No one will dispute that we are undergoing challenging times right now as a result of COVID-19 a.k.a. the Coronavirus. Most all of us are suffering from varying degrees of hardship. What differentiates how well you adapt has less to do with the severity of the hardship you are under, and more to do with your outlook or mindset about it.
In its simplest form this breaks down to two of my most commonly uttered truths: 1) That life consists of 10% what happens and 90% on how you react to it. 2) In order to be as happy and productive as possible, it is vital that you learn how to control what is under your control and let go of everything else.
Let’s start with the first one. I am hearing a lot of people complaining about how much money they have lost in their 401K’s or IRA (Individual Retirement Account) over the past month or so. While I have no reason to doubt that the value of these have dropped significantly, I do contest the fact that they have lost anything at this point. It’s their mindset about the declining value that is causing them all of their anguish, not the loss in value that has happened.
Mine have dropped significantly as well over the same time frame and I am not bothered by this at all. The only difference is our mindsets about it. It is a fact that the value of most of these accounts have dropped significantly, but how does stressing over it make it better? In the crudest terms, by worrying about it and fretting over it now, you are simply giving yourself two problems for the price of one.
Now I’ll share my mindset about the fall in value and you can decide which mindset is healthier. When you put money into a 401K or IRA (except in certain extreme circumstances) you cannot take any money out of them without penalty until you are 59 and ½ years old and are not required to take any money out of them until you reach the age of 70 and ½. I could not have withdrawn any money (without penalty) before the market fall and most of the people I deal with are farther away from being able to withdraw from their accounts than I am.
Markets tend to be higher than they are on a given day ten years after that day historically speaking. So, if you are 49 and 1/2 years old or younger or do not need to tap those funds for ten years anyway, there’s a good probability that it will be worth more (and possibly considerably more) at that time than it was before the markets started falling. Thus, all that worrying did was lower your immunity (during a time when you want it as strong as possible) and make you feel bad and/or fearful.
Another example would be people who have lost their job and are worrying about how they are going to pay their bills etc. Although these concerns are much more immediate, the way you view them will still have the biggest effect on your mood and ability to adapt.
I know of no instance where a negative outlook, filled with bemoaning or worrying about your predicament led to better circumstances for them. A much more productive approach would be to accept that you are where you are and then putting all of your energy into finding solutions or things that may alleviate your problems.
Now for the second one I mentioned above. In order to be as happy and productive as possible, it is vital that you learn how to control what is under your control and let go of everything else. Most of what is happening is beyond our control, like when we can go back to work, or resume our normal lifestyles or get a vaccine etc. There are still many things we can control and I’d recommend starting with how you view things.
If you are glued to the news or social media, chances are you are going to be filled with worries. I’m confident nothing of monumental importance is going to happen without it reaching me in a timely manner. I fail to see how staying on top of the news is going to make me any safer, happier or more productive. As a result, I limit my viewing to a couple of cursory check-ins a day and go about making the best of the things I do still have available.
If you have too much time on your hands and are feeling bored add more structure to your day. Take up a new hobby, learn something new or do something you have been putting off until you had more time. The possibilities are endless and taking advantage of them will make you feel a lot better than feeding your fears on social media and obsessing over the news.
As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.”
You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc