10 lessons from living in a pandemic

Lots of lessons that we can learn from our current situation, here are 10 of mine

Every day is a school day.

I don’t know about you but during this pandemic situation. I have been learning more than usual.

After thinking about it. I decided to make a list of everything I have learned so far. Here are my top 10.

1. The world is a noisy place. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.

This is number 1 for me. Because I learned that when I don’t rush. I listen and learn a lot more.

Listening more than we talk is a wonderful skill to pick up. We can become more understanding. More compassionate and take life at a slower pace.

When your not the one doing the talking. Your thinking slows down. The amount of information you take in increases also.

The result is clearer thinking and better decision making.

If you have ever heard someone say that the smartest person in the room is the quietest. Then take notice. It turns out they may be onto something.

Of course, these days its more likely to be the quietest person on the zoom call.

2. Working from home most of the time has some big advantages.

Yeah, I’m one of those in the working from home fan club.

I wasn’t at first and I still have bad days with it. But I would still say that, for the most part, its the future.

A day without a commute is better for a start. No time wasted traveling.

That’s more time with the family. Pursuing a hobby, or anything else you want to do.

Not stuck in traffic somewhere. Plus it’s way cheaper.

No eating out 5 days a week. For me, that’s been a revelation in 2 ways.

First is saving a fortune, between lunch, snacks, and coffee. It’s money saved that I never actually ever thought about before.

Second and more important. I’m living a far healthier lifestyle. Eating at home I found it much easier to be healthy and as a result. I’m healthier, fitter, and much lighter than I was at the start of the year.

The last one here is productivity. I have given myself a routine and set hours. I have very few distractions and so because of that. I find myself much more productive. Than I would be in a typical office environment.

The one thing that is missing is social interaction throughout the day. Which takes us into lesson 3.

3. We need much more social interaction than I ever thought.

I’m not an introvert by any means. But I can be introspective and enjoy my own company. To the point that 50% of the people I meet think I’m ok. The rest most likely think I’m a tool.

What I have learned during this time. Is that social interaction shouldn’t be only on my terms.

Neither should it be taken for granted. Humans are social animals by nature.

One of the hardest things to take over the last few months. Has been that limited interaction with people. Just the simple contact with people during the day.

It’s more important for our mental health and general wellbeing than I thought.

Then there is the problem of missing social events and catch-ups with friends. Which brings me onto number 4.

4. Stay connected with friends and family.

The internet is a great tool to connect with the world. Use it to the best of your ability.

Through the last few months, it has been the ability to get on zoom, etc. and connect. That has gotten many of us through.

It’s also been a great excuse to track down people we lost touch with and get reconnected.

The power of that social connection with friends and loved ones is so powerful for humanity. This situation has proved that.

Staying connected can get us through anything.

5. Be kind and generous where you can.

Paying it forward. A random act of kindness. Whatever you want to call it.

Turns out giving feels pretty good and has some real benefits. Whether its money, old stuff you don’t use. Time or knowledge.

Being kind and sharing what you have is another great way to connect with our fellow humans.

Something I didn’t do enough of before. I will be doing it a lot more going forward.

There is always someone or something that needs a little leg up. One day the tables could turn. It might be me in the same situation. I would like to hope someone would help me in the same way.

6. People you know will be losing jobs. You have some tools to help them.

This one ties into number 5, but it’s more specific I guess.

It’s sad but true. Many friends and colleagues are losing their job’s at the moment. Other than giving them only moral support and a listening ear. There are some other things we can do for them:

  • Take the time to endorse them on LinkedIn.
  • Take the time to recommend them on LinkedIn.
  • Send them links to job openings that they fit. We can even reach out and recommend them for those jobs.
  • Take the time to review a resume or help them practice for an interview.

These are things we all have the power to do. They don’t cost us anything but a small amount of time.

The result for the person looking for that next job to keep food on the table?

For them, it could be huge.

I guess its treating people how you would like to be treated yourself.

7. How much needless stuff did I buy?

This one is personal I guess. But true, I used to buy an endless amount of stuff. Never needed and seldom used.

Like how many pairs of sneakers does one person need?

By not having the opportunity to shop (Online is not a good option where I am). I realized how wasteful some of my habits were.

It changed fundamentally my relationship with money for the better. It turns out spending less and saving more. Can bring just as much joy as saving less, spending more, and having a house full of stuff I never use.

Who would have thought???

