Life right now is a paradox. Somehow in the middle of a global crisis that made us completely uncomfortable, we got stuck in our comfort zone. Never before have we spent so many weekends binge watching TV, wearing the same loosely fitting clothes (to cover the COVID-19 pounds we gained) and avoiding social contact with anyone outside our bubbles. Many of us are working, but that’s about all we do. While we didn’t actually choose the life of a sloth, after living it for almost a year, it’s hard to get up out of the La-Z-Boy chair, put down the Twinkies, turn off the TV and do anything.
The masks we wear are the perfect metaphor. We stay partially hidden, not fully engaged. In a way, we get to hide for a while, but the hiding gets old. The slow, meandering integration back into what used to be our lives still feels like purgatory. It’s empty and sad, but it’s not hell either. As the vaccine trickles into the community, we start thinking about what “normal life” will look like again. How do we get ready for that? Do we actually even want it all back the way it was? Maybe sloth-purgatory has its pluses.
Since we won’t wake up one day and jump back into our old lives, we can start the process of getting out of the uncomfortable comfort zone by taking one step at a time. We’ve all been stuck in life for various reasons. We know how to get out of it using a few simple tools:
1. Set a small goal. Any goal will do: Fitness, work, financial, behavioral, etc. The great thing about having a goal is that it gives us something to work toward, a mountain to climb, a purpose. The key, of course, is to make sure the goal is feasible. For example, if you gained a few pounds in COVID, don’t try to lose it all in four weeks. Set a specific goal for the weight and a reasonable and achievable path to get there. It’s back the old “SMART” goal setting. (The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Time Sensitive.)
2. Use the Law of One Percent: This tool is from well-known business author Ken Blanchard. The idea is basically that when we get stuck and want to change, we don’t need to do something drastic and overwhelming. Instead, we choose one thing we want to change and make a slight modification. Getting dressed instead of wearing pajamas on Zoom is a 1% change, as is something simple like getting out in nature at least once a day on the weekends.
3. Lighten Up: There’s a story about a man who goes to a wise guru. He gets a moment alone with this enlightened man and asks the “big” question, “What’s the secret to happiness?” The guru answers, “There are only two rules in life you must remember in order to be happy – Rule no. 1 and Rule no. 9. I’ll tell you now that Rule no. 1 is ‘Don’t take yourself so seriously.’” The man asks, “What is rule no. 9?” The guru simply replies, “Rule no. 9 is that there are no other rules.”
Getting unstuck sometimes simply requires that we spend less time and energy on the fact that we are stuck. We give it less attention. We know that this will all pass. Eventually, we will find our way back to our old reality, or to a slightly different new one. Time itself will take us out of purgatory, and perhaps then the challenge will be to embrace the lessons we learned when we were “stuck” for so long.
Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For information, call 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.