During the first lockdown I discovered a new found love of the great outdoors. Due to gyms being closed (and my dodgy hips making it almost impossible to run), I took up the rather expensive hobby of road cycling. Every day, regardless of the weather, I made a point of getting out for at least an hour on my bike to clear my head, gain perspective and make sense of what was happening.
One day, as I was riding along, I tuned into my inner dialogue (which I frequently do) and noticed that I was saying things like, ‘When lockdown is over and I can…
- see friends and clients face to face again
- go on holiday
- take a break
- get back to normal, etc.’
I was making myself really lousy about all the things I wasn’t able to do because of the COVID situation, when I suddenly thought, ‘But what do I do until I can’t do all of those things again? This is my life; I’m living it right now! I can’t put it on hold (after all, I’m not getting any younger!) and I don’t want to waste this time. So, what CAN I do to make the most of it?’
It was one of those real ‘light-bulb’ moments that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it has a huge effect on you.
It forced me to acknowledge that today is all we have; yesterday has gone and tomorrow hasn’t happened, and yet so many people put off their happiness until some future event occurs.
Often in coaching sessions (pre-COVID19 included), I hear clients say, ‘I’ll be happy when…
- the kids leave home/go to school/university
- I can divorce my husband/wife
- I get married
- I meet my life partner
- I get a new job/house/car/kitchen
- when COVID is over, and I can go back to ‘normal’.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that we are rarely happy when we do finally achieve our goals because postponing happiness, conditions the nervous system to believe it’s always in the future. As a result, we go on to set even bigger goals mistakenly believing that they will bring us happiness at some future point.
As the kids say YOLO (You Only Have One Life): THIS IS IT!
Where focus goes, energy flows; if you place your attention on everything wrong in your life or how bad things are, it’s understandable that you’ll feel pretty lousy and you’ll likely attract more of the same. However, if you make a conscious decision to look for the positives (no matter how challenging the situation may seem), it stands to reason that you WILL start to feel better.
In coaching, we call this a ‘reframe’, i.e. searching for the positives in a potentially negative situation; a vital tool for helping clients move out of learnt helplessness and into a position of power.
To shift your perspective, the following questions can be helpful:
- What could be good about this?
- What does this allow me to do that I wouldn’t usually?
- How can I use this?
- Who can help me with this?
- How can I make this work?
- What haven’t I tried?
- What positives can I find in this, if I wanted to?
I also suggest that you make time each day to do something that makes you happy; even if it’s just 10 minutes.
Rather than thinking that you don’t have time, do a reframe. Think of it as putting your own mask on first. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Finally, you are never going to get this time back. This is your life, right now; you’re living it! Make the most of what you DO have rather than focusing on what you don’t (reframe). Ask better questions and CHOOSE to do one thing every day that makes you happy (no matter how small); when you do this, you’ll be slowly conditioning yourself for happiness.