8. Travel is a luxury, but staying closer to home can be fun also.

I’m a big traveler. Whether for business or pleasure. I’m used to traveling each week of the year.

Needless to say. This year life has slowed down a lot.

The benefit of that is having to stay at home.

I am spending more time in the country. I’m learning to appreciate the beauty of nature on my doorstep.

I’ve not done that before. To me, staycations sounded awful.

Going forward we will be making the most of where we stay. Those mega vacations?

They will be kept for special occasions and treats.

There is so much to see and do. Right on our own doorsteps.

All we have to do is jump in and explore.

9. We can do more for the environment.

When life is moving a million miles an hour. It’s hard to take stock and notice the little things around us.

Now that life has taken on a slower pace. It’s easier to sit up and take notice of the smaller things.

For me, one of those things is plastic waste.

Everything from food packing to water bottles and lids on coffee cups.

It harms the environment. I’m now more conscious of that.

Why?

Well, I have a lot more time on my hands. That means I notice a lot of things I never used to. Like the amount of plastic packaging we trash.

I now avoid plastic packaging where ever I can. I don’t buy water after learning my tap water is the same stuff I buy in the store.

That’s a huge amount of plastic I’m no longer sending to landfill.

In our house, we have also embraced the reduce, reuse, and recycle mantra.

Not something we did before.

Two examples of that would be:

  • Using every part of a food, we know have a garden full of fruit and veg that we grew ourselves. (Which feeds into lesson 10). Using the seeds which we no longer throw away. What we can’t eat like apple cores, for example, turns into compost.
  • Recycling stuff we would have trashed. Our tomatoes needed posts and retainers to hold them up. At the garden center that would have meant buying plastic posts and plastic ty-wraps.

At home that meant driftwood from the river chopped down into posts.

The retainers?

Well, not every tomato tree can say its held up by Calvin Klein and Victoria Secret’s finest underwear.

The new rule is nothing gets trashed if it can be reused. Including old clothes.

Getting inventive with that new rule can be a lot of fun. Plus it can be a good learning experience.

Which brings us to…

10. Learn new skills.

A huge thing that has kept us going is learning. From painting to gardening. Through building and astrology.

Our house has been in learning mode. If we get bored. It’s a signal to learn something new.

Sometimes that’s been taking pleasure in reading. Other times its been getting outside and doing something more physical.

What it has done is give us ways to keep the mind busy. It’s also been a lot of fun along the way.

At the end of the day…

Life as we knew it has changed. The new normal will be different. That in itself is a good thing.

Change can be scary but it can also be good for us.

All too soon that new normal will kick in. Life will go back to being run at a million miles an hour.

Take the time to reflect now, before it’s too late.

I bet you will start to look at life from a different perspective.

These then are my top 10 lessons I have learned.

What about you?

So many drafts, so little done

A tale of a disorganized writer

So many drafts but so little getting done,

none of them inspiring my mind to hit complete,

sitting on my minds desk causing a complete mess.

Writing is supposed to be fun and involving,

a passion , a hobby, an escape from the world.

Who knew it could be so demanding,

another pressure added to the day,

it’s these thoughts the pile up,

stop the creative process in its tracks.

Those drafts will be completed some day,

have the knowledge that inspiration will strike,

tomorrow or the next day just like it always has before.

Those drafts will one day publish

clutter up the desk no more,

those words will form their own stories,

fly from mind to page.

Just need a spark of inspiration,

to feel the finish line…

When inspiration seems so far away

A tale not of writers block, but of being locked out of creativity

Stress levels running high and morale is getting low,

bad signs for creative health, inspiration hard to find.

That one creative spark so often found in the minds eye,

seems to have gone missing I really can’t think why?

So many inspirations stand surrounding me,

but none seems to be the one.

That idea which gets my mind attention,

that special one that just runs free.

When the words flow from head to paper,

and the world just dissapears.

A walk, a run or some other exercise,

to free my body from my mind,

to feel myself be free.

Open to inspiration,

to unlock my creativity.

Confessions of a recovering junk food addict

There are more glamourous addition’s out there, but this one is just as powerful and destructive.

Addiction

It’s an incredibly emotional and powerful subject.
Even picking out an image for this story was tough.

Today I want to talk about an addiction. One that’s not made glamourous by Hollywood.

It’s not a sex drugs and rock’n’roll addiction either.

The patterns of self-destruction and ruined health are the same though.

