Almost every adversity we will face in life will bring unique opportunities to grow. Presently, our adverse situation involves a global pandemic.
The COVID 19 ordeal now calls for: extreme social distancing; abstaining from sporting, dining, leisure, and religious events; and an almost “house arrest” like lifestyle with no obvious end in sight. Naturally, this kind of new normal brings anxiety, stress, financial challenges, and fear.
So how could personal growth spring forth from this kind of adversity? Here are five ways you might consider intentionally pursuing growth opportunities in this season of adversity:
1. INVEST IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS: Use this time to invest in the relationships that matter most to you. Harvard University concluded an 80- year study on human happiness recently. They concluded that satisfying and healthy relationships contribute to lasting happiness more than any other variable. Think about that. This scientific study did not find that financial security, attending exciting sporting events, winning at work, or traveling the world made people ultimately happy. They concluded it is all about relationships. Herein lies our opportunity. Are you stuck at home? If so, it is very likely you are quarantined with one or more of the people you care most about on planet Earth! What is more, even if you are not physically with them, what is holding you back from leveraging technology to talk, chat, zoom, skype, text, and/or write to them? Why not use this time and today’s technology to make the relationships that matter most to you healthier and more satisfying? You could read through a relationship book, go through a digital resource, or simply make time to really listen to each other. We live in a fast-paced world that often leaves no time for relationship maintenance. Don’t waste this opportunity to go deeper and connect intentionally with your spouse, partner, children, parents, and close friends.
2. SAY THE WORDS THAT MATTER MOST: It’s true. Social distancing does not need to include relationship negligence. To the contrary, this new reality can serve as “a shot in the arm” for your relationships. A second way you can leverage this time for personal growth is to express vital messages to people you care about. Dr. Ira Byock, in his fascinating book, “The Four Things that Matter Most.” argues that four very simple phrases have the power to enhance our overall emotional wellness. What are these magical phrases?
They are: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”.
Consider for a moment how you will look back on these weeks several years from now. What if your primary memory is not of the many inconveniences but rather, “That was the inconvenience that pushed me to finally speak out-loud what my loved one needed to hear for years.” You can leverage this opportunity to speak the words that matter most to those you love. What do you have to lose and what do you have to gain?
3. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY: The truth is, we can fill every waking hour of this evolving trial with News, Netflix, and Nintendo. Additionally, we can turn to comfort foods, our favorite couch, and alcohol to numb the anxiety that comes with this kind of ordeal. On the flip side, we can “self-soothe” by running ourselves ragged in our own homes with long put off projects, remote workaholism, and hyper organizing. Neither a sedentary lifestyle of indulgence nor a hyperactive homebody regiment will help our physical bodies thrive. Consider that the Coronavirus Pandemic may be just the kind of opportunity your neglected physical health has been waiting for. Today I’m on day 8 of a 14-day body cleanse regimen that includes eating better, exercising, and taking herbs and supplements. I’m avoiding the kinds of foods that make me feel better momentarily but leave me with no energy and a poor mood eventually. I’m also limiting my alcohol use to only one day a week (my cheat day for food as well). My family and I are also taking a daily walk outside (for as long as government protocol allows it). These are things you too can implement. In fact, those who know me well know that I’m far from a health nut. The truth is I love comfort food and binge-watching shows. So, if I can do it, can you as well.
I can tell you’re still skeptical. O.k. why should you use this time to purify and strengthen your body? For starters, I feel great physically today, and I’ve only been intentionally making changes for seven days. I’m down a few pounds and I’m enjoying that good feeling of being moderately sore from exercise while knowing I’m fueling my body to repair and grow stronger. If that doesn’t sound compelling try out this logic: As the virus becomes more contagious, you make contract it. If that happens would you rather fight it as a more well-rested, more properly nourished, and more physically fit person? Of course, you would. Who wouldn’t want the home field advantage of fighting off a virus with no known vaccine with a healthier body?
No doubt there are challenges to overcome. My gym closed a few days ago, requiring me to look online for at-home fitness routines (that don’t require equipment). Guess what? There is no shortage of decent workouts for every ability online. Truly we live in an age when all one needs is a living room floor, an internet connection, and the smallest amount of motivation to get a decent workout. Just imagine how it will feel when you emerge from this house-arrest-like tribulation feeling physically stronger and alive than when you started? Your clothes now fit better, you’ve established a handful of healthy habits and learned to avoid the common pitfalls of being a homebody. Even more amazing, you’ve even started to enjoy those morning spinach, blueberry, protein shakes! The fact is you can and should upgrade your physical health over the next few weeks. It is easier than you think and you’ll be glad you did it.
4. DEVELOP ONE NEW SKILL OR COMPLETE ONE MINOR PROJECT: There are so many minor skills that most people wish they took the time to develop. There is also no shortage of small projects that would make our lives run more smoothly if we stopped putting them off. The primary reason we do put these things off is a lack of time. We run to fast. Guess what? The Government has given many of us a great excuse to slow down and learn that skill or complete that project we’ve been putting off for years.
Examples to get you thinking:
– Learn to better organize your closet, garage, kitchen, or kid’s toy area.
