I’m rarely on social media. But the COVID-19 outbreak has got me thinking, “how can I serve others in the midst of the fear and panic?” While these may be challenging times, we have the opportunity to help make this world a better place.
I’m writing a series of Life-Pro Tips (LPT) to help you navigate these challenging times. Feel free to share this in your groups, with your friends and family, and anyone who you think will benefit from this.
I was just talking to a friend from back home on Facebook Messenger. Instead of relying on the news for updates, I ask people I know. Their first-hand experience of what’s happening around them tell a better story than what the news usually say. The challenge, however, is that the way they tell their stories are often tainted with their emotional state. This one was no exception.
He was laid off from work because of the government’s directive for a lockdown. The lockdown has slowed the economy down with businesses being closed. No business, no revenue. And no revenue means no money for payroll. And he’s not alone. Nearly one million Canadians applied for jobless claims since the COVID-19 outbreak started. In the US, it’s 3.3 million. That’s 4.3 million people in North America alone that lost their jobs in the last 2 weeks alone. And the numbers will continue to rise. What could have been a week to spend some time off work for spring break ended up being the most stressful week of 2020. With bills to pay and no financial reserves, it’s no wonder people are terrified of what’s going on around the world. Imagine what it feels like checking your bank account after getting laid off and seeing only $300 in your balance. How are you going to survive until the situation gets back to normal when you know you have limited supplies and no means to get more? You can feel your heart skip a beat when you get that phone call from your bank telling you of non-sufficient funds.
It gets worse. Research from previous economic downturns like that of the 2008 global economic crisis suggests that unemployment has a negative impact in an individual’s physical and mental health. Unemployed workers are clearly in worse health than their employed counterparts. They are less self-confident and appear overwhelmed by their problems. I don’t blame them. When you don’t know where to get the money to pay the bills or buy groceries, when nobody wants to hire you because the economy is just bad, it’s easy to fall into depression and hopelessness. Their self-esteem and self-worth drops. Couple that with the fear of contracting the virus or the anxiety of staying indoors most of the time. It’s overwhelming.
And as I mentioned in the previous post, while we cannot control the things that are happening around us, we can certainly control these two things – our actions and our emotions.
Write down your wins daily
Growing up, we were told we’re not enough – not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not artistic enough, not strong enough. If you failed in a test, you were labeled “not smart enough”. When you didn’t make it to the track team, you were “not fast enough”. We compare ourselves with others who are better, stronger, smarter, faster. It’s no wonder we don’t accomplish much. And why would we when we feel that what we do doesn’t quite make it – because it’s not enough.
But we don’t seem to notice that we now know how to use a smartphone when most people older than us don’t even want to be anywhere near the alien device. We know how to do our jobs well. We know how to earn a living, to make money. We know how to make someone laugh and brighten up their day. I’m sure this made you feel good about yourself. Yet, we reduce, if not ignore, their importance.
I learned this exercise from one of my coaches a few years back. And I struggled with doing it the first few months. My coach told me to do this together with my gratitude journal. And while I was already doing my daily gratitude for months, I still couldn’t get myself to do it. I felt like I was so conceited, self-absorbed, proud – you name it. Yet I was ignoring the very essence of why I was given this assignment. It was meant to remind myself of my greatness. Because I was created in the image of my Creator. I have unexplored power within me that can be harnessed if only I choose to search for them. And that’s what this exercise did for me.
You might think, “nothing spectacular happened to me today, so what would I write?” It doesn’t have to be something that happened today or anything recent. It could be something you’ve done a long time ago, something you can be proud of. Here are a few things I’ve written down when I first started doing this daily exercise.
- I hate hostility. I avoid it at all cost. One thing that I learned in Aikido is to strive to remain in harmony. If somebody wants to pick a fight, I avoid it or, if I can, de-escalate by being calm. That’s just who I am. But I remember a bully in high school who, together with his friends, started verbally assaulting a younger student. I heard it from afar and was about to avoid it when I recognized the bully. He knew me thru a common friend. I approached them, asked in a very respectful and calm way what’s going on as he was about to punch the kid on the face. The bully looked me in the eyes – he was way bigger than I was. I’ll admit I was scared, I don’t want his clenched fist anywhere near me. Yet, I remained calm and relaxed. I guess that got him to calm down, lower his hand, and have a conversation instead. I can’t remember exactly how the heated argument started but I do know how it ended – with me standing up to a bully and saving a kid from being punched in the face.
- Almost 20 years ago, I learned how to program in Visual Basic in 2 months that allowed me to write software for a small business – even when I failed my computer programming course in college. I spent an average of 16 hours daily in front of a computer, reading books about programming, and asking questions on chatrooms about how to write Visual Basic code. My eyes hurt from looking at the computer screen for so long and I developed back pain during those 2 months. But a happy customer was more than enough to convince me to become a computer programmer earlier in my career regardless of what my university transcript showed.
- I was buying French macarons when the store clerk was struggling to place them nicely in a box. It’s her first day at work and was getting stressed out for not being able to do her job well. It didn’t help that a young family with a kid entered the store and started ordering in a rushed tone. Good thing they didn’t need the pastries to be in a box. I told her to serve the family’s order first and I’ll patiently wait until they’re done. Once she got back to my order, I started to tell her how she was doing a great job being her first day at work. I told her that the French macarons required special handling due to the nature of the ingredients and how they were baked. Yet she handled them with grace, as if she was the one who baked them. In less than 5 minutes, she managed to properly place my order in the box, something she struggled with for more than 20 minutes before the young family came into the store. I saw with my very own eyes how encouragement and motivation can increase employee productivity.
- I got caught up in a lockdown and couldn’t fly back home. I don’t have everything that I need to do my work. So, what do I do? I took inventory of what I have and started thinking about what I can do. While I may not have everything that I need, I have the bare necessities – computer, internet, my resourcefulness, my creativity. Given the limited resources that I have, I decided to do a special run of my SQL Server Always On Availability Group: The Senior DBA’s Ultimate Field Guide and the SQL Server DBA’s Guide to Docker Containers training classes online. I have what it takes to make the most of any situation.
Your list doesn’t have to be spectacular. It could be as simple as waking up early without hitting the snooze button on your phone alarm several times. Celebrating that small win gives you the motivation to do it again tomorrow until it becomes a habit. Or making someone laugh because you’ll never know what they’re going thru. Or telling someone you appreciate what they did for you. Or making the effort to physically move when you’re locked down at home.
I can’t count how many times I had to read what I’ve written in the past. When I feel so discouraged that things I’m doing aren’t making any progress. When I couldn’t figure out how to do something. Or when I feel devastated because of what’s happening around me. Reading my wins gives me the confidence that I have what it takes to make things happen. It changes my emotional state and gets me going again, like a battery that was recharged
Doing this on a regular basis develops your self-worth and improves your confidence. And when you face a challenging situation like getting laid off from work, you are absolutely sure you can get thru it because you have evidences of your wins written down in a journal.
Now it’s your turn. What 3 things are you proud of?