I’m talking about that most modern of addictions…

Junk food

One definition of an addiction is:

Addiction is when the mind and body need a substance to function. Taking that substance away causes physical and psychological withdrawal.

Having been there and come out the other side. I can tell you that addiction to sugary and high carb/fat content food is real.

It’s a real addiction with real consequences and real health issues. It’s also very tough to quit.

Like other addictions, you are never cured. All you can do is recover and try every day not to fall back into it.

The reason I write this is to highlight this issue and share with others. So that they don’t have to go down the same path of discovery.

They say that you are what you eat, it’s taken me about 32 years to work that out.

My diet was awful, sugary drinks and snacks between meals. The meals themselves pizza, burgers, fries. All my own choices, all addictive and all destructive.

Through my twenties, my health declined and at my worst, I weighed 145kgs or around 320lbs.

I was morbidly obese and pre-diabetic. Over time I have lost over 30kgs/60lbs of that weight and regained my health. I’ve also regained my fitness, although I still have around 20kgs/40lbs left to lose. It’s an ongoing journey.

The hardest part of it all? Changing my eating habits.

Recovery and Reeducation

It took me months to work out what was happening. I could go for a few days eating well, drinking water or tea, and exercising. I would feel good when I made those changes. But the next thing I knew I was 8 cokes deep into the day, sitting eating junk food at lunchtime.

As much as I tried, I was struggling to break the cycle. After a lot of soul searching and research, I finally worked out I’m addicted.

I always have known I have an addictive personality, it’s what’s made me terrified of drugs for example. I just never made the link between the food I was eating and the chemicals being released in my brain.

Once I understood that I could begin to tackle my issues properly. This is an addiction like any other and it needs to be treated accordingly.

What works for me is making small changes. The first that I made was my relationship with sugary drinks, which I wrote about on medium.The biggest and best lifestyle change I have ever madeSwitching from Soda to Sparkling watermedium.com

After that went well, it’s been a case of making changes one at a time.

As with any addiction taking one step at a time and counting each day is key.

The support you get from family and friends is also key I have found.

Today about 18 months on from my first real attempts to change its working. Like I said I’m slowly and healthily losing both the weight and the medical issues that I had collected.

I’m much more open to trying new foods and for the last 6 weeks, I have been trying a vegetarian diet. No salad as yet, but it will come.

My main message here is that, if you are stuck in the same cycle that I was help is available. You can change your lifestyle and improve your health.

Yes, it’s frustrating at times and it’s hard work. But in the end, even though there are good days and bad. The positive change makes it all worthwhile.

After all, who wouldn’t want to be lighter, healthier, and here for longer?

Life is meant to be enjoyed. But as anyone who has suffered from addiction will tell you sometimes that easier said than done.

The great thing is that with support there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The Stigma of Starting a Business

Why is there so much negativity around self employment?

Why the negativity???

It seems that those starting out with a full time business or a side hustle meet lots of negativity.

It could be jealousy, or the fact that its a dream for other’s that they can’t commit to?

It could even be that others around us don’t see the value in going out on a limb.

Not when we there is a monthly pay check sitting waiting for us in the comfort of steady employment?

The feedback for anyone thinking of making a start on their own business is one of negativity?

Its a big step, one not everyone understands

This is the real issue around the stigma or lack of support that people feel.

Starting a business for ourselves is a huge step.

Its not a path that we are conditioned by modern society to follow.

Like anything else in life, when people don’t understand they are suspicious of and negative.

Most who do go on to start a business understand this.

What doe’s interest me though is how many people want to make a start on their own but this puts them off?

What can we do to improve the situation?

The good news is that there are things we can do to help those making the move.

That’s important in 2020 as traditional employment options become harder to come by.

  • Throw a business shower — help them get off the ground with the basics they need to start working from home
  • Promote businesses on social media, help get the word out there
  • If you like the product or service offered then use it

3 simple things that can move the needle on societies view of the self employed.

Success stories encourage others to follow the lead.

Job markets where they are, many more are going to have to take the plunge into working for themselves.

In the end

Times are changing, whether its full time or part time most of us are taking that brave plunge into the unknown.

What’s needed to make that work is for us to come together and be positive about the experiance.

The viewpoint society has today has to change.

If we are going to give people the confidence to make that lifestyle work for them…

Getting Active

Its not steps, or duration, it’s doing what works for you

Waiting for the spark…

Life is full of changes, up’s/down’s and bumps in the road.

