What CAN I do?
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Like many others, I’m exhausted from the uncertainty, isolation and restrictions brought on by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In a word, I feel…depleted.

We humans like to be in control – of our daily lives, our destiny and our choices. Any semblance of control has been thrown out the window by a global pandemic wreaking havoc on our lives. In order to be safe, we are told we can’t be with people, can’t visit other cities and countries, can’t go to entertainment venues, can’t go to workplaces or schools unless we are essential workers or strict protocols are in place to minimize exposure. We find ourselves second guessing everything and not trusting people or situations we normally take for granted. This ambiguity and fear creates a continual state of alert and stress which isn’t good for our bodies, minds and spirits.

Over the last several months, I’ve observed people responding to this situation in one of two ways:

  1. Reactive: inward focus; closed, fear-based, scarcity thinking; distrust and negativity, with questions like: When can we get back to normal? Why can’t we reopen at full capacity? Can we really trust the experts?
  2. Proactive: outward focus; open, outcome-based, abundance thinking; collaboration and creativity with questions like: What is most important now? How can we re-engineer and/or accomplish our goals now? With whom can we work to move this forward?

To flip the switch from reactive to proactive requires self-awareness and intention. Instead of reacting to the “can’ts” presented to us, we can shift the mindset with these powerful, yet simple questions:   

What CAN I do? What CAN WE do?

My book, Good Things for a Full Life, explores 40 life lessons for living a full and satisfying life. Below are several of those lessons adapted to this moment.  

Spiritual (actions to feed your soul/spirit):

  • Practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, gratitude and purposeful reflection: “What are you grateful for today? What have you learned about yourself during this time? What will be different for you moving forward?”
  • Clarify or reconnect with your personal values and purpose: “What do you want your life to be full of, and how can you incorporate those things now? How can you deploy your values during this time?”
  • Learn something new by reading books, listening to podcasts, taking on a new hobby or re-engaging in activities that have meaning for you. Put on some music and dance!

Personal (actions to deepen relationships with family and friends):

  • Choose how you spend time: spend time with people and activities that build you up; minimize or eliminate time with people or activities that tear you down or create stress
  • Connect with others in new ways: Virtual tea/coffee, zoom lunches or dinners, walks or other outdoor activities, virtual book clubs, volunteer activities
  • Reframe your thinking: Pay attention to the words you use – do they reflect a reactive or positive approach? Face your fears and obstacles honestly “What’s your biggest fear and how can you manage yourself in regard to that fear?”

Professional (actions to enhance your career and results):

  • Effort = ROI: invest time and energy in high priority/high return activities  
  • Approach learning with openness and creativity: How can you explore opportunities and new ideas, rather than reflexively saying no? Discuss ideas and options with proactive colleagues. Consider what you can learn from others-clients, competitors, other industries-how they are adapting and evolving because of pandemic-related obstacles?  
  • Lead through ambiguity: Provide insight, direction and structure to help others see a way forward. Have at least 2 back-up plans for every goal to keep your options and mindset open. Focus on solutions, not excuses.
  • Network strategically: connect with 1-2 trusted associates (inside and outside your organization) weekly

Physical (actions related to self-care and health): 

  • Nourish your body through healthful eating, regular exercise and at least 7 hours of sleep per night
  • Create an evening routine for sleep: minimize screen time after dinner; meditate or read before bed; retire at the same time; identify 3 things you are grateful for; keep a notepad next to your bed to jot down thoughts that swirl in your head

 The CAN DO Challenge:

Because there are so many things outside our control during the pandemic, let’s put our attention on the things we can personally control. Each week for the next month, I challenge you to take action to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach. Keep a log of your actions each week and how the week’s actions impact you emotionally and physically. Ask a buddy to do the challenge with you to share successes and challenges.

Week 1–Book-end each day: Start each day with a Daily 5 (specific tasks to complete) and end each day with a Grateful 3 (people or things).

Week 2–Connections: Each day, connect with a minimum of 5 people you know personally & professionally.

Week 3–Self-care: Practice healthful eating, healthy sleep, exercise-yoga, walking, swimming, etc.

Week 4–Reflection: Write down what worked and why; what was tough and why; what you learned about yourself; what you commit to doing going forward. Share it with your buddy.  

Life is full of challenges that cause fear, uncertainty and frustration. The choice to proceed with a proactive, Can-Do approach is within our control. Let’s do this!

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