What can we learn from COVID-19?

This unimaginable horror we are living through in 2020 should not be wasted. It is like a kind of tough love therapy that helps us to re-evaluate our lives.

This unimaginable horror we are living through in 2020 should not be wasted. It is like a kind of tough love therapy that helps us to re-evaluate our lives.

If we had suggested three months ago these scenarios-that the entire world would be shut down, there would be no travel, millions of people would be ill and hundreds of thousands dying, people would be in lockdown in their homes in quarantine, your practices would be closed and the stock markets down to this level, and we would have no idea how long these circumstances would last or how bad they might yet become-you would have thought us insane.
But this is what happened and continues to happen today.

So, in the face of this nightmare, is it possible to emerge from it with a sense of waking up to a new way of living?
Actually, a new way of being? I coined an expression once, “He (she) who is happiest wins.”

But perhaps we need to redefine happiness, especially given the new world we live in. Life, as normal for most of us in the past, meant running after and reaching goals, accomplishing, accumulating, doing something to achieve an end result. Let’s face it, many of us were like puppies chasing our own tails.

For most of us our focus was on the objective world. Out there. Make more money, redo the house or get a bigger one, the next relationship, the next vacation. New this, new that. Better this, better that. More this, more that. But now we have been forced to temporarily stop the chasing. Halt the perpetual running after things or people, in order to feel fulfilled and happy.

What can we possibly learn from this pandemic that we can carry forward with us like a mega-lottery prize from having survived this horror? How do we emerge from this, thankful for what we might refer to as “waking up”? Fulfillment is never to be found outside of ourselves. This kind of fulfillment is only a limited happiness that comes and goes with intermittent suffering. This isolation/self-quarantine has forced many of us to slow down in life.

Questions we might ask ourselves in this quieter time could be “What do I want?” or  ”What do I really want in life?”

Then ask yourself, “if I get just what I want, then what does that do for me?”

After delving into this we will find that fulfillment and happiness isn’t to be found outside of ourselves. It is always present inside. And, if we take a minute to notice, we will see that there is a new sense of silence in our sheltered-in life. A silence where the chatter of the mind has been reduced and we can get more in touch with our hearts than living solely in our heads. This may sound trite, but I notice that recently in Zoom meetings with our clients, it is hard for me not to say, “I love you,” before ending the meeting.

I suddenly find a sense of fulfillment in just looking out the window at nature. At the sun colorfully reflecting on the clouds at sunset. Listening to the birds sing. There is a new sense of freedom for me in not being owned by the objective world and its things, my toys and accumulations. I cannot imagine ever walking in a park again without this new silence that represents my truer nature. Being more fully in touch and in tune with every precious moment.

I’m ready to go back into the rat race again when it opens up for business. But I will never be the same person as I was before this happened. There is a stillness now. I’m allowing myself not to think so much, or just let the thoughts slide by without effect. Not always planning the next “happiness” event.

Instead I see myself going into a world I had become accustomed to, but with eyes fully open. It reminds me of a fish that doesn’t know it’s in water until it is taken out. Or perhaps even better, a fish complaining that it is thirsty. There has been this beauty around me the whole time. I won’t hesitate to be honest about my love for those around me. We have seen firsthand and through our friends and clients the tragedy of losing someone from this dreadful virus. Not just senior citizens either. What can we learn?

How can we allow ourselves to go back into our professions and lives again and not use this experience to change us for the better? When we get right down to it, we are not our money, our possessions, our successes, our ambitions, or even our education and experiences.

The question then is: Who are we? What a wonderful opportunity we have in this “time out” world to self-inquire into who we are and what we really want and need. This may not sound like financial advice, but it actually is. I’ve noticed for decades the lack of correlation between a person’s joy in life and the size of their estate. Money never has, nor ever will buy you this joyfulness. When we are owned by our assets and possessions, we are prisoners of the very things we own and worship. You no longer own your things, but they now own you.

Where is the freedom in this? We have desires and go after them to find out that the brief passing happiness of achieving a desire was only to be instantly replaced with yet another desire and, round and round we go.

Now, we need new desires to chase after, so we can once again look for that ever elusive fulfillment. I’ve seen too many people misidentifying themselves with their fortunes. In so doing, in thinking they “are” their money, they run the risk of suffering horribly at the slightest decrease in their net worth. Money is useful. It makes life easier and gives you more options to play in the world. But it is only a store of wealth. Not worth getting sick over.

We have all, since childhood been taught to succeed. Everything we do in life we do to improve ourselves. Attempting to change “what is” into what “should be.” We have these long-held ideas, images and belief systems in place that we mistake for reality or truth. Do this, accomplish this and you will be secure and happy.

Well, here we are in 2020. Wealth is reduced. We have lost our freedom to move around. Our very lives are now at risk. Is it possible to be happy in these circumstances?

I can only share my experience with you. But my answer is a resounding yes! Just to be alive, to be aware and conscious of being in this life is joy. To calm the mind, relax the desires a bit, and go inside to a freedom that needs nothing.

Then, to re-emerge into the outside world after realizing, discovering that possessions and things, fame and notoriety, never could have given you this peace. Bring this calmness back out into the world when it opens up again.

Yes, you will do all the things you did before, but you will be awake to the fact that all fulfillment lies within. Not out somewhere out there. Now you can enjoy everything in life, but from a different perspective. We now know, as other generations have learned in the past, there is really no such thing as security. However, to be able to live life without fear of loss is to live life fully.

This unimaginable horror we are living through in 2020 should not be wasted. It is like a kind of tough love therapy that helps us to reevaluate our lives. It is a time for self-inquire and questioning one’s priorities. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a second chance in life. To smell the roses. To slide down for a moment from your head to your heart. To end needless suffering and replace it with wisdom. To be free!

I am not attempting to tell you how to think or be. I am only sharing my observations of others and myself over the last several decades. I offer my insights only with love.

Disclosures:

John J. Grande, CFP, Traudy F. Grande, CFP, and John S. Grande, CFP, are co-editors of the Money Matters column in Ophthalmology Times®. They are owners and principals of Grande Financial Services Inc., Oakhurst, NJ, (www.grandefs.com). The Grandes advise doctors across the country on a diverse range of investment and financial matters. Readers may submit their financial questions to them at john.s.grande@grandefs.com or call 800/722-1258.

The views depicted in this material are for information purposes only and should not be considered specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk, including the potential for loss. Past performance is not indicative of future results. No investment strategy can ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

John J. Grande, John S. Grande and Traudy Grande are Registered Representatives offering securities through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Summit Financial Group, Inc., a registered investment adviser. Summit and Cetera are related and are under separate ownership from any other named entity. Registered Branch: 257 Monmouth Rd, Oakhurst, NJ 07755. Phone: 732/531-4111; toll-free: 800/722-1258. Website: www.grandefs.com