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We need to replace «I have to» by «I choose to», especially now

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

We are grieving so much these days. Death, disease, and pain. Loss of business, hardship in economy, doomed prospects for recovery. We are staying in, feeling trapped, as if we cannot breathe. We worry about next month, next year, the future. Our kids´ future.

It´s looking grim and, as with pain and loss, it is important to feel it. We don´t need to go overboard and read all about the pandemic (like I do…). We don´t need to do it all the time (I don´t… anymore). But we should not overlook the pain in our own lives and numb it with the thoughts that some have it worse than us. Yes, some have it much worse, but we are also grieving for them.

This is what makes this pain so unique. We are grieving for ourselves and for everybody else. We are grieving for the present and for the past, when we hugged each other, danced salsa and sent our kids to day-care without thinking twice. We are grieving for the unexpected change of plans and self-imposed restriction of movement. We are grieving for a fundamental change in our lifestyle that won´t go away anytime soon. It will pass – this too shall pass – but until then this is the new normal. The new order of things.

So, now what? Now we wait. We stay put. We stand still. We feel the pain, we cry when we need to and then we focus on little things that are actually pretty big. We focus on showering every day, we focus on working as much as we are able to, we focus on smiling and playing with our children even when we feel like screaming and crying. And if we make it through the day, we focus on celebrating it. We take it one day at the time, one week at a time. We think about possible plans, knowing that they might not work out.

We acknowledge that our brains don´t really know how to deal with so much uncertainty – collective uncertainty. Worldwide uncertainty.

We focus on rewiring our brains to accept the status quo and somehow keep the hope and faith that somehow this will all work out.

We can do that in two steps:

1) Acknowledging that what we all want is to go back to feeling safe and feeling free but that we were never really safe and we were never really free in the first place.

We were never safe, but we´ve made it through. So, we have been either lucky, if we don´t believe in God, or we were protected, if we do believe in something bigger than us. We are always exposed to diseases, conflict, car crashes and earthquakes. The way things were going with climate change and excessive consumption, we might be in a better position to deal with the danger today than one month ago. Maybe a new consciousness will arise that will give our kids a better future.

And we were never free. We were always stressed out working like crazy, focusing on getting more work, more money, more status. No time to pay attention to our surroundings, to smell the roses. Maybe we will now learn to appreciate simple things. Maybe those simple things will become our most precious memories.

Somehow, even though we were never safe and never free, we have been able to keep moving forward, dreaming and believing in a better future. Why not now?

2) Letting go of what we perceived as true might be the key to move forward. What we believed to be normal two months ago looks different now. We should no longer hug strangers or friends who are not sharing the same space, and we should no longer be in crowded places. Going back to that reality soon is not possible. We need to come to terms with that. Feel what we need to feel about it. And then take care of yourselves as well as learn how to connect with others in this new normal. Appreciate what we are given daily, not because we should but because we want to.

Replacing “I have to” by “I choose to” is more powerful than you can imagine, and there is a whole science behind it. It changes everything.

We breathe in and breathe out, we celebrate every day. And, in hoping that good things will happen, we might be creating an opportunity to appreciate the good things that are already happening.


Sara Guerreiro is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), by the International Coach Federation, who splits her time between human rights, consulting, training and coaching people around the world.


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