Like all of my content, this post will go deep. That is where the truth lies and the most profound insights are found. Are you ready? Come on this journey with me below! (:
It is in that light that I want to consider how we can make the most out of the current situations that we are all in. I will use the recent Coronavirus outbreak as a case study, since we all share its impact to some degree.
With that said, my analysis here can apply to anything. The virus is simply being used as an analogy to share a bigger idea.
Because of that, I won’t distract away from the bigger picture with details. This means I won’t explain what the virus is or any specific recommendations regarding the virus. Again, this is strictly being used as an analogy.
How the Coronavirus is an Opportunity
Big Idea: A system placed in the extreme, reveals faults and true properties of the system.
Basically: The best way to learn how something ticks, is to put it under stress.
My claim is that the Coronavirus is an opportunity to us all. With this virus, despite its dangers (and perhaps because of its dangers), brings opportunities that we would of not had otherwise.
I am NOT saying that these events are positive or negative. I am saying that they bring rare opportunities that promote positive and effective growth in ourselves. The virus brings hardship, that is the high level idea that I am addressing. Hardship brings the most growth, if you allow it.
Many will overlook these opportunities and the virus will only impact them in a negative way. They will remember the events as negative and perhaps live with more fear and phobias than they did before. This will lead to dysfunction.
The opportunities that I claim this virus brings are the following:
- Transition Period
We will address each in turn. Our exploration will consider both perspectives, those that are ill and those that are not. There are opportunities in each.
My exploration of these points will be in a promptive manner. I will raise questions to think about, without going into depth. These questions are just meant to highlight important points to consider. My objective here is to express how hardship is an opportunity and how the current global situation could be utilized as a resource for growth. Please share in the comments section below on your thoughts. I value your feedback and input.
Through the Coronavirus, or any illness, there is a shift in awareness and priorities that take place. When you are ill, you only want one thing, to get better. You may even make promises to yourself that when you are better you’ll address your health and ensure this won’t happen again. You may have experienced this outside of direct illness but from events such as experiencing a hang-over or signing up for a marathon without previous training.
You later realize that when you are not in that mental state anymore, the desire and motivation is gone as well. Arousal of any sort fits this criteria. So too, is hunger. When you are hungry, food is on the top of your mind. When you just had a large meal, getting food is not a priority anymore, it is not on the top of your mind.
This simply is the result of being in one mental state that promotes particular thoughts and motivations. When the mental state goes away, the motivation goes with it. This is the main meat to my argument on why motivation is like any other emotion, it is fleeting. The focus should be on a purpose that applies meaning to the struggle. You can read more about my in-depth exploration of this in my post on Clarity..
Begin by being aware of the different mindset that you are in. This goes for if you are ill or if you are not.
One particular piece of awareness (or insight) that comes up is how your brain responds to something that is given high priority or meaning. An event such as a virus outbreak can easily be interpreted as a threat to your survival. The brain will adjust accordingly.
Notice how thinking about the virus makes it easier and easier for it to come to mind. Notice how your behaviors begin to change, even your unconscious behaviors, your habits, tendencies, thought patterns, etc. These all begin to change as you think more and more about the virus. The more intense your exposure to the information around it, the more intensely the thought patterns form and the quicker.
This may sound a lot like my post on Intensity of Stimulus. It is 100% an instance of that idea at play.
Insights that can come from such awareness include:
- How memories are formed
- How new habits are formed
- The speed at which memories and new habits form
- Different states of awareness and how the difference in neurochemistry literally changes the world that you experience. This is true for any emotion.
- Actions of your own and others out of fear, and how that exposes someone’s true character
- Behaviors and tendencies in other people when they are placed in hardship
Be watchful for how these manifest in your own life.
An idea here is worth diving deeper into.
Hardship provides insight into what someone actually believes, without all of the filters they put into place to operate in a social environment. This exposes their true beliefs and character as fear brings out subconscious actions.
