How do you feel when you hear the word “obstacles”? Do you feel encouraged, motivated, scared, tired? There was a point in my life where hearing of an obstacle just made me exhausted. Whether it was something as big as climate change or as personal as my own unemployment, I felt like nothing would ever change and it was all just too hard.
But when I left the law, I also chose to leave my negative mindset behind. One of the books I discovered early on was Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. As I read, I learned that there are different kinds of pessimism and the one I struggled with the most was permanence—the idea that things would never change. Which is ironic considering how drastically I’ve transformed my life and overcome significant obstacles again and again.
I also learned that optimism is a choice. With intention, you can change negative thinking to positive thinking. And the best part is that you don’t have to wait until your circumstances are better in order to become more optimistic. Rather, by choosing positivity, you can learn to see your circumstances—whatever they may be—in a more hopeful light. One of the ways I do this is to write down little things I’m grateful for. For example, right this moment, I am grateful that I have the time to sit down and write this blog post. I’m also grateful for watching the beautiful, fluffy snow that has been falling all day today.
Another book that I highly recommend is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s a fascinating look into how our habits shape what we do. It also talks about the value of obstacles, especially a really big obstacle like a crisis. A crisis actually provides our greatest opportunity for growth, because it knocks us out of our pattern of automatic habits. And I realized that obstacles are opportunities and, if we let them, our greatest teachers.
I’m betting that your habits just got walloped and your life turned upside down with the coronavirus quarantine. This is definitely an obstacle and it’s perfectly normal to be freaked out about it. And it’s also perfectly within your ability to look for something positive in this crazy situation and choose a positive mindset. I recommend starting by writing down a few things that you’re grateful for. Like right now. Leave your gratitudes in the comments below. Email them to a friend or family member, which is good for both of you. Put them in a jar on your kitchen table and add to it each night at dinner. Decorate a journal with them. Tape them to your fridge.
And then remember that you have an incredible opportunity right now. You have the choice to decide which habits you want to continue and which you want to change. You’re actually in a tremendously powerful position right now. What will you choose to do?