When faced with an unpleasant task, I used to hold off doing it until the last possible moment then burn the midnight oil toiling on that presentation or report, with the tiredness to show for it the next day as I went to work.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Singapore, I got a rude awakening. With many of my favourite pursuits such as meeting friends and relatives, and watching movies, out of reach, there was little to do to pass the time and maintain my sanity save for doing the tasks that needed doing.

It was not long before those tasks were done too. With reduced advertising revenue, my media industry job was at reduced productivity.

Mind over matter

I had never been a fan of exercise but two years ago, with growing concerns about hypertension and diabetes, I signed up to join a gym and went for regular workouts.

I wondered how I was going to make my subscription worth my while until I read about beginning with the end in mind.

That reminded me of maxims where I was exhorted to do the hardest or most unpopular item on the to-do list, as I would be able to devote my prime energy to it and therefore complete it effortlessly.

Beginning with the end in mind meant that I should visualise the successful result of a task to help fuel my resolve to complete it with little or no interruption.

I applied both the maxims to my exercise routine. As the gym I attended was open 24 hours daily. I began my workouts early in the morning before work, or in the early morning hours of each weekend, when the air was cool and crisp.

Visualising the better me

It was tortuous getting out of bed at 5am or 5.30am each day, but then I applied the beginning with the end in mind – I pictured the slim and lithe body that I would get at the end with no health problems and slimmer waistlines accompanying the changes too.

I would be lying if I said that it was smooth sailing all the time but the bad days soon became fewer and fewer. The workouts under the watchful eye of the personal trainer were tortuous at first but I later grew to love them and the accompanying treadmill sessions too.

Soon, I began to crave each day as my workout session day and felt withdrawal pangs if I could not do a workout due to inclement weather or other reasons.

When COVID-19 hit Singapore and the gyms had to close, I turned to daily morning walks and those did the trick perfectly! After each walk, I would post a Facebook video with an encouraging message. I soon had a small but steady following.

Everyday. someone would ask “Ready for your morning walk?” and I knew it was time to make my move. Sometimes I was not in the mood, but all that changed as soon as I hit the track. At the end of an hour, I had worked up a healthy sweat and treated myself to some black coffee sans milk and sugar.

Pain turns to gain

It was not long before I was soon less afraid of unpleasant tasks. Where I used to avoid them until the last minute, I now began to tackle them early and saw the benefits of beginning such work early, when I was able to iron out potential problems earlier and thus get better results than before. Soon, these ‘unpleasant’ tasks became less onerous.

It took a universal scourge like COVID-19 to change my attitude for the better. Frustration was the initial feeling but now, I feel more positive and am more confident that we will get through all this much better.

How ironic that I have a virus to thank for my change in outlook and perspective! All’s well that has ended well!