Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Which one are you choosing?
Commonly referred to as “unprecedented times” or “strange circumstances,” we are currently living in a state of uncertainty. In a nutshell, most of us are not allowed to go outside our houses unless it’s for reasons related to grocery shopping or other emergencies. Due to the national pandemic, we feel as if this virus has imprisoned us within our own homes.
I moved to Chicago 2 months before the pandemic took over. I was supposed to be meeting new friends, exploring new restaurants and cafes, networking, and learning new skills by joining group classes. But the freaking virus ruined it all!
When the impact of the virus was felt in the U.S., I felt stuck and frustrated. I am a very energetic person, and now I had no outlet to release that energy. It felt like I had transitioned from my office cubicles to an upgraded cubicle version, that is my 900 sq. ft, two bedroom apartment.
A research conducted on the topic of virtual reality in 2006 by clinical psychologist Frederick Aardema noted that people tend to feel symptoms, such as detachment, headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and a feeling of disconnection. These emotions experienced after being in simulation by these participants is how I felt, as if I was slowly losing my sense of presence in reality.
Okay, I may be a bit dramatic, but you get the point.
I went through all 5 stages of grief and landed on the realization that I am helpless. We all are. This is a perfect example of one of those circumstances that are out of our control. When nothing is in our control, the only thing we can do is change our response. However, altering our response requires accepting and surrendering to the circumstances with humility.
In the process of reflecting, I remembered the concept of dead vs alive time, originally coined by Robert Greene, but introduced to me by Ryan Holiday’s book, Ego is the Enemy.
Dead time is passivity personified and extremely biding, whereas alive time is leveraging every second towards our intended future. It is taking control of our situation, instead of letting it control us.
“Dead time is when people are passive and waiting, and alive time is when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second.” -Ryan Holiday
Malcolm X best exemplifies this concept. At age 19, he was arrested for the second time due to unlawful behaviors and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In prison, he surprised everyone by devouring works of history, along with various other genres of literature. He notes in his autobiography, “In every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading in my bunk.”
He was thriving among his fellow prisoners. He leveraged the present situation to his advantage as the time spent in prison was some of the most transforming and productive periods of his life. Malcolm X chose alive time.
In normality, Many of us-including myself-complain about not being able to achieve a certain outcome because of the lack of time. With quarantine being forced upon us, that is exactly what we have gotten back — time!
Currently, many people are living in a state of the future. Stuck at home, we are waiting for this to pass so we can continue living our lives like before. We think, this is just a bad couple of months. I can’t wait for all of this to end so I can start going out with friends again. In the meantime, I will find meaningless distractions to occupy my time.
The obvious thing to do is indulge in watching all 6 seasons of Love Island UK (me!). Finally catch up with Game of Thrones. Scroll through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram AND Reddit for memes related to Corona virus. Once in a while, daydream about being able to go to restaurants, dates, bars, and clubs again. These actions are all well, but done with the intention of binging, and prepare yourself to label this time as Dead Time.
Unfortunately by living in a future state, we are massively missing the opportunities right in front of us. A simple change in perspective can help to turn every moment to a moment of alive time. We must be willing to curve instant gratification when it approaches us. The end goal is coming out of quarantine with some version of being a bit more kind, insightful, perceptive, smart, and skilled.
Could situations be a bit better for us? Would I be happier if I was actually allowed to explore the new city I just moved to and spend my summer on the beaches? Absolutely! I would be mad to say no. Things could always be way better, but they are not.
So what will we choose to do with our time? Are we going to try to make the most out of this situation? There are a lot of bright sides to be acknowledged from this situation, but it requires a bit of effort. It demands that we stop complaining excessively (a little bit is okay) and be grateful for whatever we have left. We have to be humble enough to surrender to these circumstances, while also being resilient enough to not let it determine our fate.
Taking the advice of Robert Greene from Ryan Holiday, I decided to make a couple changes to my quarantine routine to make this moment alive.
For someone who has always hated reading, this is quite impressive. I have started reading 20 pages daily and am hoping to continue incorporating more books into my daily routine when this chaos is over. Here are all the book I have read since March.
I have always complained about not having sufficient time to obtain the “model physique”. I do not want to post any pictures of myself here, but this is the most secure I have ever felt in my own body! As unbelievable as it sounds, I have even started running a little. Two days ago, I ran to The Bean!
Ivy Leagues are offering over 450 free online course. So far, I have completed Entrepreneurship: Launching Your Start-up,Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content, and am currently learning about the concept of Gamification! Graduating from a college is never an excuse to stop learning!
Before the overwhelming amount of responsibilities took over, I used to showcase my art in various local galleries. So, I picked up my pencil after 4 years to draw again! My skills have definitely deteriorated, but I am still very proud of this sketch.
Of course, It goes without saying that I have been more consistent with publishing articles, as well as YouTube videos. When all this end, I am hoping to have learned a thing or two about the power of consistency.
Lastly, I am working on creating a manifesto for my life and business. As I am iteratively working towards finding my place within this world, I determined that these are some of the rules I want to lead my life by.
The Canvas Strategy
Apart from working 8 hours everyday at my current day job, I am relying on various activities to occupy my time that I can proudly label as Alive Time.
Life, God, Universe, or Whatever it is that you believe in have forced us to slow down. It is up to you to determine how you will utilize this abundance of time. Will this be alive time or dead time for you?
Read this article on Medium.com