A client recently shared with me how much they are going to miss lunch in the garden with their family when they return to the office. Others have commented that lockdown has allowed them to see that the belongings or lifestyle they thought they needed, are in fact not as important to them as they thought.
To survive, or even thrive in lockdown, we have adapted to a new normal. An important part of maintaining mental wellbeing is creating routines and structure that support us. Are there elements of your lockdown routine that you would ideally like to retain in the future, or has it simply highlighted activities you’ve desperately missed, and will place more importance on in the future?
This opportunity to reflect and gain perspective is limited, as we will quickly normalise to our new circumstances and forget the things we cherished about lockdown, or want to change as soon as humanly possible. A good starting point is to ask yourself two simple questions:
- What have I learnt?
- What will I miss?
The inspiring parable of the Mexican Fisherman can help stimulate this kind of thinking.
“An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.” The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
This parable, originally by Heinrich Boll reminds us to hold dear what you have today, happiness has no price, and the time to enjoy life is now.
The virus has brought with it a stark reminder of our own mortality. Enjoying each day is the focus that will bring us the greatest fulfilment in life, as we have no idea how many tomorrows we have ahead of us.
Life needn’t be about hard work and toil unless that is what brings us the most satisfaction in life – in which case it probably feels like a passion rather than work. To that end, we can focus our attention on what’s most important to us. For many, meaning is found in relationships with family and close friends that they realise they value even more following lockdown.
Here are some ideas that may provoke your thinking that are a common theme with clients:
- The importance of structure and routine – what elements can you retain in the future?
- Quality time spent with loved ones – how can you build more of this in?
- What ways would you like to spend your time with family and friends when possible?
- Do you enjoy taking more time over home cooking?
- Are you able to make changes to your working pattern that positively impact your lifestyle?
- What commitments have you previously made that you haven’t missed during lockdown?
- Can you build in getting out for some fresh air each day?
- Have you adopted new shopping habits which might mean retaining the time-saving online supermarket shop or simply only purchasing things you’ll get true pleasure and value from?
- What forgotten pastimes have you rediscovered?
- Are there changes you’ve made that have had a positive environmental impact that you would like to retain?
- Have you discovered any new and innovative outlets for exercise? If you’ve enjoyed getting out on your bike for the first time in years, is this something you can maintain?
Lockdown has been the equivalent of hitting the ‘reset’ button on our lives. As a result, we’ve challenged the way we’ve ordered our lives for years. As a tribute to those tragically lost during this pandemic, wouldn’t it be great if we could make an array of positive changes to our lives a legacy of lockdown?