– Learn to draw, play the guitar, or write more effectively.
– Learn to cook a specific type of meal you or a loved one enjoy.
– Research online different ways to have a personal quiet time that may include things like journaling, prayer, Scripture, meditation, and breathing exercises.- Learn about the different genres of the Bible (I recommend Making Sense of the Bible by David Whitehead)
– Learn to tie two different types of fishing knots (while also organizing your tackle).
– Learn how to make a budget (Dave Ramsey has a wealth of material online).- Develop an annual home maintenance checklist.
– Find a tutorial on YouTube on the features of your smartphone or laptop.
– Research 1-3 podcasts that are new to you and start listening.
– Make a list of the shows you’ve watched on streaming devices in the last few years that have made your life better vs. worse. Choose new shows with that information in mind.
– Make a list of five books you have always felt you should read someday. Start with the shortest one and work your way up the list to the longest.
– Purchase an audible account or free audiobook account through your library card online and start by listening to a short book that will make you a more positive person.
– Research two future vacations (make one a short getaway and one a longer trip).Nobody knows which skill or project is best suited for you better than you (or possibly your spouse). With that in mind, pick a few possibilities and commit to one. Taking responsibility for our life includes becoming a life-long “learn it all” who is not afraid of tackling a long put off project every now and then. Few activities make human beings feel better than the satisfaction of learning a new skill or crossing something off our to do list that has been there for too long.
5. MAKE A COVID 19 NEW NORMAL DAILY SCHEDULE: My wife and I have three kids under 10 years old. Almost overnight we’ve had to transition from a conventional lifestyle in which we sent kids to school went to work and tried to eat dinner as a family to something much closer to “Little House on The Prairie with an iPad.” With the recent closing of schools in our area we’re getting a crash course in homeschooling. I read a parenting book once that warned against using the “Power tools of anger, fear, and shame” to alter your children’s behavior. The author suggested that using those methods may produce temporary results, but rarely will they develop long term change and growth in kids. I politely agreed to that advice but let me tell you, “Wow have I wanted to break out the power tools this week with my kids!” Three kids bouncing off the walls with two overwhelmed parents both trying to work from home, learn new skills, invest in our relationship and put food on the table—this is tough stuff! To my wife’s credit, she helped us develop a daily family schedule and it has been a game-changer. As an Event Planner by trade, my wife initiated this sanity-saving regiment several days ago and it has paid off big time. The idea is fairly straightforward. Kids, like adults, thrive with routine. That is never more the case than when we are thrust into a new way of life that makes us feel as if we have lost control and lost many freedoms and activities we had come to enjoy. Our family schedule looks like this:
|6:00 – 7:00 am||Mom & Dad Time (Getting up before the kids when possible allows some time for us to get in the right frame of mind, get ready for the day and be positive when the kids wake up…this is easy to skip but worth doing)|
|7:00 – 8:30 am||Breakfast, Morning Lists & Free Time (mom and dad alternate|
making breakfast; morning lists includes getting dressed, making bed, brushing teeth and clearing dishes; kids can draw, read, play Legos, dolls etc.)
|8:30 – 9:00 am||Individual Devotional Time (Bible reading, prayer, journaling, worship music, prayer, etc. Our youngest watches an educational show on Right Now Media, we meet as a family when it is over to briefly share what we read or did)|
|9:00 – 10:00 am||School Time + Snacks (parent leads this based on last month’s homework, age-based topics/skills, and e-learning material when it comes out from schools)|
|10:00-11:00 am||Mom or Dad’s Exercise Time; Kid’s Free Time (kids can draw, read, play Legos, watch approved show on iPad, parents can switch off supervision as needed)|
|11:00 – 11:30 am||Art/ Craft or Music Time|
|11:30 – Noon||Outdoor Play (we have a fenced in backyard, but the kids sometimes prefer to ride bikes which requires supervision, it is also still cold but worth the fresh air)|
|1:00 – 1:30 pm||Chores (pick age appropriate chores that parents first teach how to do)|
|1:30 – 3:30 pm||Quiet Time (Our 3 year old still naps, our 7 and 9 year old have 1-hour quiet play Followed by 1 hour Video Games – this is mom’s time to work from home)|
|3:30 – 4:00 pm||Mom’s Choice Time + Snack (board game, baths, work on family service project, reading, facetime friends, etc.)|
|4:00 – 5:00 pm||Outdoor Play/Family Walk (We’ve come to enjoy this family walk despite the cold temps in our area as it gives us fresh air, a break from the house and activity)|
|5:00 – 6:00 pm||Dinner (We try to use this to share about how we are all feeling and think/pray for another family or friend who is on our mind in this season where we can’t visit)|
|6:00 – 8:00 pm||Family Movie/Game Night (We rotate which family member gets to pick either a movie we watch or game we play – see: Disney Plus, Common Sense Media)|
|8:00 – 8:30 pm||Tuck Ins (Mom, Dad or both and yes 8:00 pm because parents will go crazy with free range bed time + full day of homeschooling for amateurs)|
By Mike Lotzer