What is in the subconscious is something that has been repeatedly thought about and recognized, it is what “makes someone tick” that you would otherwise have very little insight into. This is a huge opportunity to be exposed to who someone truly is, without all of the fluff and filters.
These opportunities may only come in glimpses and last for a few moments before the individual realizes they are leaving themselves vulnerable and quickly correct with their filters. That is why it is vital to have awareness of these moments and pay particular attention to them.
Just as the true friends are not those that stick around when you are successful and wealthy, but instead those that remain after you have lost it all. It isn’t about what you do when everything goes well and times are easy, it is about what you do when times are tough. Hardship reveals the true guts of an individual. And this virus is a hardship at the global scale, an opportunity many (presumably) won’t experience again in their lifetime.
If you want to talk about how to focus on the vital few that gives you the most bang for the buck, this is it. When it comes to insight into someone’s true character, see how they respond in situations that cause their biology to take over, their subconscious programming. This is most profound in times of hardship, as survival is a top priority to the brain.
Notice how when you are ill yourself, or are in some hardship, that your priorities change in an instant. This experience is almost as if a switch is flipped in your mind that activates some other mode of thinking, certain things in reality go out of focus and others come into focus. When you are sick, you only want one thing, but other times, you are full of want and greed.
Notice the opportunities for compassion and understanding that arise. Perhaps previously you thought yourself as being invincible to some degree, mocking others who are panicked. Perhaps you considered others with it as lesser than you, weaker in some way. Your ego was used to make you feel superior.
Now since you have it, you are humbled. Realizing what the other person was actually going through. The exposure to this bigger picture has made you feel less than, smaller in comparison. Just as contemplating the scale of the universe or the night sky combats ego, feeling smaller, rather than bigger than, is the antidote to ego.
Notice the humbling nature of the virus. Notice the unshakable power of nature, of which you are also a part of in an inescapable manner. You are a part of nature, you have to play by its rules, there is no alternative. Just as mentioned in my Effective Living series, the more in alignment with nature you live (e.g. the three non-negotiable fundamentals of Movement, Nutrition, and Rest) the more nature will reward you.
Notice the phenomena that supports the idea that “your thoughts create your reality”. In particular, the fact that when you’re going about your everyday lives, there are times where things seem normal. It almost seems as if there is no global crisis. Now imagine how those in Italy or other highly impacted areas feel. Consider how it would all change in an instant if the virus were to hit hard a bit closer to home.
Maybe the present moment should be cherished while it lasts, to the point that you can revisit such stillness when necessary. How does such a global crisis change how you view the problems you face in everyday life?
How has your view on your health changed? Notice how community may begin coming together as this virus, from nature, leads people, of nature, to seek support from one another. For example, Italians singing from balconies while in quarantine.
From my series on Effective Living, the theme has repeatedly been exploration. Exploring your experience is the most profound and effective way that I’ve found to “struggle well” and continue being effective during the most difficult of situations. The basic idea is this: approaching situations with a sense of curiosity removes polarized labels, such as good or bad, and focuses purely on the here and now experience. I go into more depth in this throughout my Effective Living series, but also in my posts on Challenge and Connection.
Exploration is about impartial observation. Limiting added layers of interpretation and just seeing something for what it is, the sensory input that exists, and nothing more.
It is about seeing the beauty in everything and recognizing that there are multiple perspectives to everything. Curiosity is the practical measure for how effectively you are exploring. The more curiosity you bring to something, the more objective and open minded you will be.
This virus brings with it the opportunity to explore. But what do you explore? Here are some ideas.
For starters, try taking an objective viewpoint to be truth focused and not place blame.
Notice and avoid (reroute your thoughts) moments when you are quick to enforce your biased opinions or beliefs on others. For example,. blaming a country or an individual. for bringing the virus to a particular location.
