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Toby Hazlewood

How to Survive Through Hard Times? Keep Your World Small


The benefits of taking life one day at a time

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

This morning as I took my morning walk I listened to a recent podcast interview between Joe Rogan and former Navy Seal, Andy Stumpf. They were discussing the famed Seals BUDS selection course — approximately 180 days of tortuous physical and mental training, including the notorious ‘Hell Week’.

According to Stumpf, the factor differentiating those who succeed from those who fail isn’t pure physical or mental grit, nor determination and drive. The ones who succeed are those who can zoom in upon what is directly in front of them rather than getting overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge ahead.

Candidates who become overwhelmed by the enormity and unpleasantness of the 180-days ahead will almost certainly fail.

Those who treat each day, each hour and each minute as the next thing to get through will almost certainly do better. In focusing on what is immediately in front of them, what they have to do next and not what comes after that, they stand the best chance of surviving and thriving.

They keep their world small.

Focus in times of uncertainty

It struck me as a tactic that may well help many at the present time.

As the Covid-19 driven lockdowns persist for many, the novelty factor has long since disappeared. Daily life under lockdown is not that dissimilar to my normal life in many ways, but even so, I’m finding it tough as I know others are too.

Each time I venture out into the world for some socially-distanced food shopping, I worry that I’ll contract the virus and bring it back into my home. I’m comfortable adapting to the measures but I wonder how long they’ll go on. How will we manage if I fall sick or if one of my family does?

I’ve started video calling family and friends more often and feel blessed that the technology exists to make this possible. Nonetheless, I miss seeing them in person and lament the many plans that have already been cancelled and those in the future that will also likely be curtailed.

I miss my daughters who are quarantining with their Mum a few hours away. We decided to divide and conquer for the purposes of lockdown and while I know they’re safe and looked after, it’s saddening that I don’t know when I’ll next be able to give them a hug. I’ve been parted from them for longer periods before, but I’ve always known when I’d next see them again — that’s not the case right now.

My father-in-law is undergoing chemotherapy and more worried than ever before that time is ebbing away. He feels his days are numbered and all he wants is to spend time with his family while he still can — the very thing that Covid-19 has ruled out. We try and encourage him from a distance that there will be time when this has passed. We all know there’s no end-date in sight and as such any comfort we offer is a little hollow.

I’m working from home as I usually do. As a project manager I’m pleased that my current assignment hasn’t yet been mothballed and we’re still expecting to deliver something for the client. Nonetheless, the more time goes on under these circumstances, the more pressing the circumstances are likely to become and the tighter budgets are likely to get squeezed. My wife’s job may or may not survive the current crisis — but what if mine goes away too?

The simple and rational answer to all these concerns is that no-one really knows how any of this will play out. We could drive ourselves mad speculating or we can narrow our focus and strive to take it one day at a time.

One sunrise, one sunset, then do it all over again.

One day at a time

With each day that passes we’re another day closer to the inevitable end of lockdown. It may not come tomorrow or any time soon but each and every day is one more day of isolation done.

I may get sick, but I hope that by observing quarantine and following guidelines, the chances of staying healthy are as good as they possibly can be. Each day I wake up feeling healthy and symptom free is a good thing. Every day that I’m able to get food and supplies for my family is a positive.

Each new day is a chance to reach out to my family and my kids — to talk, to exchange ideas and compare experiences. We may not be together today but we can still be in contact and express our love and care for each other.

Today is another day when I can do my job to the best of my ability and get paid for doing so. The more momentum I maintain, the more easily things might return to a state and feeling of normality.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

When the future seems uncertain it‘s’ easy to slip into feeling demoralised and overwhelmed. It’s a natural tendency that comes from craving certainty and predictability, the answers to questions that we know deep down are unanswerable.

This isn’t a time for fixating on the future, or for strategising and speculating on what may happen.

It’s a time for focusing on today and today alone. I’ll give today my all, and tomorrow I’ll do it over again.

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