The loss of the way we were used to living combined with the fear of all of the what-ifs can be difficult to cope with.
We are all in the midst of profound change. The way our lives looked just a few short weeks ago is almost certainly different from how it looks right now for nearly everyone around the world. And the way it will look is unclear.
Will things go back to “normal”? Will I get sick? Will we have enough food/money/toilet paper? What about my loved ones? Will I lose my job, my business, my savings?
These are all normal questions that many of us have, in addition to plenty of other ones. I have faced them myself, and have worked with people in the midst of these “What-If” questions given the current situation.
There is nothing wrong with you and you are not weak for having them. Let’s get that out of the way and be clear on it. Zero judgment.
At the same time, these questions are not going to help you stay safe in multiple senses of the word. Instead, they create a spiral of doubt, fear and often inaction that can actually bring about the things you are worried about happening.
This is not how any of us wants to feel.
So what do we do?
This has been the theme of so many coaching calls, webinars and personal conversations I’ve had lately, and this moment is precisely the kind of time Do a Day is meant for. We feel sadness or longing for what we had, and simultaneously feel scared and overwhelmed for all we feel we are up against.
And yet, none of it is happening right now. This is the mindful mantra you must focus on.
Let’s start with the longing and sadness for what we do not have. Perhaps it is in-person interaction with others, including loved ones you miss. Perhaps it is the ability to just be out in public doing whatever you want, like going to the park with your kids, taking an exercise class you enjoy, or going for dinner at your favorite restaurant with friends. It could be about your ability to earn money, and all that comes with it like paying for your housing or food. It could even be the idea of freedom to do as you want when you want (if you had that to begin with).
For me, I had all of these feelings, and others. As someone who is self-employed and bases much of my income from public appearances (speaking engagements, book signings, coaching and training, etc.), most of my income vanished over night. And as someone with chronic illness in our my that limits what foods and products we can have, access to sometimes hard-to-find items is part of how we have kept illness in check.
I can very easily sit in a moment of overwhelm with all of these losses. And I certainly have at times. It is a lot, can be overbearing and is a loss that deserves mourning to process at times.
However, I also have been actively bringing myself back to right now because those things do not exist anymore. This is a universal truth – what happened in the past is not happening now, good or bad. Spending all of your time on things that do not exist robs you from seeing what does. When I have these thoughts, I add in things going on now that I am thankful for. For example, while all of my speaking engagements were cancelled, this is the first time in years I do not have an overhanging sense of needing to pack a suitcase and leave my family. For many years, that was a weekly thing for me, and I was almost unaware of the pressure I felt when I was home about having to wake up early and leave soon. I am free of that.
My son and I have thrown a baseball around for the first time ever. We took advantage of not being in public to do fun haircuts (we both have Mohawks right now!). After the videos being done for over a year, I finally found the time to complete my Do a Day Masterclass. I finished my third book, a business piece that is my longest book yet and features a lot of first-party interviews that took great time and effort.
I find things like that, and sit with them. They are happening now. And they would never have happened before.
The idea of not getting on a plane is the one I have found hits my heart the most because it directly speaks to my true motivation, my why, my purpose. When I feel the loss of yesterday bubbling up, I put myself back in the recognition of the weight that has been lifted.
For all the “What-If” questions that spiral around me right now, I take a different approach.
I sit with questions that will be familiar to many of you, and some that may not be. Will our savings run out? Will I get sick? Will my family get sick? Will the anxiety of the situation take a huge toll on us? Will my son’s development be impacted? Will his education be impacted? When will I be able to earn money again to support my family? Will we run out of food? What if I can’t get one of the limited list of things my wife can eat? Will the political climate continue to be so toxic at the expense of the people? Is our democracy in jeopardy (a new one that has come up as we head toward the next presidential election).
Focusing on any, some or all of these questions does not help me address them. And none of them is happening right now, so addressing them may not be relevant or even feasible. When we worry about them and all their anxiety-inducing friends, they can overwhelm us and stop us from doing what we need to right now.
For example, I’m not not earning enough money to support my family right now (if you follow the double negative). I don’t know what I can do X months from now if I don’t have any money.
Instead, there is a present-day focus I can apply to the question of our finances. What expenses can I reduce to slow our rate of spending from savings? What ways can I earn some money today that I was not doing before? That is, my focus is not about something that may or may not happen some time down the road, but rather smart and beneficial things to do right now.
Here’s a simpler example that is no less relevant or accurate. When going to make dinner tonight, you may wonder, “What am I going to make for dinner in three nights?”
You aren’t making dinner three nights from now right now. You are making dinner right now. How does worrying about or trying to solve for dinner in three nights feed you tonight? You could say that it might inform when you choose to make tonight, and that is true. However, the priority is tonight since you face it right now, so you are putting your mental effort into something that isn’t happening over the higher-priority thing that is happening. It’s like putting a bandaid on your thumb because you might cut it tomorrow even though your pointer finger has a cut on it right now.
When I face these “What-If” questions, I ask myself as a ritual or automatic response (through years of practice so I can do it despite the pressure of anxiety in a given moment), “Is it happening right now?”
“What is happening right now?”
I then explore what I face in this moment, and work on that goal. The achievement of that goal or progress toward it gives me strength and satisfaction that can free me of the anxiety I may face in these bigger, scarier possibilities looming over head.
And they are just that – possibilities. They are not happening. They have not happened. You do not know if they will happen. No matter what the news tells you in an effort to get more ears or eyeballs because negative news always outsells positive news, that does not mean any of what you worry about will happen. We do not know.
If you need proof, go back through your life to something you feared. Did it come true? Perhaps some of them did, but I’m certain many have not.
How do I know? Simple – you would not be standing here today if they all came true. Recognizing that simple fact helps us to reset our sense of the inevitability of the bad we fear.
The future is not happening, nor is it written. The past is not happening, either, though it has been written. The only thing happening is right now. We surely have things we feel good about or can be thankful for. Even being alive, which is no small thing. And as long as we are alive, there will always be actions we can take right now that are better. Better for us, better for those around us, better for our future, better for building from our past.
This moment we are all in is the strongest reminder I’ve had in long time of the need to Do a Day. How will you Go Out and Do It?
This article is inspired by my best-selling book, Do a Day, available in all major formats including paperback, audiobook, Kindle, Apple Books and more, and is the inspiration for my podcast, Do a Day. It is also available as a Masterclass for those who want to live a better life every day.