How to Take Advantage of Social Distancing And Not Go Crazy

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by Mike X Huang, Executive Coach

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“Liquor stores are closing. My wife is already going insane over having to be indoors with the kids all the time with no alcohol.”

As my team joked over a conference call, I wondered what were the best ways to work with the current practice of social distancing. As the best way to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken to staying indoors and away from people, figuring out the best way to entertain ourselves, not get into crazy arguments with whoever we’re living with and generally survive until this all blows over.

Even as a self proclaimed hyper introvert who loves being home alone, I can relate to how difficult it can be to be in social distancing. 

But I also happen to see our current situation a bit differently. And I want to exemplify my perspective by sharing with you what I’m doing as well.

Reflection

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While the hermits and sages of old would retreat a mountain range to do this of their own choice, we have been forced into reclusion. For those who have deep wanderlust, a love of the outdoors or draw energy from being around other people, these times are especially hard.

Yet if we are to make the best of this opportunity, we now have more time to spend with our thoughts and really start to develop some self awareness.

What do you think about when you have literally nothing else to distract you? 

Is it your deepest fears? Your biggest insecurities? An existential crisis? I may be projecting but these are all very NORMAL thoughts to have. 

Realizing what they are is the first step to exploring why you have these thoughts, how they serve you and how you can take advantage of them instead of letting them scare you away from pursuing challenging goals.

Personally I get anxiety over whether or not the path I’ve chosen will work out for me. Even as I get great feedback on my skills as a coach, I wonder how this will work out in the long run. Will I be able to give my future family everything I want with this path? Could I be doing greater things? Will I wonder if I should have picked a path that would have generated more wealth? Am I doing enough right now?

This leads me to think about the source of my worries.

Where did I even get these expectations from? Am I subconsciously holding myself back by thinking about alternative paths? 

As I think about these terrifying thoughts, I eventually come to a peaceful conclusion. However that is my own and may not work out for you. I definitely recommend that you write down your train of thinking and where that led you to. Moreover, if you want help on this, my coaching clients get this and more.

And I can say that part of my conclusion made my next point very relevant for winning during this time of social distancing.

Our Training Arc

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During this time of social distancing, we have been given a time to create our own training arc for our lives. As kids, we looked forward to growing up, developing skills and generally getting better. This doesn’t stop as an adult but the incentive to think of your life as constant growth isn’t always there. 

Well that incentive is here now. If you’re stuck inside and have been reflecting on yourself, you can start to act on what you’ve been missing in your life.

If you want to improve physically, this is the time to get some home workout equipment and learn to cook healthy meals. There are so many fitness companies opening up their previously hidden behind paywall workouts for everyone to see. And don’t lie when I ask you if you have at least one cookbook somewhere in your house that’s been gathering dust.

If you want to learn a new skill, this is the time to look up courses and sit yourself down to work on them. More and more universities are freeing up their courses during this time. Find a project to struggle through that where you can apply your new skills. Don’t you want to come out the other end of this pandemic knowing that you came out stronger?

If you have a business idea, this is the time to work on it. Do market research to validate it. See what prototyping your product/service would look like. Find a partner. Even if you can’t launch for awhile, you can still get the ball rolling. Why wait until life is back to normal when you can do the work now and have no expectations?

What does a training arc look like? Look forward to my next post if you really want to dive into the nitty gritty.

Before you know it, 2021 will come around. Those who you look up to or are competitive with are only going to keep moving forward with their goals during this time. What about you?

Digital Socialization

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As I was on a call yesterday, I received another call. While this might reflect poorly on my social life, I had not run into a situation like this since college. In a time where the personal phone call became rare among my generation, social distancing has brought it roaring back. 

We are blessed to live in a time where technology has done an amazing job in keeping us connected during this time. In social media, I see constant screenshots of people doing group video chats, virtual happy hours and of course, games. 

If you feel alone, this is the most socially acceptable time to pick up your phone and reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. 

Not only that but there are so many ways to still have fun with your loved ones even without being in the same physical location.

As I follow several streamers, they echoed a similar sentiment: “we never leave the house anyway so this doesn’t make a difference to us.” 

While I am not telling you to become a video game streamer, there are plenty of social ways to have fun online. From virtual book clubs to Netflix parties to even combining different platforms like Zoom or Slack to create a game night, you have many ways of connecting to your family and friends to enjoy their company over something fun.

The principle here is that you are not alone. Not now and not ever. So reach out.

Book List

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If you are not a reader, I can understand your gut reaction to skip over this section.

But I’m going to challenge your gut reaction by reminding you of all the times it was wrong. In this case, if you have been binging Netflix hard and are starting to get that “holy crap, today has been such a couch potato day and I’m actually getting tired of TV” feeling, then I am here to offer you another form of escapism: books.

As an aspiring book pharmacist, I generally start with either recommending one of two genres. Fiction and non-fiction. 

Non fiction allows you to gain knowledge that you’ve always wanted or has interested you. Why does your brain work that way? What was Marilyn Monroe really like? What were your parents’ home country like in the past and how did that affect them, which in turn affected YOU?

Here are a few of my recommendations to get you started.

Talking with Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – Why does police brutality happen? Why did all of Europe’s leader ignore all the red flags Hitler was sending? How did Cuba completely own the US in terms of espionage? 

When by Daniel Pink – You have a chronotype. And you have many misconceptions of time. Get to know yourself better with this book and how you can optimize your performance and goal setting. I also recommend his book “To Sell Is Human”.

Grit by Angela Duckworth – What fuels passion and purpose? What is the one trait that defines success over the long term? I love this book because the professor does a thorough study of her chosen topic so you find both well written points and takeaways to apply to your own life.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin – This book combines a chess grandmaster and later world champion martial artist’s journey from how he learned his world class skills, his struggles and his insights in the form of a strong narrative. The first time I read this purely for the story as I could empathize with his competitiveness as a kid. All future rereads I got a new insight every time. 

On the other hand, fiction can take you to so many places. From simply beautifully written language to extremely well done world building, you can find yourself appreciating books you would have never thought you would otherwise. When I get into a great piece of fiction, I slip away from my current place. I’m sure you could use some of that right now.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – How does a count in Bolshevik Russia make his house arrest in Moscow interesting? You might find some parallels here and potentially even find the perspective to keep your quarantined life interesting. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society by Mary Ann Shafer – Some people may be turned off by how this book is entirely written in the form of letters between the characters. I am not one of those people. You’d be surprised at how much personality shines through. Some even put our most savage modern day text messages or Reddit posts to shame.

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera – The spoiler is in the title. Even with that, this book is a beautiful read in a modern but slightly dystopian world where you are notified the day of that you will die. What determines of the value of what you leave behind? What do you truly want to do when you have less than 24 hours? For us in 2020, we stay inside to save lives. While you may be bored, I hope you appreciate your actions more after reading this book.

Finally I would just like to say that if you are in a hot area for the virus and have been inside for awhile now, I want to thank you on behalf of everyone who is working to contain the pandemic. We all have friends and family who are first responders. You’re helping them do their job. So while you’re doing that, why not better yourself in the process? 

Also, be careful of social media and the news. Negative information tends to spiral out of control for your mental well being and this should be a time of rest, recovery and setting out new goals.

Let me know how I can help.