What did lockdown show you?
This is us celebrating the last weekend of a COVID-19 lockdown here that lasted 107 days. Yep, our idea of lockdown fun - champagne in the back of the van overlooking the ocean.
You know the lockdown experience, whether you were part of this one or not. So what did you learn about yourself? Many of you downloaded the Nine Needs Self-assessment the other week - which Needs did you find were lacking?
One of the Five Growth Superpowers is Commitment to Growth and that involves looking for learning from every experience. I learnt a bunch of things, but let me share three big ones.
1. Adventures are an important way I meet the Need for Pleasure. For ages now, we haven't been able to plan anything. Our international borders have been closed, our state borders have been closed, hell for the last three months we haven't even been allowed to leave our local council area.
Some of my pleasure sources were always obvious - for example massage services also stopped during the lockdown. But I learnt just how much joy I get from dreaming up, planning and going on adventures. Without them, life felt small - a bit like it was asleep.
Knowing lockdown was a drain on my Need for pleasure, I focused on what I could. I put scented reeds in the bathroom. I put more focus on the simple things like boiling a billy in the van at the beach with Matt. I relished my time training at the track. And because I know learning and novelty are big sources of pleasure for me, I found something new to learn .....I took up pole vault! (As you can see, I still have lots to learn!)
2. It's important to have local friends and regular catch-ups. We know the Need for Connection is vital for us humans, and I did my best to keep that alive by arranging Friday video-drinks with friends each week. That was terrific and it's something we'll keep doing.
But video catch-ups alone aren't enough. A member of my meditation group had just moved to a new suburb (on her own!) before the lockdown. She didn't know anyone in her new area, so she wasn't able to catch up with friends in person. She really struggled with this.
I remember (decades ago) in my Social Psychology class, learning that physical proximity is a big predictor of who is in your social network. Because we've been living here for a long time, I've made some good friends in my local area. During lockdown we were allowed to exercise with one other person. I have two good friends with whom I catch up regularly and we kept this up during lockdown. This was super-helpful for me! I live with my best friend (my husband), so how much more important is it for those who don't?
There's something really beneficial about having regular meetings with friends - catch-ups that don't need to be planned. That way, your default setting for weekly life contains friendship - connection - rather than the default setting being isolation.
In our modern lives it's also common to move house - move suburbs, cities, states, or even countries. This can really disrupt our network of Connection. So if we do it, we need to treat building a new local web of Connection as an important priority - an important project.
3. Limbo is only mildly unpleasant - what we do with it can make it suck! Another of the Five Growth Superpowers is Curiosity. Part of my personal growth practice during the lockdown was to bring this attitude to the experience.
For a long time, we we didn't know when the lockdown was going to end. This put us in a kind of limbo, floating in uncertainty. Certainty is another one of our Nine Human Needs - uncertainty makes us feel unsafe, so it's ripe territory for making a mess of things. By 'making a mess' I mean reacting to an unpleasant experience making it worse, rather than mindfully bringing curiosity to it and responding in a skillful way.
What I noticed was that the unpleasant feelings of limbo were actually a mild form of anxiety or restlessness. If I allowed those feelings to be there and didn't react to them, they'd pass. Next thing I'd know, I was enjoying the smell of the fresh laundry I was folding, or in flow doing a hurdles training session, or sitting down to a yummy home-made dinner. I could enjoy all of these things even with a mild anxiety lurking in the background.
It was really only when I started thinking about the fact that I couldn't plan ahead, and I didn't know when things were going to open up again, that the anxiety came to the foreground. When I allowed the mind to go there it was like pouring fuel on a fire.
So increasingly, when I noticed the mind starting to moan on about being in limbo, I'd just notice that, acknowledge to myself that there was an unpleasantness in it, and allow the mind to move on...which it naturally did if I let it!
Personal growth is a commitment to bring curiosity, courage, compassion and clarity to our experience - the whole kit and caboodle!
What did you learn about your patterns of experience from lockdown?
P.S. To assess yourself on the Nine Needs for full human flourishing, as well as the Five Growth Superpowers and plan an awesome fulfilling future for yourself, check out the Flourish Life Assessment here.