It is often at these times that we stop being active, getting started again can be a huge intimidating thought.

As with most things in life the thought is much worse than the reality, this is where procrastination takes over before you know it.

We wait and wait for the spark of inspiration, to kick start us again.

The truth is though no one and nothing else is going to provide that spark, it can only come from within us…


10,000 steps and the intimidation factor

This is the single biggest road block for many people….

How the heck do I manage 10,000 steps, that’s a huge and intimidating amount of steps.

I have news for you, it’s just a made up number.

Getting active is all about what works for you.

1, 10, 100, 1000 steps, 5, 15, 30 minutes of exercise.

What works for you is best for you.

Physical exercise and activity should be fun and motiviating, not intimidating and a struggle.

This is the single biggest road block for many people….

How the heck do I manage 10,000 steps, that’s a huge and intimidating amount of steps.

I have news for you, it’s just a made up number.

Getting active is all about what works for you.

1, 10, 100, 1000 steps, 5, 15, 30 minutes of exercise.

What works for you is best for you.

Physical exercise and activity should be fun and motiviating, not intimidating and a struggle.

Start small and build up to what works for you, however that best works for you.

Try different ways to get active and have fun along the way.


Learn to love it

Physical activity does something primal to us, it moves and motivates us in ways nothing else can.

It also rewards both the brain and body.

Once you start to get active, the best thing you can do for yourself is keep going, you will after some time, learn to love it.


Small beginnings lead to big changes

This is true of pretty much anything we start in life, but with exercise and physical activity its especially true.

Keep going and make it a daily or even a weekly habit and there are small improvements that take place over time that add up to big changes such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Gain muscle
  • Improved fitness
  • Increased Stamina
  • Mental clarity

The list goes on, even a short 5 minute walk will provide these benefits over time.

Finally…

It can seem tough to get going on the path to getting active, and it times the path itself can be really tough.

It doesn’t have to be intimidating though, it should be a fun and rewarding experiance.

My advice, ignore all the BS around step targets and 150 minutes a week.

Do what works best for you and stick with that, keep going, build the momentum, listen to your body and look for those positive changes.

One thing I can guarantee is that you will be glad you did.

The Power of Habits

Can you make or break a Habit in 90 days

The 90 day rule

There is a school of thought that says you can both break an existing habit or form a new habit in 90 days.

As humans we are of course creatures of habit as they say and a habit is an incredibly powerful thing for us.

So does this 90 day rule exist???


Yes & No

Can you effect change in your life in 90 days? Absolutely

Is it possible to make or break a habit in 90 days? Yes

Is that always the case? No

As with anything in life, the result is determined by the effort you put into it.


Rinse and Repeat

Whether it takes 90 days or 900 days, following through every day or rinse and repeat daily is the key.

Consistency is the key to making it, that’s the only things that works.


Final Thoughts

The truth is that anything is possible in life even changing or forming habits.

Our only limitation is our own thoughts. Turning up each and every day is what makes the seemingly impossible possible.

Does this 90 day rule hold up? Well if you are committed and work hard enough then yes it is, anything is possible if we show up and work hard enough to make the goal happen.

Habits are powerful things for us Humans, whether they are good or bad.

The possibility to break out of them, or to form new ones is there, it just takes hard work and dedication.

Morning Exercise

The most refreshing way to start the day???

The way to start the day??

The answer will be different for us all, but for me right now, I have to say starting the day with exercise make’s a huge difference to me.

It gives me motivation to get up and start the day with something enjoyable.

At the moment that for me is a cycle of around 1 hour.


The positive action

I’m used to starting my day jumping straight into work and eating the frogs first, that is to say, tackling the hardest jobs first.

There are a couple of issues with that approach that I had actually never thought about until I started working from home:

  • I’m not motivated in the mornings at all, I know im going to face difficulty and so I end up getting more motivated as the day goes on and I end up too switched on and ready to work at the end of the day.
  • I don’t have a plan for the day, I just have a to-do list that I jump into head first.

Exercising first is a positive action that motivates me for the rest of the day:

  • Exercise makes me feel good, this alone motivates me to get up in the morning
  • I still have a to eat a frog — my 1 hour cycle, but its a physical challenge and that motivates me
  • I have 1 hour to myself on my bike and during that time, my mind wanders and I actually strategize my day

Those frogs in the shape of tasks are still their to be eaten, but I have a plan for them and im mentally prepared for the day.

