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America BurningAs we emerge from the fires of last week’s riots here in the U.S., Europe finds itself in the throes of unrest. With three months of moderately-strict lockdown due to Covid-19, many had reached the limits of their self-containment. George Floyd’s death was the spark that ignited an inferno which would consume American cities all across the country. Like a wildfire it spread, making its way across the Atlantic to Northwestern Europe. And in the ashes of its destruction, good people have been devastated – emotionally, financially, and legally. Some have lost their lives, leaving behind grieving loved ones, and forcing every citizen to reflect on the full implications of their beliefs, their expectations, and their future.

Not one person has been left unaffected by the combined Covid-19 pandemic and weeks of civil unrest. Businesses remained closed, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in the strictest U.S. states. And 36 million Americans have been left jobless as a result of Covid-19. Analysts have been uncertain as to how the country will recover following the coronavirus lock downs, but many believe that unless something is done to help homeowners and renters, defaults will be abundant as people scramble to put their lives back in order.

I have no uncertainty that we have stepped into a new world in 2020. What that world will shape into is anybody’s guess, but to think it will ever return to life as we’ve known it would be foolish. Of course, some elements will remain the same – technology will reign supreme, social media will be the place to gather news, information, and entertainment, and political polarization will lead to even greater divides between people. But what, if anything, might we look forward to: what ups-and-downs can we expect along the path of reconstruction? The most honest answer is it will depend on our focus.

TechObviously, different people want different things. Every person can have a version of the future they envision to some degree. I will explain this idea more fully in a bit. But right now exists opportunity to shape your world in the way you want it. Yes you can shape society too, but do not fall victim to the belief that you can do it against the will of others. To create lasting social change, the hearts and mind of the people must be won over. Let me encourage you to think of any lasting social change, and investigate how it was accomplished. Yes violence has happened in moments of societal change, but the violence itself was not the catalyst to the lasting change, it was the inspired movement of hearts and minds which led to the transformation. Gandhi won the hearts and minds of the people. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the hearts and minds of people. Even the American Revolutionaries won the hearts and minds of the people. Without aligning these energy centers to your vision, you will be unlikely to cause lasting change. One need only consider the long chain of military occupiers in Vietnam and the drawn out fighting there to understand what I mean about failing to win hearts and minds. If your vision is big, however, and it includes the most people, you will have a greater probability of creating lasting change. I cannot stress this factor enough: hearts and minds.

MLK Hearts and MindsWhen forging a path in this new world, it would be wise to focus on your highest values. Those things that act as drivers for your decisions – things you are inspired by daily – are what you should focus on and centralize in your vision. For some people it is family, for others it is service, and for even others it is the beauty of the world (artists, poets, musicians, mathematicians, etc.). There is certainly no right or wrong in this regard, other than the importance you give it to your mission. Simply put: A mission is a plan with a purpose. The purpose is the why you do what you do, while the mission is the vision.

A powerful vision is one that has a strong purpose behind it, allows the most people fulfillment of their values, and has a coherent, specific plan to make it happen. If one’s purpose is linked strongly to one’s values, one will be more likely to see it through. Many people inject other’s values into their endeavors, but they do not have the drive to ultimately carry things out. We are driven by our true values, and no matter how good another’s values sound, if you do not truly share them, you will peter out and lose drive. A vision which allows for the greatest numbers of people to fulfill their own values will be the most powerful and longest lasting. Civil rights is one of those visions: by ensuring that all people have a right to pursue and fulfill their values, in health, wealth and freedom, failure becomes impossible. Obstacles will arise, as in any endeavor, but ultimately, people will be inspired and driven to support freedom and justice for all. Finally, a vision is only as good as its implementation. You can envision all day long, but if you do nothing to make it happen, it will remain a daydream.  Constructing a specific plan which can be communicated coherently, so that others may become inspired by your vision, is the surest way to accomplishing your goals. You will forge your way in the new world most successfully by following the principles above. Purpose, vision, and fulfillment for the most people are the ingredients for a lasting legacy.

BalanceFinally, and most importantly, is to strive for balance – in your personal endeavors, as well as for the collective or greater good. Understand that regardless of your vision, you will face obstacles in that endeavor. Obstacles are not vision-killers; they are feedback mechanisms that are in place to guide you. Your vision will be shaped and refined by the obstacles you face…and overcome. To do so you may need to alter your plan a bit. You may need to learn more, or you may need to change beliefs or perspectives. I love to read biographies on the greats of humanity to get a sense of their obstacles, their solutions, and their evolution. You will have yours in your unique way. When attempting to elicit change that is resisted by others, try to find a middle ground. Believe it or not, it is possible to exist in coinciding realities with others – that is, many people can live in worlds of their making together, even when it seems that their worlds are diametrically opposed. Find the common ground. How do you get what you love while others get what they love? That may be the very challenge for you to figure out, but what a powerful vision that is. “All you need is love” is not some hokey song lyric, but a profound truth of all human beings: How do I get what I love while you get what you love…? Living in the extreme polarities of any human issue is volatile – it brings the most stress, the least cooperation, and the baddest blood to the table. Finding the center point and striving for a win-win is the greatest achievement one can have, with the highest possibility of longevity. Game theory, a mathematical study, shows unequivocally that people do better when working together.