You may have automatic behaviors of your own come up at times. Don’t suppress them, instead, explore them and see what this might mean. This is an opportunity to look into your own subconscious. Utilize Meditation and Journaling as needed (see my Life Simplified series). This is an opportunity for you to understand yourself better.
Don’t assume you know who “you are”, you’ve likely not been placed in enough hardship to have built the necessary discipline and insight into who you really are. You’ve been operating at the level of social filter for so long that that is who you are.
Hardship removes the filter, it demands it, or else you risk dying when living in such an illusion. To truly learn about any complex system (including yourself and others, or simply a toaster), you often have to push the system to the extremes. At the extremes is where true fundamental properties of the system are exposed. This is the ultimate insight into what makes something “tick”.
From your exploration comes many things you can learn. These are things that you would likely never have an opportunity to learn so clearly again, at least not on this scale.
For example, you can learn about the modern connections of the world, how everything is connected. When one piece of the economy goes down, the others change accordingly. When one country faces hardship at a global scale, the others adjust as well. The world can be seen as a single system.
During normal operation things operate seamlessly, but when hardship comes, their properties begin becoming exposed. Their true character is shown, how strong they really are is tested. This is what separates the good from the great and the great from the elite.
What are the behaviors of the stocks? How do their changes suggest internal operations of this larger system? If all the stocks are going down, then that could mean that something is going wrong within the system, things are not functioning as they ought to. This is an insight that can be applied to any large system. It also exposes a useful way to interpret the stock market, as quick insight into the current state of the system (i.e. modern human society).
How does the news change? How do communities change? Who do you see coming together and who do you see becoming more separate? What properties and insights of the world might this suggest? There are a lot of lessons you can learn from this.
A lesson I’ve learned is the degree to which people panic, I found it fascinating to compare and contrast this reality to what is seen in movies. I also learned how stores adjust with signs to limit the purchase of particular items (e.g. water bottles).
Seeing signs like this in the future will alert me to looking for reasons why the store feels in a place of scarcity. Is there some recession or fear that I should look deeper into? This pattern could suggest that the company leaders have recognized something at a larger scale that I don’t have the resources or the insights to recognize.
How do countries adjust? Why is the President of the United States hesitant to make testing widely available? Does this suggest something about the economy of the United States? Is there fear for something citizens don’t have insight into?
What about the services provided by companies? Which companies are opening up free testing centers at locations like Walmart (e..g Google)? In what ways is the country coming together, in what ways are they being divided apart? Ditto for the world at large.
What countries are the most stable? What about celebrities, leaders, or people you are around on a daily basis? What about governments or trade systems? Again, hardships are the most accurate test of if a system is “worth its salt”.
Just like a company testing their new Flight Management System for airplanes by means of “stress testing”, to overload the system and see if it operates in a safe, predictable, and reliable manner. It is through these hardships that the most useful and meaningful insights are obtained.
Notice how a change in one part of the system (i.e. modern society) impacts other parts of the system. For example, the economic changes in China (a large distributor of goods) and how they impact the rest of the world (i.e. the other parts of the system). Due to this virus, trade is being limited, this is like a system whose parts are becoming more and more isolated, unable to communicate and share/utilize resources from other parts of the system.
Notice how everything is connected, in ways that you might of been oblivious to in the past. Again, properties of the system are made most obvious in the extremes.
You have an opportunity to learn about the true character of yourself, family, friends, coworkers, your company, companies in general, your city/county, state, country, government, etc. If you drop the habit of placing judgement on others and step away from the fear (which can be combated with exploration and curiosity), then you are exposed to a new world of opportunities. As I’ve mentioned in my post on Meaning, when you change your perspective, you change the world that you are looking at.
If you have the virus, then you get to learn from a perspective that many (hopefully) won’t have. You get to see what it feels like to have a virus that has gotten the world panicked over. You get to have a story that you can share with the world, form the perspective of being in the front-lines of the crisis.