The fact that Im prepared for my work day, and also I have the motivation from the exercise, my mornings are much more productive and I actually feel tired at the end of the day.

I also have a routine which helps me feel grounded.


The negatives

The negatives for me exist only on the days I decide not to exercise in the morning.

On those days I have less energy, im less motivated and I get less done.


Final Thoughts

Everyone is different and what works for you, wont work me and vice versa.

What I have found is a routine that is working for me, that im getting alot of motivation from.

The days I decide to stay in bed, I feel worse than the days I get up and at em.

My days are happier and more productive, which is a fantastic reason to keep going and to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

The Back Up Plan

Wedding plans in ruins, there are option’s….

Sound familiar?

I can relate to that, I should be getting married to my better half in a little over 6 weeks time.

Between hotels being closed, us stuck in one country while the wedding is planned in another plus the headache of needing a visa for my partner which we can’t get because the embassy is closed, all bets are off.

We need to re-arrange, which at first looked like it would be a nightmare.


What are the options???

As anyone who is planning a wedding will know, they are not cheap, so the first priority in our case was cancelling what we could and minimizing the financial impact.

Once we had done that (nothing like pouring over contracts to suck the romance out of the room), we quickly worked with the vendors to get money back or make settlements.

This was purely because we had fixed dates for being in the UK, and if those did’nt work we needed other options.

If you can delay, then use that option as it gives you time to get back on track, extra time to pay and you don’t lose deposits etc. just make sure you read the contracts and understand what the options are…


A back up plan fit for the king….

Uh-Huh, the back up plan is for us a stroke of collective genius.

We have a deadline to get married due to a pending work move and visa requirements. Looking at all the options and also being people that focus a lot on fun, we did some research.

Turns out Las Vegas even with flights and hotels is a very economical way to get hitched.

Having a suitable fake Elvis tie the know for us should also be great fun and give us some great memories, albeit we won’t get the special day with family and friends that we had planned.

While this works for us I understand it may not be the answer for you. Its important though to talk things through with your partner and work out what does the back up plan look like and how you will achieve it.


Final Thoughts

It can be a bit if a kick in the teeth to have to cancel, delay or rearrange, but as the saying goes:

A smooth sea, never made a skilled sailor

Life will throw curveballs at us from time to time, this is just a big one. There are plenty of options available without having to sacrifice money already spent.

Just make sure you know what the impact is for you and talk with you partner to work out the back up plan that works for you both.

If you can control that then it one less thing to stress about.

You could even be like us and take a trip to the meet the King, just make sure you don’t make a booking at the heartbreak hotel.

Attitude

The one thing that can make or break a career

Really?

Yeah I have some bad news, our attitude really is the difference between making it or not in our careers.

There is an idiom that often gets shared on social media where someone has written hard work, punctuality and a few other words on a white board and underneath each word they added the number in the alphabet for each letter and added those up.

Its goes on until the bottom word which is attitude equals 100% and I think thats true, there is quote I love which goes:

A bad attitude is like a flat tyre, you can’t go anywhere unless you change it

Its one thing that we all have the ability to change, and the one thing that can make a huge difference in our lives.

A little humility goes a long way

Life happens to us all, maybe we lose out on a promotion or our dream move, or maybe we are less motivated by what we do than we used to be.

The situation can spiral out of control if we let it. Our attitude goes downhill and before we know it we are in a worse situation than we were to begin with.

When these bumps in the road come along its important to keep perspective, and keep a good attitude, the opportunity will come along again and with a little self reflection you can be ready for it.

Even worse is the situation when sadly a job is lost, which in the market right now is happening more and more.

Its really hard to keep perspective and a good attitude during these time, especially coming from a highly paid job to something very different. There can be rewards however, a different perspective on life for example that will pay us back in time.


Final Thoughts

A smile, a laugh, a joke , humility and hard work are the good attributes and attitude that can keep us going and keep us in a job, almost more than anything else I can think of.

In the horrible event that anyone of us loses a job, then its that same good attitude and sense of perspective that will help get us through.

As an ex colleague of mine remarked today after taking a job in a garden centre part time:

I really miss the salary and the free lunches in a fancy restaurant paid for by someone else, but working hard, meeting people and then eating a sandwich in the back of car at lunchtime, has given me a whole new respect and perspective on life

Attitude really is the thing that makes the difference….