Lockdowns and imposed quarantines have certainly become the worldwide shared experience of the decade, so much so that some even had the unfortunate luck to repeat it.
For everyone it was a shared responsibility for the common good: keeping everyone safe and being able to nip the virus in the bud before it could spread. It seemed all gallant in the plea of “One for all and all for one,” however the nature of the human was significantly tested.
There are still many ups and downs in this locked-in period. From a life and leadership coach point of view, my experience went from random thoughts and “notes to self” on coping, to self-empowerment.
Human beings are driven for change and evolved to climb a hierarchy of their needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Weiten, 1998; Sosteric, 2020) is based on the assumption that certain needs must be met before higher needs can be activated, creating a type of evolution of needs.
In a lockdown, and more so in mandatory quarantine, those who are fortunate to have climbed up, find themselves plummeting to the bottom. When we have everything taken away from us, our core needs of food and shelter, fresh air to breathe, and even sunlight to bask in, come into focus. The lessons being shared on social media platforms and from myself cast a spotlight on how much we take our life and freedoms for granted. The space we live in becomes our prison when we are denied one of those basic needs.
The space defines us – we are a reflection of our space, and we become the space. I had seen myself at the peak of Self-actualization, now fallen to the base, grappling with the most basic needs of a human. I experienced the uncertainty, fear, and loneliness, with survival mode kicking in. It reminded me of the themes resonating in the William Golding book, “The Lord of the Flies.” How long before the same madness sets in, both mind and body? It made me think of toxic workplaces and abusive relationships, and the toll they – sometimes unwittingly – take on people.
The environment we live in is a reflection of us and we need mould it or adapt to it to suit our needs and goals.
The golden thread of how to do this began with a story of two wolves. The Native Indian legend tells the tale of an old Cherokee chief telling his grandson a story of the two wolves: The Evil Wolf and the Good Wolf, each battling for dominance.
The Story of the 2 Wolves (Scott, 2021)
The grandfather says, “it is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other,” he continues, “is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed”
The lesson of the story?
What we focus and work on, we will attain. The same can be said of either being positive or negative.
The key is to make a choice and reap the reward. Choose your path and follow it.
It all begins with choice. What you choose to do, will happen.
But as the saying goes, this is easier said than done.
The wolves seem to morph into many opposites: the lazy vs the productive wolf; the Zen vs the chaotic wolf.
And so their battle ensues.
Sometimes we get frozen in the turmoil of the battle. This means we are numb with indecision.
In life coaching courses, followed by coaching practice, I learnt that this paralysis is not a failure, nor is it a waste of time. It is an opportunity.
Empowerment is achieved by acknowledging the self in relation to the situation.
Acknowledge and sit with turmoil, indecision, or conflict.
Like a fire, give it air to breathe and bring it to life, so that you can acknowledge it, know it and in time, control it.
This is another hard thing to do – to give yourself time and space when these are two of the fastest-depleting, and most valuable commodities you have. One way to trick the brain into expanding your perception of them, is by slowing the body down. There are various ways of doing this, which include mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and yoga. The common denominator is the breath. Focusing on the breath gently organises our thoughts, awakens us, and prods our intent. Breathing is natural; it gives you fuel for your engine.
Focused breathing in the form of mindfulness, exercise or meditation is the same as filling up petrol for a road trip – something you have to do it in order to enjoy the journey. When you have a busy, difficult, or a long route to travel, you will need to make more stops at a petrol station to refuel. Meditation masters recommend meditating every day and increasing the time when you are busy or stressed. I used quiet mornings to mindfully refuel.
Practice routine breathing exercises in some form of meditation, yoga, exercise, or mindfulness activity, but when stressed increase your practice.
As time went on, the monotony of the routine seemed to kill the soul. I changed the time for my mindfulness activity, swapping early mornings for early evenings. So, when routine started to lose its shine, I also spiced it up with something else. For strongly feminist me, it was simply a beauty magazine I had bought for the first time in over a decade.
To my joy (and surprise!), between the bright glossy covers, there were dozens of word and math puzzles that were wonderful bite-sized activities to work on that gave me that focused distraction I needed to cope with the days of routine and dullness. Embrace new things as well as things you had written off or told yourself you could not do or should not do.
Do not be afraid of re-writing your story as you uncover new things about yourself. Re-writing your personal story is a key to empowerment.
Embrace variety and diversity to spice up your life and re-write your personal story is a key self-empowerment exercise.
While the Covid19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide, it has also revealed our humanity.
Hidden within its chaos and stuck in the middle of lockdowns and quarantines were some personal development lessons.
My experiences jotted down as “notes to self” on how to cope exposed valuable personal development techniques.
The key to freedom is yours
- The environment we live in is a reflection of us. Mould it or adapt to it to suit your needs and goals.
- It all begins with choice. What you choose to do, will happen. Make a choice, create a path and follow it.
- Acknowledge and sit with turmoil, indecision, or conflict. Like a fire, give it air to breathe and bring it to life, so you can acknowledge it, know it, and in time, control it. Acknowledge yourself and your situation.
- Practice focused breathing in some form of meditation, yoga, physical exercise, or mindfulness activity, and when stressed, increase your practice. Make time for yourself to slow down.
- Embrace variety and diversity to spice up your life and re-write your personal story.
- Weiten, W. 1998. Psychology Themes & Variations, 4th edition, Brookes/Cole Publishing, 378 – 414.
- Sosteric, M. 2020. The Seven Essential Human Needs – Basic Statement, Sociology.org
- Scott, B (2021). The Story of the two Wolves: Managing your thoughts, feelings actions
What are the lessons you are learning from the pandemic?