This is not the best of times, for sure. The year hasn’t started very well (understatement), and the past two months have brought mostly bad news. First the virus, now the stock market crash, and uncertainty all around. The after-effects of travel bans across many countries will reverberate for many months, possibly even years. Businesses may struggle, jobs may be lost, and we are staring at a possible recession. In these times, how does one stay positive?
Here are a few thoughts that I have penned down, in no particular order. Consider them to be musings of a fellow traveler, in the journey called life.
As the great sage Yogananda once said –
Your trials did not come to punish you, but to awaken you…
Take it slow(er)
The past decade has been one of growth. Very good growth. Most of us think that everything has to keep going in just one direction – up. Much like a Moore’s law for life. Those who have been here in 2008 (or in 2000, or in 1987, or many times earlier) know that this is not possible. Markets can crash, badly, business can go bankrupt (sometimes collectively), job losses can be in the thousands, things can get very tough.
What goes up, must come down…and what comes down, must rise again. Life is cyclical, not linear.
When in good times, make the best of it. When in bad times…make the best of it. As the saying goes – you either make money, or experience. Take a step back and re-evaluate.
Your best ideas come through when your mind is empty – when you daydream, not when you are too busy to even listen to yourself. Many good businesses were born in 2009, after the crash of 08. That only happened because some people took it slower, went back to the drawing board, looked at things holistically and came up with solutions. I personally know two companies, one of which is a real estate brokerage, that was set up in 2008-09, when the real estate market crashed in Dubai. Starting in the real estate business when everyone was on the way out was probably a crazy thing to do, but they did it. Maybe because they sensed an opportunity in doing it better than what was prevalent at that time, or they had a deeper confidence in the recovery of the market. The reason is not that important now – it worked.
Pushing hard against a brick wall doesn’t help – walk around and you may just find that door.
Re-evaluation does not stop just with work. Relook at all aspects of your life. Are you happy living the way you are? What would you change, if given the chance? Use these times to search for methods in which you can alter your life in a way that you are better at the end of it. You may not be able to start on a new path right away, but you can at least recognise the way ahead, and lay the groundwork.
A friend of mine lost his job at the DIFC (a premium financial center in Dubai) in 08. A decade of investment banking experience with the firm, and laid redundant in a few weeks. He took that step back. Instead of lamenting the loss, or complaining about the lack of jobs in the market, he decided to think about what he really wanted to do with his life. Was he really happy selling complicated products to rich people, did that really excite him and make him feel fulfilled at the end of the day?
The answer was no. And so he decided to follow his passion. Today, he owns a premium restaurant in Dubai, doing what he loves, and enjoying every single moment of it. Tough times can sometimes be the trigger to fulfil a larger purpose.
Mend your relationship with nature
Times like this are a wake-up call for many, for the collective. Everything cannot, and should not be about more work, and more profit, and more luxury, and more growth, not at the expense of what matters most – our health, our family, our environment.
Did you realise that clothes have become cheaper over the last two decades? That you are buying more clothes per year that you ever were? That they last much lesser than they used to?
And what about food? Here are some facts, for you to think about:
Every culture since the dawn of agriculture has relied on grains as the foundation of their diet. They were (and are) inexpensive because they were (and are) easy to grow in quantity. Virtually everyone ate grains: rice, wheat, corn, millet, depending on the region. Grains were staples. In some places, the aristocracy ate meat as a delicacy, and this was a rare occurrence. Cut to today, and our diet consists of heavily processed foods, excessive meat and sugars. This unsustainable diet not only takes a toll on our health, but also on nature.
And yes, nature does strike back, once in a while. When it does, we are but too small to fight back. Aren’t we?
Re-evaluate your diet. That most of the viruses in recent times had their origins in meat is no small coincidence. Reduce your dependence on processed foods. Eat more natural foods, and eat only as much as you require. Don’t waste. Reduce your dependence on plastics. Use sustainable bags for your weekend shopping. When ordering out, tick the ‘do not send cutlery’ option. Be mindful when making any purchase – be it food or clothes.
Be thankful to nature for providing such hospitable conditions for us humans to live and thrive. It pains to see people walking around in masks…
We inherited the most habitable corner of the known universe, and is this what we have made of it?
Working from home
We all crave to spend more time with our loved ones, don’t we? Working from home gives that opportunity to those of us who are fortunate to have our loved ones with us. Schools in the UAE have already declared holidays, and so those of us with kids have them at home as well. Don’t see them as a disturbance – an impediment in that all-important conference call that you have to attend with a key client. You are working hard for their sakes, at the end of it.
You may end up finding that working from home makes you more productive (due to a more relaxed environment) and more happy (since you can spend more quality time with family).
In the UAE, a large number of expatriates do not have that option – they live alone here, working hard and earning for their families back in their home countries. If you are one of them, look at the bright side of not going to work – saving commute time (if by metro, a crowded commute as well), relaxation of washroom schedules (if you live in a shared accommodation), and generally speaking, a more relaxed environment where you can pace out your work.
Meditation is quite a mystery for many. How do we meditate? How does it help? What are supposed to see or think about when we close our eyes? Do we think at all?
A lot of questions, and only one way to go about it. TRY MEDITATION.
Start by finding a comfortable place to sit in– by comfortable I mean a quiet place, where it isn’t too warm or too cold, and relatively quiet. Sit comfortably, so that your body is relaxed, yet not in a way that induces sleep. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, feel the air gently get into your lungs, filling you with life-giving oxygen, and then exhale slowly. With every inhalation, feel positive energy rushing into you – visualize time spent with your loved ones, your children, your favourite food, whatever makes you happy – visualize it as you breathe in. Relive that moment.
Now exhale. As you exhale, feel the negativity flow away from your body, all the stress of those deadlines, the quarrels you had at work, the pressure of your monthly EMIs, all the things that make you stressed and sad – visualize them flowing away from your body, with your breath.
Repeat for 10-12 deep breaths, or 5-10 minutes. Then bring your hands together – and be thankful for all the good things that you have in your life – and pray for strength to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. Slowly open your eyes.
Yes, meditation helps. Studies have shown that meditation makes you calmer, more positive, and mentally resilient – all qualities that you need in such times….and in general, to live a better life.
A moment to thank the ones on the front
While we explore our work-at-home and social isolation options, there are many out there, at the forefront of it all, ensuring that the spread is contained. They are putting their well-being on the line – doctor, nurses, cleaners, airport personnel, security personnel…so many fighting for us, so that we are safer. Let’s spare a thought for them, thank them whenever we see them, pray for them. It isn’t just soldiers who defend us – these professionals are soldiers of a different kind too. I’ve been seeing cleaners trying their best to sanitise our surroundings near our home – with just a thin mask between them and disease.
Walk up and thank such people – a small and genuine word from the heart goes a long way.
Love isn’t only a feeling reserved for others is it? What about loving yourself?
Loving yourself involves taking care of yourself, your health, your well-being. It means learning from your experiences, so that you become a better person. In testing times, love is what carries us forward. Love brings positivity, brings hope. Sometimes, when you stop and listen, when you stop and see, when you stop and feel…the world all around you is such a beautiful place. It has given us so much love, and caring, and helped us grow and thrive.
No one has thrived in isolation – we have all reached here together. We are, for better or for worse -together. The choice is ours.
Do we choose better…or do we choose worse? If the former, then lets look at a fresh start. One, that does not exploit, but uses and gives back. One, that is sustainable, is positive, and has love as it’s building blocks. Only then, can we, together, overcome these new challenges, and make the world a better place to live in…