In many countries today, we are advised to stay home and do almost everything from there because of the pandemic. For some of us, there is not really a choice and we are not even allowed to meet friends and family. Obviously in such conditions, it can become very challenging to be in the same environment without the possibility to go out meet people, participate to events, and more. In this article, I will attempt to propose some ideas for you to stay motivated through these strange times!
So you are home and a bit down. Today was another day that you spent at your desk not being that productive. Maybe you watched some funny videos here and there to make the time go faster or you called some friends, but still it seems like there is no motivation at all.
First, you should know that you are not alone! Humans were not really designed to be lonely creatures so it is perfectly normal to feel the way you do. We all want to be able to share and do things with others, but in the current situation, we have to find ways to reinvent ourselves.
Many articles I read today about the pandemic and how to “survive” it contain great advice, but I feel that it is too general. There is no kind of “action plan” where you actually decide how you want to change your lifestyle and revisit your state of mind. So I will go through some aspects I believe can help improve your life, and attempt to give some actual suggestions on what to do next.
Sharpening the Saw
In the great book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, the last chapter, called “sharpening the saw”, states how important it is for one to always renew four main aspects of her/his life that will be presented shortly.
By writing “sharpening the saw”, the author gives us a metaphor. Suppose that you want to cut a tree using a saw. If you are only using the saw, it might take very long to cut that tree. But if you take time to stop and sharpen the saw regularly, you become a lot more effective when you start using it again.
The same applies directly to our lives! If we always work but never take the time see the bigger picture and decide where we truly want to be, then we are spending time doing things we do not really want to do.
In times like these where we get lazy at home, it is so easy to lose sight of what actually matters to us, so let’s figure out how to change this pattern.
Four Dimensions to Sharpen
For this, I will need you to get a pen and paper, which we will use to record some of the goals you want to achieve in the next weeks or months to come. To make it easier to structure everything, you will fit these goals into a few categories. For that we will use the four dimensions Covey presents in his book:
Now that you have an idea of how the different things you want to achieve can be separated, let us go in more detail in each of the four dimensions, with some examples so that you can start putting your ideas to paper.
For this dimension, some possible goals could be:
- Improving your physical performances.
- Getting more sleep.
- Starting a new sport.
- Losing some weight.
- Gaining more muscles.
- Staying fit.
- Eating healthier.
- Learning to stretch.
After you choose your goals, start getting more precise. How are you going to achieve it? You want to be able to write smaller goals, which will be easier to implement.
For example, let’s say you want to lose 5kg. Doing some workout will of course help tremendously, but your diet is just as crucial. So instead of writing as a goal “lose 5kg in a month”, write “cook healthy meals daily”, or “exercise for 1h daily”. This is much easier to put these in your calendar and actually do them! The simpler a goal is, the more likely you will be able to complete it because it will not ask for too much motivation.
Most of the time, we have to re-frame a big achievement and break it down into smaller and more doable tasks. Indeed, big goals are great but we can’t achieve them all at once. It usually requires repeated small decisions which eventually lead to where you want to be.
As an example of this process, a few months ago, I wanted to develop my flexibility and stretch more often. I was lucky to learn about Yoga, but most importantly about the Youtuber Adriene, who has a channel dedicated to it. She creates in particular what she calls 30-day journeys, where every day you do about 30 minutes of Yoga. So simple! So instead of thinking “I need to be more flexible”, my goal became to wake up and do one 30-minute video available on Adriene’s Youtube channel. I am still doing it and have no doubt that eventually the main goal will be achieved.
Now it’s your turn! Figure out what your “big” goals are in this dimension, and take the time to then split them into something that you can actually do.
We all like to learn new things, or new skills, that challenge us intellectually. If you lack ideas about what you can do, here are a few suggestions:
- Learn programming with online courses.
- Start a project with a friend.
- Read more books.
- Improve your career.
- Improve your cooking skills.
- Learn how to draw.
- Watch interesting documentaries.
- Learn how to invest your money.
