Finding happiness amidst all this

It’s easy and tempting to bemoan what we are all going through at the moment. Some of us have been severely hit, some lightly affected, others had the fortune of discovering new opportunity amidst global chaos. Then, there’s many who have lost their shirt, or risk loosing everything.

My heartfelt empathy goes to all folks who live hand-to-mouth, who rely on national and global economic health as much as we collectively rely on human health. All of us must pledge to help those most affected through these times.

But what about everyone of us who can still eat, buy stuff online and share memes and opinions across social media? How are we feeling about everything? Chances are there’s a fair amount of resentment and frustration present within many right now, and I understand that. Freedom to live as you please is a fundamental right that feels tough to give up. But consider this: Relying on these external freedoms does actually constrain us. As many wise people have reiterated many times, true contentment and happiness is found independent of circumstance. It’s about making peace with what is and keeping our inner world delightful no matter what. Few of us do this.

Personally, these past weeks have been a very welcome lesson in simplification. Those of you who know me better will be aware of my affinity towards minimalist and purist life philosophies. But when my travel routine was reduced from 20+ monthly travel days to zero, I understood what a simple life really amounted to: Making a lot less discretionary choices, and focusing on the quality of decisions over quantity of options. That is the beauty of constraints.

As our offline lives are experiencing these new constraints, it is tempting to substitute some of our suspended freedom with overindulgence in the digital world. Inevitable and useful as it may be for work and socialising, the wise among us will seize the day in a newfound way. Suddenly, we are given freedom, space and perhaps time for checking in with ourselves and appreciating the most valuable aspects of our lives.

What I discovered almost immediately was that after initial agony, I started accepting life without my perpetual travel schedule. I realised freedom in sparing the daily commute and weekly packing, flying, transferring, checking in and out and so forth. I repurposed that time for cooking, yoga, meditating, thinking and writing – the latter at a 10x volume as compared to before. I continue evolving in this new reality and I am finding an unfamiliar joy return to the little things. It’s as if this crisis amplified my senses and sensitised them to the nature and life happening all over.

If we take a moment to appreciate how life in most of the world has rapidly adapted, we see unprecedented beauty and kindness in many places. Organisations are stepping up efforts around caring for customers, employees and stakeholders, governments are doing whatever they can and most of us are at least feeling a sense of shared plight. We are in this together.

What I really want to do today is to shape the conclusions you ultimately draw from all of it. How we remember these times, and what will happen once they pass is decided right now. Your reality going forward will be impacted by what we are experiencing today, and I believe there’s so much we can learn about ourselves and life in this moment. What if there were a better, more resilient and happier you emerging from this all? I sincerely wish that you will find that reality for yourself, your social circles and your world.

Call me an eternal optimist or an enlightened realist – I believe joy is in finding a way.

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