Due to our current circumstances, the stark reality is that millions of people are isolated and may be having feelings of inadequacy, believing they are unworthy of living their dreams. 70% of people claim to feel unhappy and trapped in life’s monotony (The Telegraph, 22 January 2015). This seems linked to the way that people resign themselves to the stories they tell themselves: they throw their arms in the air saying, “it is what it is,” and walk around lifeless as if someone turned down their dimmer switch and blinded them to their possibilities to thrive. People’s lives reflect where they focus their attention, and so their beliefs mirror the stories in their heads.
Then a pandemic hit the world, and everything changed. Or did it? At the surface, people retreated to their homes to self-isolate, rays of positivity arose from the kindness and solidarity of social distancing. Leaders of companies and colleagues once at odds now spoke to each other differently, showing genuine care more visibly than any other time in recent memory. Families and neighbors connected in new ways, by going for walks in open spaces, or standing outside at least six feet away from each other. People used online communication tools, like Zoom, to interact and stay connected at work or with the ones they love. They played charades virtually, watched events online, and even joined extended family members to cook the same recipes and enjoy dinner together.
And yet, on the flip side of the coin, people emphasized that they felt stuck, unable to fully connect with others or bored of living the same routine. Just like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, condemned to relive the same day over and over again, people verbalized their frustration as they worked and played from home in their “new normal” relegated to isolation. The irony is that these feelings come from within; regardless of the isolation, we choose to make today a new day, or we succumb to feelings of powerlessness. In other words, until we become aware of our need to change our outlook, our existing beliefs and habits will continue to rule the day. Yet when we choose to harness our internal strength, whether it be in fleeting moments of awakening or through our individual will, we can break out of the monotony holding us back and can achieve what we want or once deemed out of reach.
Imagine if you did wake up on the same day, over and over, without aging a bit. That would be maddening to most of us. As you rushed through your cyclical routine, you would likely keep walking past that mirror without a second glance, — failing to notice your very being is an opportunity in and of itself. Who said we need to do the same thing every day, or that “self-isolation” is mandated misery? It is up to each of us to seize the opportunities before us, especially the ones that we take for granted. This can be aided by learning a new mindset, which will keep us open to personal growth. For instance, use this extra time to become multilingual, seek new ways to help others succeed at work, learn how to play a new musical instrument, try new workout routines, find comfort in showing love to others or play games with your family.
It is our time to look in the mirror and observe that we need to own our transformations. We each cultivate our future selves by recognizing that the process starts from within.
“Expect What You Reflect.”
If we put out into the world that we believe this isolation is suffocating, then it will feel that way. With that mindset, we would become limited or even powerless. Instead, if we choose to put a positive spin on the situation we can start to believe that the day is limitless and that we’re going to make the most of its opportunities. The language we use in our minds becomes the way we behave and become. If we’re willing to learn to live with empathy and compassion, then we can start to trust that this period will bring us more joy than misery.
The likelihood of success increases when we have someone we feel connected to who can encourage us and keep us going. Creating a support system during these unique times helps us tackle challenges with optimism while keeping the faith that brighter days are ahead. Even when a sense of everyday normalcy returns, I envision these same people that are in your support network becoming lifelong allies, as you’ll continue to help each other live a life filled with positivity, joy and gratitude.
As we move forward, new products, drink specials, or pop culture fads will be created to cope with the situation and ease our pain. Then life will resume as normal. Once it does, I worry that we will do what most human beings do naturally, reverting to the regularly scheduled program and reliving the habits that once gave us comfort, even if they’re holding us back. I often have seen, and I am guilty of this myself, that when someone passes away, for example, we rationalize our personal problems and worries through the lens of the loss we are experiencing. “At least we have the chance to live another day”. In light of this, most of us will only talk about having the resolve to stop this or that habit. Very few will commit to improving ourselves moving forward. What we are doing is telling a story to ease the pain of the moment until it hurts less, instead of investing in changing our lives for the long-haul. For real sustained change to happen, we need to consciously take control of our brains and retool our mindset.
A behavioral shift is what we need: one that we can repeat to change our mindset and break old habits. Like gravity, a backward slide is something we cannot see or feel; like inertia, we need to do something intentional to move through it.
I believe there is a light inside each of us waiting to be unleashed, an inner beauty that bad habits can shield from seeing the light of day. We need to shift from the realm of the conceptual into real-world actions that will help us share this light with the world. To make permanent changes, we must first become aware of the need to change. A global pandemic can certainly be viewed as a wake-up call. Every day, we directly confront our interconnections, the threads of society that hold us together. There is no perfect prescription to get us to take the actions from “here” that will make us better or bring us happiness. These actions will be different for each of us and we need to meet people where they are. However, there are certain fundamental steps to take that can lead us all toward self-acceptance and igniting happiness as a platform for change. One way to start is at the beginning of the day, by reflecting positivity in a small mirror to kickstart your day. Look in the mirror and self-reflect. I will often say I am thankful for another day to make a difference and am grateful to see another sunrise and the possibilities it brings.
Begin this practice, starting today, and reflect positively on the things you appreciate; feel thankful. Remember, expect what you reflect. You are beautiful, and it is your turn to ignite that beauty from within. For the first two minutes of every morning, continue this practice, and embrace the routine as a new way of illuminting the light on your new self. Find success in this practice and watch your behaviors follow suit. It takes continuous learning and practice. As you build internal trust to continue performing new daily routines, seek out what is most meanigful to you and fills you to the brim with joyful opportunities.