As you probably know if you came across some of my articles, I really like reading books. For 2021, I have a list of books I want to read which cover all kinds of topics. I thought sharing these might be interesting to you and give you some ideas too, so here are just three of them.
AlphaBrain by Stephen Duneier
This book is about decision-making, and how small decisions can have a big impact on our lives. The author focuses mainly on investment decisions but it can also be applied to our personal life. The book aims at better understanding the process of decision-making by using a framework based on cognitive research.
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
Also known as the “Ultimate Spiritual Guide for Men”, it is supposed to explore the main issues in a man’s life, from career to love. I haven’t read it yet but I am sure that it can be an interesting book for both women and men.
The Whole Brain Business Book by Ann Herrmann-Nehdi and Ned Herrmann
This is more of a business book, and covers how one can use her/his brain effectively to get positive outcomes in teams or organizations.
Remember that there are two difficult things here. The first one is, what do you actually want to do? Do you actually want to learn something specific? It would not make sense to overload yourself with many goals if you do not really care about them. The second difficulty is, how do you get to where you want to be? How do you turn a big dream into reality?
Social / Emotional Dimension
Even though many of us cannot meet with other people easily, somehow we have to connect and stay social. It is extremely easy to get bored and depressed when you are alone for an extended period of time. You maybe the type of person who likes to be solitary but eventually, sharing experiences with others is a great way to learn and enjoy new activities.
All this is also tied to our emotional state. How do we perceive others, how do we understand them? Developing emotional intelligence can be a great way to improve your relationships.
For this dimension, some suggestions of activities you might want to do in order to stay as social as possible could be:
- Cooking a meal with friends (either via video call or physically depending on the restrictions in your country).
- Playing board games with your family.
- Video calling friends regularly if you cannot meet them physically just to chat and have a good laugh.
- Playing online games with friends.
- Reading the same book with a group of friends and discuss it.
- Making new friends.
By spending time with people, you allow yourself to feel less stressed. At the same time, this gives you the opportunity to exchange ideas with them and learn new ones.
The emotional part is also important, and is partly intertwined with the next dimension, the “spiritual” one. It is more about understanding yourself, in this case finding an emotional balance. So the same type of activities as the one proposed in the next section can be practiced to get a hang on your emotional life.
Having some kind of direction in your life is what brings a sense of purpose to it. It is so easy to get caught up in all the tasks that need to be done, but we lose sight of who we actually want to become.
Just as for any of the other dimensions, neglecting this one will have a negative impact on yourself, and can make you feel depressed and lost. It is hard to learn to sit down and do nothing, only listening to yourself and what you really want. To help you in this matter, I can suggest that you try the following:
- Go outdoors to take a walk.
- Enjoy and look at the nature around you.
- Take time to self-reflect.
- Meditate and listen to your inner self.
- Read self-development books.
- Write your thoughts in a journal.
- Practice gratefulness.
Use these to know yourself even better and rediscover what your values are. This in turn will definitely help in finding which goals you actually truly want to achieve.
And also remember that sometimes it is also just good to relax and not overwork yourself.
It’s All Connected
The dimensions were presented as being separate, but they are in fact completely interconnected. And it is actually much better to see them as a whole, this way you will find or create activities that will benefit you in multiple dimensions at the same time.
For example, practicing Yoga is at the same time useful for your body, but it is also a kind of meditation, spanning both the Physical and Spiritual dimensions. Just as cooking can be an activity in which you learn new skills, and you can at the same time share this experience with other people, sharpening both the Mental and Social dimensions.
Now that hopefully you set your own goals, you are ready to sharpen your saw. The last step now is to regularly set some time in your schedule specifically dedicated to these activities. By consistently making small decisions which bring you closer to your goals, you can only set yourself up for success.
If you want, you can use the weekly schedule proposed by Covey in his book. You can access a PDF version of an example of empty schedule here.
If you are further interested about self-development and what was presented in this article, I highly recommend you to read or re-read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It contains a lot of valuable information that can improve all areas of your life. I love it because it is the type of book that always teaches you something new each time you read it.
Good luck achieving what matters to you, and stay safe 😀