Take a step backwards for a giant leap forward to a fruitful life

With COVID-19 coming back to haunt us and the reality of community transmission at our doorstep, our anxiety is reaching an all-time high particularly for people in Auckland. Getting back to a level 3 lockdown is not a place we wanted to be at and the uncertainty of what the government will do on Friday with the possibility of an extension of level 3 lockdown within sight. I have no doubt that everyone is holding on to their seats and their breath wondering how we are going to get through this – especially we haven’t recovered from the repercussions from the first lockdown. Will my job be secure? Will my business survive yet another potentially extended lockdown period? These are the kind of questions we will be pondering and keeping us all awake at night in the next weeks to come.

The amount of uncertainty ahead of us is alarming and knowing that everything we build over the years can simply vanish overnight with a situation like we are experiencing right now – it makes sense to feel helpless and things have never been out of our control like this. The question is: do we simply take life as it is? Just like what President Trump said in his interview with the Australian Journalist last week about his theory of how America is stacking in the COVID pandemic against the world – “It is what it is” and his ignorance was his attitude. This makes you wonder if this the kind of mindset we all need in our darkest hour? Taking life as it is? Or we can start making progress and working towards digging ourselves out of the giant hole?

If we focus on all the things that are out of control, I can guarantee you that we’ll feel more vulnerable. Most importantly, we’ll lose faith in our ability and start doubting our importance and self-worth. This is not a place we want to be in. So, the number one thing that we all need to do is to shift our focus onto the things that are in our control. Some of you might say – Chris, that is easier said than done, how can we not think about how much we have lost since April? The answer is simpler than you think – just don’t think about it! That’s it. We all tend to think too much, discussing, strategising, and debating. Sometimes all we need to do is to think about the things we can do right now to improve the situation. This is a big thing for me and I remember saying this to a friend of mine years ago about relationships and it changed his whole perspective – do not spend time with people that don’t make you feel good. This can easily be translated into “do not spend time worrying about things out of your control”.

A patient of mine asked me the other day about how I feel in general about life and the whole situation we are in. He had lost his high-paying job and was quite pessimistic about the future especially with the economic downturn that we are going through. As much as I want to inspire you all, I wanted to be as transparent with my thoughts as much as possible at the same time. I told him that I’m actually feeling optimistic. And I don’t want to be coming across as tone-deaf because there has been so much difficulty and sadness going around in the last 6 months. He quickly interrupted me and asked how do I stay that way. Look, I strongly believe that the optimism trait is in the DNA, meaning certain people are born with it. The second thing is that it’s nurtured by parenting. I think both my mum and dad have had a huge impact on the way I see the world. They both instilled a level of self-confidence in me which made me the person I am today. Mum provided me with her philosophy on life and dad is more of a practical guy – I’ve seen him been through countless difficulties in his business life and he never dwells on any one of his setbacks. Rather, he stands up stronger each time which contributed to his success today.
The next thing – and I believe is the most important of all – is to try to train yourself to see things from different angles.

One of the things I try to tell people is that you can’t blame your circumstances due to not being in control. There are many circumstances and you can take any circumstance and see the bad and the good in it. Sometimes you just need to think it through and have conversations about it so that you can rewire your perspective. Once you start seeing things in a different light, everything starts to fall into place and your life will never be the same again. I also believe that optimism can be trained. Just like your muscles, the more weight you lift, the bigger it’ll get. Optimism is no different, try to see a situation whether is a good or a bad one from a different angle. A lot of the time when we start to shift the angle, we see the problem as a little bearable, and makes us wonder if it’s necessary to react the way we wanted to initially.

Staying optimistic also requires gratitude and perspective. Believe it or not, sometimes the only way for us to be grateful is by losing it all. It’s very harsh but is the fastest way for us to gain perspective of things. A simple way I gain appreciation and gratefulness is that every morning when I wake up I treat it as the best day ever because all of my loved ones are still here. Meanwhile, the pharmacy is under pressure, I have 7 employees I feel responsible for, a patient asks to un-dispense all their medicines which you have spent the last 20 minutes doing – running behind the scenes talking to the doctor and sorting out the correct dose so that it is safe for him to take. There are a bunch of problems that we need to deal with daily but if you are grateful, you’ll see beyond your problems with a bit of clarity and appreciation. The fact that many people out there compare themselves to others they perceive as better off than them. They think that their problem is much bigger than the problems that someone with a multimillion-dollar business on the verge of failing due to the COVID crisis because they have a nicer home to go back to. This makes me feel sad. Gratitude does not belong to a wealthy person. It belongs to everybody in society.

There’s this interesting thing that running through my mind over and over again in the past 4 months. Not until my conversation with my patient did it trigger me to give a deep thought about it: many people have been affected greatly both financially and emotionally from COVID-19  and they are not willing to take a step backward for a giant leap forward for the rest of their life. I realised so many people are miserable with their golden handcuffs because they were making substantial earnings and had mortgages, fancy car repayments, and lavish lifestyles. Now they need to make some painful adjustments because the business is not surviving well or job losses. They are worried about what other people may think if they downsized the home and drove a Toyota instead of an Audi. Literally, they are not willing to take a step backward because they care too much about other people’s opinions and are willing to let other people’s judgments ruin their next 40 years of life is the stupidest thing they could do to themselves. The only thing that stops many of us from moving forward is the stigma of losing and going back to zero.

One thing that I always do when I don’t feel happy or in control is to switch on the water tap. It is a tremendous blessing to be able to do that because there is an entire continent where people walk miles to get clean water. So, stop pondering and holding on to any unnecessary baggage. Move forward by slowly making progress day by day until you reach a place where you feel comfortable with tremendous gratitude.

To your best future yet,