What are the hospitals like? What is the advice they have been giving you? What sort of pressing questions are they asking (e.g. who have you been in touch with)? What authorities or organizations are contacting you? How does it compare to what’s seen in the movies? If you were to make a movie to mimic reality as close as possible, how would you do it, given your first-hand experience? These are things most people will never experience.
Combating the fear and ego with exploration and curiosity will help to open your eyes up in an “experiencing” sort of manner such that your experience through the hospital and the struggle is one from a perspective that most people won’t have. This allows for you to share a story from a perspective that very few would have. Ever wanted to write a book? What other ways could you find meaning in the struggle you are facing? All suffering ceases to be suffering once you apply meaning to it.
How do the people around you treat you when they know you have (or have been exposed to) the virus? What does this show about their true character? With the virus, you get to learn about how such a bug impacts the body. Your physical weakness and strengths can be exposed. How strongly do you show symptoms?
What might this say about your immune system? Because again, hardship is the true test of any system, this goes for your immune system as well. What health changes should you make? How will you ensure you stick to them when you return to a steady/clear mental state without the current influence from the virus.
The virus itself can be used as a spiritual practice. Pay special attention to how theses spread, to the behaviors of yours that led to it, reflect. Don’t run form the sensations, instead, explore the sensations. It is through hardship that people change, trying to run from the situation and distract yourself will only add resistance and thus more psychologically added pain.
On top of that, you will be blinded to the opportunities that exist, you will also miss out on the personality and reality changing impacts such an experience can have. This could be that one moment of necessity that you need to consider “rock bottom” and turn around to get your life in order. Those who achieve the extraordinary are often those who comes from dark backgrounds where being extraordinary was a necessity. They had a strong call to action.
How does the world feel under this new haze? What comes to light when other things go into darkness? This is an opportunity not often repeated. How could you of prepared better? What of your preparations worked and what didn’t? What were wastes (e.g. buying sh*t tons of toilet paper…)? and what weren’t? What would you have done differently? Do you, or your family, company, or community need a better system in place to handle such a crisis in the future? How might you lead that initiative?
What high level and metaphorical analogies can be devised to explain how people, groups, cities, society, cultures, countries, and the world behave given the virus? What movies, books, or other past experiences of yours can you relate to them?
This is entirely individualized and depends on your personal experience. But an example of mine would be from an aerospace company that I worked for as a systems developer. We ran stress tests on a tool we were developing for a Flight Management System. These test runs revealed properties of the complex system that were not recognized before. Failures in communication between particular components of the system were revealed, “bugs” were exposed, and ideas for improvement came up.
As a final note that is more specific to the Coronavirus.
This opportunity exposes several aspects of our emergency scenario systems that need improvement. A disaster is tragic in proportion to how well prepared you are.
Consider healthcare and other important systems being tested. Weakspots will be exposed and likely improved upon, if for no other reason than necessity. Big important questions will come up, such as how can we better prepare next time, and it will spark the commitment of many healthcare professions to find solutions and deepen their career investment.
How could government and processes be changed to limit the spread of incorrect information? There was a lot of misinformation around the Coronavirus. Questions may begin coming up regarding how to avoid this from happening again. This could be an important lesson learned for some future, more severe, situation (e.g. a world war).
These more severe situations would likely have far more at risk, such as electricity, food supply, etc. With the current situation, countries are at least working together to find a solution. It isn’t some mindless ape actively seeking harm on another. It is just nature, one species (the virus), looking for survival and reproduction based on the laws of nature.
That is far more manageable (and reasonable/fair, thanks to nature) than mindless apes, diseased with consciousness, seeking harm for the sake of harm. But who knows, maybe that’ll bring more certainty than what nature would have. Not knowing is mostly the cause of panic.
There are lessons to be learned all over, recognizing the opportunity that events such as these provide will prime you for them. Otherwise, you will just be like the majority and miss out on how such profound insights could revolutionize your life and world-view.
What if the worst thing that ever happened to you turned out to be the best thing?