The chaos of 2020 has been disruptive for most people to say the least. For many it appears, for now, devastating. But in chaos there is always a hidden order, one that allows for a reconfiguration of your life at the micro-level, but the entire world in the macro. There appears to be great opportunity at this time for enormous change, so take the time and invest the energy to create the world that you want to live in. It will not come easy – so do not take this as the walk-away message. Whatever you would love to see and experience in this new world will take great effort, but it will be worth it. If you can observe the principles I have outlined here, you stand the greatest chance of lasting success. People will follow your inspired message if they can see what is in it for them. What this means for most people is how it will allow them to fulfill their own mission, according to their life’s purpose, which, of course, is intertwined with their highest values. People are only fulfilled – that is, filled-up full – when they are allowed to pursue their dreams, in their way, at their pace. If your vision for the new world allows others to do this, it will be embraced by all.

In this time of rapid and uncertain change, some things remain constant, like the ways to keep your body healthy and strong. A simple question would be: who stands the greater chance of withstanding the symptoms of a viral infection, one who maintains the health of one’s environment, or one who does not? Unfortunately, too many people fail to ask that basic, valuable question and instead argue over treatment options. Treatments are important, for sure, but whatever any particular treatment might be, the person who cares for his or her environment will handle the treatment better than if he or she does not. This is not a deep philosophical statement – it is simple logic. It does not depend on the virulence of the pathogen, either – in every way, people who care for their environment will have a greater probability of handling illness.

Staying Strong in the Era of Covid-19Athletes take many physical hits and stresses. They absolutely must condition themselves to withstand these stresses. So too warriors and soldiers of yesterday and today: only the conditioned can take the battering which results from their call of duty. Would you choose a conditioned horse for which to win a race, or would you place your bets on an older, deconditioned horse? There are almost always exceptions to the rules, but all in all, a properly conditioned person tends to fare better than a deconditioned one.

What can you do to strengthen your body? I have written a book on maintaining optimal health, so I could probably ramble on for pages. But let me keep things relevant to our current climate surrounding the coronavirus and its associated illness, Covid-19. Since it is mostly a lung cell attacking virus, keep your lungs as clean and conditioned as possible. I will not bore you with a quit smoking or quit vaping sermon, but I am certain that everybody understands that each habit increases risk. By no means would I share smoking paraphernalia at this time – bongs and hookahs might just be things of the past – smoking in the era of Covid-19 should be a solitary act. Personally, I would not hinder my resistance with any recreational drug whatsoever, but if you must, then stay moderate. Partying hard can, and often does, inhibit the immune system. If you are going to party, then just make sure you get plenty of sleep. Definitely do not go hard two days in a row.

Don’t run with masks onYou should maintain your cardiovascular conditioning. If you can run without pain, do so. Running outside on pavement is probably better than on a treadmill. Either way, get to a point of heavy breathing and sweating every time you challenge your cardiovascular system. Do not run with a mask on. Get fresh air: oxygen is paramount to cardiovascular health. Can’t run? Skip rope. Shadow box. Dance. Do whatever it takes to get your heart rate up and into a sweat. Strong lungs may not be immune to infection, but the greater the surface area of the lungs to absorb oxygen, the better for you if, in fact, you fall ill.

As always, eating whole, natural foods will keep you vibrant and well-functioning. Take this time of quarantine to cook most of your meals at home. Keep the dining out to a minimum. Try bringing down your caloric intake, if you are overweight, and exercise daily. I realize these are not always the easiest things to implement, but in my opinion they are the necessary things to do. As always, results will come down to your desire and commitment. However, keep in mind that one of the highest risk factors with regard to Covid-19 is obesity. This is not surprising information. I have made similar warnings throughout the years: Obesity exponentially increases the risk of falling ill. The reasons are many, and not necessary to delve into here, just suffice it to say that you almost always have a better chance of wellness by keeping fit and trim. Take the first step, the rest will follow.

Quiet your mind and talk to Self Keeping the mind balanced is probably the greatest key to staying strong in the era of Covid-19. The first, and most important, action you can take is to write down all the knowns and unknowns with regard to this virus. Do the research, look at the numbers. I think this activity is worthwhile, so much that I did exactly that last month with a group of students and clients (ask me how); it was enormous in reducing any anxiety we were feeling and putting things into perspective. The purpose of the exercise is to reduce fear, which can be a killer with regard to healing or worsening symptoms. Chronic fear rarely leads to better healing, so try neutralizing your fears around the virus. I can start you off with one major known: The virus is mostly mild, meaning the vast majority of people recover quickly. Some people do not even know they have it. “Vast majority” is well over 90%. Please put that number into your awareness. Seriously, research the virus, the illness, and the numbers. I am certain that one simple exercise will liberate you.

Finally, take the time to go within yourself: meditate. Quiet your mind and talk to Self – that part of you which is beyond words, thoughts, and ideas. Do this daily. Great inner strength comes from this practice. Add plenty of quality sleep and you will find your peace of mind is enhanced dramatically.

These tips are the absolute best things you can do for yourself in the era of Covid-19: Exercise, eat well, minimize smoking, sleep plenty, and balance your mind. These are the same health-enhancing behaviors I would recommend even outside a world-stopping pandemic. As I have said: some things may change rapidly, but the behaviors that strengthen the body remain constant. The numbers show that, for the most part (>90%), you will be fine. But take the time to increase your chances in that regard. Do the right things for your body and mind, and you might find this lockdown a great blessing.

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