis are the fear of getting sick and the fear of dying. When we are young, we often suppress these fears. We think we are invincible and we move old people out of sight – to retiring homes and hospitals. Rather than speaking ourselves, we let a priest read the mourning at our relatives’ funerals. And we ask an undertaker to bury our loved ones for us.
But now, we can’t escape these fears any longer. We keep seeing agonizing stories about people dying a slow, painful death in various media channels. And we need to come to terms with our own mortality. We’re all going to die at some point, and life is finite.
But more than anything, we can use our awareness of our own mortality as a motivator – we can ask ourselves, what we want to accomplish before we die. And we can overcome our fear of looking stupid and our constant need to please others. After all, when we’re on the brink of death, it doesn’t matter what other people think about us. It’s much more important to know that we’ve lived a fulfilling life. So take a moment now, and ask yourself: If I were to die in a year’s time, what are some of the things I would regret not doing?
At the same time, we might also feel frustrated right now. We might be angry at the people who keep us trapped inside our homes like animals in a cage. Angry at those who set the rules and stop us from living life to the fullest.
But have you ever thought about the fact that maybe we’ve been restricting ourselves all along – and that the current rules are the mere projections of our inner norms and beliefs into the outside world?
Maybe we’ve been setting standards for behaviour – telling others what they can and cannot do. And now, these standards may be coming back, to me and you.
Our expectations can be like a cage – they keep us stuck, trapped in the same spot. Suppose you want to find a cool boyfriend, but you think of yourself as fat and ugly. How likely is it that you’ll find a guy who loves the way you look? And if you didn’t change your appearance, but thought of yourself as pretty, and sexy – how do you think the guys would respond to you?
What this shows us, is that it’s very easy to restrict ourselves with negative beliefs. If we don’t think we can accomplish something, we’ve already lost. Our thoughts become like a prison, and we can’t escape them – until we start to think and feel differently.
That’s why is so important that we challenge our limiting beliefs – and that we convert them into invisible scripts that help us. And that we look critically at our actions, because everything we do will come back to us.
But for now, take one negative belief you hold about the coronavirus situation and convert it into a positive. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
BEFORE: It’s so frustrating that I can’t go out and meet people in person.
AFTER: I am using the current crisis to take some time for myself and focus on the few friends I care about most.
BEFORE: Thanks to coronavirus I have lost my job and it will be close to impossible to find another one in this economy.
AFTER: It is a blessing that I no longer have to work with my micro-managing boss. I can take some time to reflect and find a new job that matches my current values and priorities.
BEFORE: I’m worried we’ll have another lockdown and there’s no way I could cope with that.
AFTER: I will take good care of my mental health so I am confident that I can deal with another lockdown and make the most of the experience.
Now it’s your turn! Rewrite one of your limiting beliefs about 2020 or coronavirus and share the before and after in the comments section.