A last opportunity that can be experienced from this unique, global, situation is that of transition periods. I’ve talked about transition periods in depth in my post on The Ultimate Guide to Challenge. The basic idea is having defined points in time that serve as a pivotal moment where the past can be left as the past, and the future begins a new, starting now.
The usefulness of transition periods is in their environment changing nature. Due to the brain’s associative nature, it is very quick to attribute behaviors with environment. Next time, when you return to that environment, the behaviors are more easily expressed. The environment itself can serve as the trigger for behavior. From this change, you can associate new behaviors and habits to the new environment. This can be used to recreate yourself from the bottom up.
A transition period can be at any point where a change is required. This change could be (among others) based on nature (e.g. seasons, day/night, time of day), or on your personal routine (e.g. get to work, leave work, sleep/wake, after a set of weight training, before/after exercise, lunch break, etc.) Anything where a stake can be placed in the group to mark a pivotal moment is a transition period. It’s an event where emotions change, priorities change, and perspective change.
Because of this, any hardship provides an opportunity for a transition period. A hardship is essentially an experience in some unusual (and therefore uncomfortable) extreme. This change from the norm is where the opportunity for a transition period lies.
This is all to say that transition periods provide opportunities for change. The idea is to interpret the experience as such and look for ways to close the previous chapter and begin anew.
This global scale event will be a transition period for companies, governments, and countries. It can also be a transition period for yourself.
How can you reshape your identity? What new habits can you form? How can you utilize this experience as a pivotal point in your life where the old is committed to being over with and a new can be born. How will you write that new chapter?
The emotions that transition periods spark up, especially those in hardship, are prime candidates to be used to promote commitment and intention for change. The feeling of “I had enough” is a strong driver.
Big Idea: Your experience is a sensory one. Explore it and approach it with curiosity.
Basically: Don’t be so quick to label something as good or bad. It may play a bigger role.
So, the current virus can be seen as an opportunity in the following ways:
- When you approach hardship with a certain level of sensitivity, what insights and properties of realities come up?
- When fear is removed and a curiosity mindset is taken up, what objective truths of reality get exposed?
- Nature is a system, it is composed of many smaller systems. A system’s properties are revealed most profoundly during extremes. What can be learned from this unique exposure? About yourself, others, life, countries, human nature?
- Transition Period
- How can you turn the struggle into the closing of a previous chapter in your life and the beginning of a new?
Again, this was an analogy. The ideas here can be applied to any situation in your life where something unfortunate and “world-shaking” occurs. The question is simply about the mindset and interpretation that you apply to it.
All these points are meant to be taken from a meditative or journaling perspective. Ponder the questions that I’ve posed and share below what your thoughts are. Let’s have a meaningful discussion around these ideas. I am open to feedback and would love challenge. Through challenge the truth comes out, my aim is the truth.
The brain biases towards prioritizing the negative, due to its desire for survival. It is very easy and efficient for the brain to go down a path of negative thoughts. Because of this, the tendency of most is to panic and doubt themselves in the face of hardship. The preprogrammed mode of operation in our brains is not courage. Instead, it is one that prioritizes survival.
It requires training and particular experiences in one’s life to realize the opportunities for future growth that underlie struggle. These are the individuals who succeed, these are the individuals who live effectively. This is a mindset that is trained.
The theme of Effective Living returns. The overarching idea of struggling well when it isn’t easy comes up again. This is exactly what I aimed to address in my series on Effective Living, how to remain effective under high stress. This is a personal fascination of mine and something I have and continue to explore a LOT on.
A change in perspective changes the world you are looking at.
Your Call to Action
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This can be a controversial topic. I’d love to hear about your take on it. What emotions and gut responses come up when you hear it? This too suggests insights into your subconscious! Let’s have some discussion over these. We can get closer to the truth as a result. What has your experience been like with the virus so far? Share in the comments section below!
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Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.
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