Happiness, it’s all about our attitude
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor E Frankl
Originally posted on July 12, 2020
These COVID times have been tough on all of us. I hope the reality has set in for all of us that the coronavirus is here with us for quite some time. It’s not too hard to believe that we will be in the situation that we are in for at least a year, it’s really not difficult to see this going on for the next two years. Take a minute and just let that sink in, wearing a mask when you go out, working from home or occasionally from the office, kids attending school online or part-time and many, many people getting sick and losing their lives will likely continue for the next couple of years.
So life has thrown us a pretty nasty curve but it’s up to us to make the most of this situation, as we do with anything in life. There’s a very specific reason I used the quote from Viktor Frankl tonight. He wrote perhaps the best book I’ve ever read and I first wrote about it in a post in 2014. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, recounts how while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, he found meaning and happiness in life. He makes a simple point, if he could find happiness there, even for a fleeting moment, than we should be able to find happiness in our own lives.
And yes, that’s exactly the point I’m making tonight. We are living in difficult times. Our world has been flipped upside down and everything is changing. Change is something that none of us find comfortable, so none of us are comfortable right now. But given all of that, it doesn’t mean that we have to be unhappy. Our happiness is tied to our attitude, I’ve written about this before. That has never been more true than it is right now. So the obvious question is, how do I adjust my attitude so that I can feel happier right now? This is what I want to address tonight.
Rarely does anything worthwhile in life come without some effort or work, this is no different. So let’s talk about the steps it takes to adjust your attitude during difficult times.
- Accept reality – James Stockdale was a POW in the Vietnam War, he was tortured for years and he never broke. When asked about how this was possible he explained, and that explanation has come to be known as the Stockdale Paradox, popularized in the book, Good To Great. Stockdale said that the optimists had the hardest time in captivity. They thought, I’ll be free by Thanksgiving, so when that date came and went it crushed them. We’ve been doing the same thing with COVID, it will be over after we shelter in place, it will calm down when summer gets here and it gets hot. It’s July and taking off, those people who put stock in that optimistic view are struggling more than others. So what was Stockdale’s recipe, it starts with first accept your reality. Understand the reality of your situation. Right now, this virus is the real deal, it’s a real risk and killing people. Our lives are being permanently altered and it will be at least a year or two before our lives will get back to anything resembling normal. So accept that this is your situation. Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and practice appropriate social distancing.
- Plan your way to happiness – You have to really think about your new situation. This means assessing what’s really happening. Have you evaluated your workspace at home, if you’re working from home? Are you, as well as you are able, scheduling time to work, time to help your kids with their school work, family time and super importantly time for yourself to maintain your mental health. This is not a great time to wing it, it’s time to carefully plan out schedules, physical space and personal time. Yes, I get it, your three year-old doesn’t care about your schedule. But that’s not a reason not to plan, provide structure and if you have a partner, to share the load between the two of you as best you can. If you have a partner it’s also not time to be less communicative. You need to communicate your feelings and your needs.
- Work the plan – planning is worthless if you don’t follow the plan. Set boundaries, stick to your planning and practice self-discipline. Hopefully within your plan you’ve included all of the necessities and that includes the three most important, eating, sleeping well and being active. Don’t let the stress of your current situation lead you to bad eating or drinking too much, make sure you are getting enough sleep and being active will help that. I’m someone who typically worked out five days a week. Several days a week weightlifting and doing some form of cardio every day. Well, gyms are closed and even if they weren’t right now, I wouldn’t feel safe going to them. So I’m working out at home with dumbbells. Today I ordered a workout bench and some heavier weights. Be aware, you can’t find dumbbells anywhere in a store right now and the soonest I could get online was a delivery date of August 20th.
- Have discipline – the absolute hardest part of all of this is staying disciplined. It took me a good six or eight weeks to finally get my routine well planned and to get myself to stick with it. But since I finally got into that groove I’ve dropped a few pounds, my blood sugar levels are dropping and I’ve been sleeping better. My COVID dreams have even stopped, not promising that will happen for you, but it worked for me.
- Stay positive – it’s hugely important to practice positivity and look for silver linings. Instead of focusing on how difficult it is with everyone being in the house, focus on how nice it is that you all get to eat dinner together. Take a deep breath before you react in frustration, find ways to do things for other people and be kind. Changing your focus will help change your attitude.
- Finally, give yourself a break – I mean that in a couple of ways. First, you’re going to have times where you don’t keep to your schedule, where parts of what you are responsible for are going to fall apart a bit. You’re not going to be perfect, and especially in less than ideal times, that’s more than ok. So don’t hammer yourself. This is a rule from successful dieting, it’s not about being perfect, but giving yourself a break and starting again when you fail a little. The other way I mean give yourself a break is to literally get some downtime. I know a normal vacation is not really a possibility right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the relaxation you need. That can happen in a lot of ways. A few days free from all of your electronic devices and social media is one way. If you have the right situation, go camping in your yard. A small semi-local road trip can also be done. I’ve just returned from a three day road trip to Reno, Virginia City and Sacramento. Not a massive road trip or anything extremely exciting, but it was nice to get out my apartment for a couple of days, to eat the way I would like instead of the way I should and do a little socially distanced gambling. Better yet, I actually won some money! So get creative and do something that will work with you and your family.
What this all comes down to, is accepting your reality, staying positive and doing the things that will help you be happier. Yes, harder than it sounds but not impossible. A little positivity, some discipline and you can do it my friends. And like James Stockdale you can come out of the other side of all of this a better person. Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane