Finding optimism in times of uncertainty

uncertainty Apr 05, 2020

A friend recently asked me how I was doing in response to all things happening with the Coronavirus. I thought I would share my response and then break down the 3 aspects of this message that are most important and how you can use them to control and direct your thoughts during this time of extreme uncertainty.

“Thanks for reaching out my friend. I'm OK. I'm simply taking things one day at a time. Today was a good day. Looking to do the same tomorrow. Moving forward, I'm placing two big bets. 

The first is on me. Over the past 8.5 months I have focused on building my version of a successful body. 

One of those aspects has been building strong immune health. I’m betting that my hard work will pay off by skewing the odds in my favour of staying virus-free. 

My second big bet is on humanity. With AI, supercomputers, Big tech like Google, IBM, Facebook, Apple and Amazon and the smartest people in the world working on this thing as I write this, I'm optimistic something positive will happen sooner than later.”

One. Take things one day at a time.

That one probably slipped by unnoticed, but that is a significant strategy I am using to keep Dark Dean at bay. Dark Dean is my term for that voice in my head that is an irrational nut job during times of uncertainty. He lurks in the shadows, but, when left unchecked, his fear mongering ways can wreak havoc.

And one way I reign that ding dong in is by narrowing my focus only on today. The past is done with and the future has not yet arrived. But today is something I control. And what I do today can have an impact on how my future unfolds.

So I work really hard at staying within the confines of today. I have started to think of my day like being in a sealed shipping container. Nothing can get in or out. One end of the container is the start of my day. The other end is the completion of my day. My job is to focus on working my way from one end of the container to the other.

At the end of that day, the doors open, I step out of that container (which is immediately whisked away never to be seen again) and step into my new container, which, for those playing along at home, is my new today.

I then repeat the process.

That’s an oversimplified version of how I attempt to stay present. It takes work and Dark Dean does hijack my mind more than I care to admit, but I am learning sneaky tricks to get myself back into the moment (like writing this post) as soon as I realize Dark Dean has hijacked my thoughts.

Two. Betting big on myself.

Last July, 2019, I created a new program for myself to achieve my version of a successful body. A successful body, in my opinion, has 3 components. 

One. It should be healthy. By that I mean an absence of disease and illness and it should possess strong immune health so it can fight off a virus like COVID-19 - which is exactly what a strong immune system is supposed to be able to do. 

Two. It should be highly functional so that in an emergency I could save my own life. I refer to this as Being 911

And three. It should look like a successful body. If I am investing in the right behaviours and committing to them long term then the payoff is a body that not only looks great, but is something I’m extremely proud of.

*****

While I didn’t have any known health issues at the time of starting my program, I knew I was trending in a direction where the odds were not skewing in my favour. I was grossly overweight and carrying a lot of body fat that would have an adverse effect on my immune health moving forward.

So I created a protocol to address the issues so that the odds of living a long healthy life would be skewed back in my favour.

And it was insanely successful. The 10 daily Vital Behaviours (VBs) I created for myself worked wonders. I lost over 40lbs. I went from a 33-34 inch pant to a 29-inch pant. And I went from 22% body fat to 10.1%, which I had tested at the end of February 2020 using a Dexa Scan.

When I set out to design this protocol for myself I did so with uncertainty in mind. What I mean is, it had to be something that was simple and could be done regardless of where I was or what might arise at any given moment. 

I most certainly was not thinking pandemic when I designed my program, but it turns out I am well positioned to face this viral threat we are now dealing with.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think I can get the virus. There is a lot of luck that goes into remaining virus-free and I am taking the 3 VBs that health officials recommend, very seriously. These non-pharmaceutical interventions really do work.

(Note: Health officials are now mandating a 4th VB → that people “mask up” in public. This is another VB I love because it skews the odds in our favour.)

But by investing in my health from the inside out, I have skewed the odds in my favour that I will be able to successfully fight off the virus should that day come.

All this to say I like the position I have put myself in. I have never been healthier in my life nor more prepared to deal with what the world is now facing. Again it’s worth repeating, I’m still being super responsible on my end, but I have done everything I can possibly do to build great immune health. I like my odds.

And this is all possible because I bet on myself. 

Three. Betting big on humanity. 

During times of uncertainty, we are hardwired to focus only on the negative. In his incredibly moving book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor said this.

“Between stimulus and response, we have the power to choose.” 

That’s a remarkable revelation. 

Each of us has the power to choose how we will respond to the events that are currently unfolding. 

History shows that humanity is incredibly resilient. The plague did not defeat us. The Spanish flu did not defeat us. Hitler did not defeat us. Sars did not defeat us. HIV/Aids did not defeat us. Ebola did not defeat us.

We always find a way to not only survive, but thrive during times of uncertainty. ALWAYS! 

And this time will be no different. With AI, supercomputers, Big Tech (Apple, IBM, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tesla etc) and millions of the smartest people on the planet all working towards finding a solution, the odds are skewed heavily in our favour that we will find a solution sooner rather than later that will bring COVID-19 to its knees. 

Betting big on humanity fuels my optimism that we will win this war (and it is a war) sooner rather than later.

Four. Finding optimism.

And while we wait for that inevitable breakthrough to occur, it’s important to expose ourselves to the positive stories that are emerging and use them to fuel that optimism. It’s important for your mental health, your immune health (so you can remain virus free) and the health of those who lean on you for leadership in uncertain times.

To help with that I am offering a strategy I use to create optimism during this uncertain time. 

Create a Google alert (www.google.com/alerts)  for “Coronavirus Breakthroughs” that comes to your inbox each day with news from around the world of progress that has been made.

It’s an incredibly powerful way to fuel hope and optimism during a time when it is most needed.

Five. Practical applications of these ideas.

1. Take things one day at a time. 

Strategy: Start becoming aware of your thoughts and catch yourself when they drift into the past or the future. When that happens, immediately shift your thoughts to the present and what you are currently doing or could be doing to make today awesome.

2. Bet big on yourself.

Strategy: Hit reply to this email and ask me the one burning question you would like to know that would help get you on track to building your own successful body.

3. Bet big on humanity.

Strategy: To find out more about Victor Frankl, you can start with the wonderful summary of his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” over at Brain Pickings. There is some excellent insight that can be applied to the situation that we are all experiencing.

4. Surround yourself with optimism.

Strategy: Set up that google alert NOW. You will thank me later.

*****

That’s all my friend. Stay safe. Wash your hands often. Be diligent with social distancing (it really does work). And mask up. Bundling these VBs together makes a big difference.

To the continued health and safety of you and your family,

Dean

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