We've seen the doors to our favorite restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters close. With the world turned upside down, many were forced to reflect and consider: What do you miss?
In an average week, I used to go out to eat a few times, treat myself to a coffee or two, hit the gym, work in a meditation class, get a drink with friends after work, grab ice cream with my husband, and maybe attend a weekend event, like a food truck festival. Quarantine challenged me to think critically about the people and activities in my life. During quarantine, I couldn't safely do any of the aforementioned activities the way I did before. In a matter of weeks, the way people socialize, exercise and live changed.
As the world reopens, a singular question keeps popping into my brain: What do I need? Not what can I do, but what do I need in my life to be happy, productive and healthy? Quarantine forced us all to change our habits, both good and bad. In lieu of happy hours and long work commutes and vacations, people took up puzzles, brought back family dinner and entertained themselves with clever games and home workouts. For many, the lack of outside commitments allowed time for true self-reflection and slowing down.
In an effort to unravel the situation and the person I became as a result of quarantine, I decided to make a list of the things my life "normally" requires but that I was no longer doing in the peak of the quarantine. I listed more than 20 activities! It's easy to question what I could do to fill the void left by the absence of these twenty-some activities, but the bigger question is are these pre-quarantine activities meaningful? Do they help me reach my goals and my potential? How do they enhance my life?
After I made the list, I reflected and asked myself two questions: What do I miss? What do I need? I challenged myself to circle only the activities I truly miss, cherish and need to reach my goals. Of those twenty-something items, I narrowed it down to just three activities that met the criteria. Three! How is it possible that in my way-too-busy normalcy which practically halted and it took a new form has left me missing so little?
Making this list made quite an impact, and forced me to come to terms with the fact that many of the things that used to fill my schedule weren't actually fulfilling. Now, I feel empowered to prioritize self-care over my life’s fictional obligations, like the need to go to the gym every day at 5 a.m. to prove to myself that I'm "into fitness." I loathed going to that gym for those classes, so I canceled my membership and replaced it with gentle morning exercises instead. And guess what? My body feels great and thanks me for the shift.
Time to Reevaluate
When you're ready to reassess your priorities and start living to be more true to you, start here.
- Set the scene. Light a candle, put on some reflective music, grab a notebook and give yourself the time to reflect.
- Ask yourself: What did I used to do that I'm not doing now? Don't let yourself off easy—think about every little thing, from going to the movie theater to taking more frequent showers. What's changed?
- Review the list. What do you really miss doing? Of the things you used to do, which activities left you feeling like your best self? Which activities are you secretly pleased not to have to do? Be honest! There's no shame in your inner introvert.
- Now what? Whether we like it or not, we all have some more time on our hands. What is it you've been trying to accomplish for years and haven't had the time to do? Instead of going back to normal, swap out those not-so-necessary activities on your list with some activities that will help you be the best version of yourself.
Whether your goal in life is to find joy, to meet a fitness target or to prioritize practicing self-care, challenge yourself to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary activities that do not help you reach your goals, and embrace the change that the quarantine forced upon you. Think of quarantine as less of a prison sentence and more of an opportunity to reflect on life and why you prioritize certain activities over others. There will never be more time in days or more days in weeks to help you reach your goals—the time is now.