Quarantine Puts Us Face-To-Face With The Standards We’ve Set For Ourselves
It’s been said that you are your biggest competition, but we never realize how true it really is until we’re the only ones holding ourselves accountable.
Before we “locked down” I was going to the gym five days a week. It was a standard I had set for myself. Wake up, workout, come home, cook, work for the rest of the day.
Since I usually got there around the same time I would see the same friends and gym employees on a regular basis. We built relationships and had conversations and they’d ask where I’d been if I missed a day or two. Though, unless I was traveling, that rarely happened.
Then, the gyms closed.
For the first time in nearly two years, I stopped working out. Since I already work from home, this meant becoming almost completely sedentary, save the once-per-week trip to the grocery store.
As the days seemingly dissolved into each other, I would feel a little extra weight forming, which I knew had been a pattern of mine in the past. I felt myself slipping from the identity I’d built around a productive, social, and (relatively) fit lifestyle.
Anyone who acts outside of their identity and purpose knows there is a feeling of tension or regret from betraying yourself. This is a signal that you’re not meeting your own standards.
I knew I had to get moving, literally. I simply refused to allow the gravity of laziness pull me back into a hole I’d climbed so hard to get out of.
For this to happen I needed fuel. I made leisurely activities like Netflix or racing games on X-Box (Hey, I’m an auto enthusiast and need my fix somehow) a reward rather than simply a way to pass the time. A way of maintaining a standard of productivity. Do the work, get the reward. No dessert without dinner.
I wouldn’t move from “day mode” to “night mode” unless I’d completed a task, even if it was something as simple as cleaning the kitchen or creating a new piece of content.
A new set of circumstances requires a new set of standards.
I downloaded 21 audiobooks and read the first four over a weekend. I needed to stuff my brain with new knowledge I could use to propel myself forward.
You see, now, nobody’s going to ask you why you weren’t at the gym because there is no gym (depending when you read this). If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, nobody’s checking in on your productivity. If you pick up your phone and order a pizza instead of cooking that chicken breast, there’s nobody there to raise an eyebrow at you.
But, your standards are there. The expectations you have for yourself are there. What you are and aren’t willing to accept from yourself is an ever-present colleague who keeps you on track. Or, at least they try.
The standards you’ve set are a direct result of the identity and purpose that define you. Me claiming to be “productive and (relatively) fit” is nothing but a bunch of malarkey if I am not being productive nor am I keeping up with my fitness. I’d simply be a hypocrite.
But we’ve got to be willing to call ourselves out instead of avoiding the reality that we are letting ourselves down. It’s the easiest thing in the world to sleep in, or have (another) cheat meal, or put off responding to that email until later, but taking the easy way out does not lead to joy or fulfillment.
The standards you hold for yourself are going to determine how you come out of quarantine. If I hadn’t stopped my backwards slide I would’ve been coming out fatter and dumber, having ordered too many burritos and squandered my time on Netflix shows. Now when I choose to do those things, it’s a matter of balance and leisure, not a method of avoiding responsibility.
I believe that’s the silver lining of where we’re at right now: The ability to redefine the lives we want to live. To take a solid look at that routine and those standards and decide whether or not they’re serving us or hurting us, an easy way to tell is asking whether or not you’ll be better off or worse off when this is all over.
Have your daily habits and routines made you healthier and smarter now that you’ve got more free time to use? Or have you slipped into a slump of regret?
Don’t feel guilty if it’s the latter, as I’ve openly admitted here, we’re all fighting our own battles.
But when you do gain clarity around the answer, what you do next is where your standards are truly revealed. You may be disappointed in yourself, or wishing you’d be more productive or active…but it simply remains a wish if you’re not willing to take action to make the changes.
You don’t need gym equipment to go for a walk, or do pushups, or follow a free online fitness class. Podcasts are also free. You can take Ivy League classes online for free. Information is readily available to you at all times. It is simply a matter of choice whether or not to access it.
Most importantly, cut yourself some slack. At the time of writing this, we are nearly two months into an unprecedented time in our history. It feels like we’ve skipped from March to May and April didn’t even happen. These are not normal times, and therefore nothing that comes along with them is, either.
Many are nervous or scared even if they don’t admit it. Tens of millions of people are stressed financially and unsure of their futures. Everyone is facing some sort of life change all at the same time.
There is no playbook for this. It’s being figured out as we go.
Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling, process it, and then determine what reaction will best serve you.
Now that I’ve begun a new daily fitness routine, I feel a deeper sense of satisfaction at the end of each day knowing I’ve met the standard that aligns with my identity. As Jim Rohn said: ‘We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.’
How would the ideal version of yourself handle being in quarantine? If you ask yourself that each day, and act in alignment with the answer, you’ll never be steered wrong.
See you on the other side.