We’ve recently been close to someone who has been in ICU with covid. With all the paraphernalia attached, there is one crucial element – the small TV we’ve all seen on ER and the like. It is the monitor, the real-time dashboard, of everything that is going on in the person. It is the dipstick for so many interventions that may follow from its continual measurements.
It is watched hundreds of times a day. Only one of its measures is recorded regularly over time. Only one is static until it is measured again by an attachment. The others are measured in ever-undulating waves of calibration. For the uninitiated, the monitor is mesmerizing. You sit for hours and watch its movements. Every time something changes, your brain registers that, thinking back and thinking forward. Recalculating, you garner strength knowing that all is well, that in all probability, healing and recovery is taking place. But every now and again, things change negatively and, doing the same recalculation, you become aware of your own stress rising as concern takes hold. But then, the next reading is better, and you breathe a sigh of relief. You imagine your own internal, invisible monitor – the one in your head – undulating, progressing and always on – as you draw your own conclusions of past, present and future.
Monitoring is central to this process. Not like an engine’s oil dipstick which just shows you a level once a month. Rather like a probe that measures movements and changes with real-time feedback. You ignore it at your peril but if you over-emphasize every change you become consumed by the detail, perhaps even irrational from too much information. Being aware, you become informed and can adjust intentionally and with a sense of direction and purpose.
This blog is timed at the end of 2020 and on the threshold of 2021. Such a time as this requires that we look back at our footprints in the sand and analyse how we got to where we are and if it’s where we wanted to be. Then, we sink our feet into the sand as the ever-present waves wash over them. And finally, we lift our eyes beyond the backline towards the curved horizon and plot our future course. With that metaphor that I’m sure we all understand (though we weren’t allowed on the beaches☺), let’s have a look at the specifics of the monitor…
Right at the top is the Heartbeat. Only a number to the disinterested but for the person being measured, the confirmation of life. Slow or fast, it speaks volumes to the quantity and quality of life. I put to you my Reader; your heartbeat is more than the pulse in your wrist. In isolation, it confirms you’re living, and you’ve made it to this point but in totality, it speaks of everything that matters to you. Your loved ones, your greater circle of friends and associates, the state of your business or career and even your own physical being. Under stress it rises – not just physical stress but mental and emotional stress. Too much stress and too fast a heartbeat and life itself may be threatened. Too little and you and I begin to atrophy from the inside out. We need some stress, but this last year may have taken its toll.
I have had people tell me that the stress has felt like a band across their chest. Guaranteed, your heartbeat was up then. Our heart drives life’s blood through our veins. Similarly, the heartbeat of relationships, the ebb and flow of what and who you consider important and pin as high priority, effectively giving your life and time for, needs to be measured and controlled. I’m sure each of us in the long days of lockdown have reconsidered who and what we love and what truly matters.
My Takeaway: When the only thing matters is truly the only thing that matters, you concentrate on that thing intensely.
My Question: What is “the only thing that matters” for you?
Underneath the Heartbeat is Oxygen. Covid has taught us that saturation is a measure of oxygen levels in our bodies. The virus attacks our lungs inflaming the air sacs at the end of our lung pathways. At this interface, the blood takes oxygen we breathe in and gives carbon dioxide we breathe out. Our oxygen is our energy, our motivation, our determination, and our drive. Without it, we cannot survive and keeping it topped up is a constant affair. Purpose, meaning, ambition, goals, targets and incentives are all useful as tools for us to remain focussed and intentional. We interact at many interfaces and experience so much that affects us. Are the interfaces you experience oxygen-giving or oxygen-sucking. We sometimes refer to negative people as “oxygen thieves”. They live to extract the last bit of joy and optimism out of everyone around them; perpetually negative. Unless you have a duty to serve such people, or you choose to love them in favour of a higher cause, rid yourself of their influence.
On the one hand, you have enough to cope with this year but on the other, you may be affected by them, influenced to hopeless and even to give up. On the lighter side, I have a friend who tells me he’s “too negative to get covid” – I love him for his sense of humour even though he’s sometimes a pain ☺. You cannot be over-saturated with oxygen as 100% is the limit. But you can be under-saturated, and you need to know the triggers that bring that about and how to counteract them. So many people rely on you perhaps even materially, and no doubt so many people look up to you with respect. You may be their example of how to live a life above the crowd and the woes of the time. Your “oxygen” – your optimism, enthusiasm and the direction of your gaze could well be the vaccine that the world around you needs.
My Takeaway: The example that you are, is influential. Good or bad, you’re influencing other peoples’ lives. So, make it good!
My Question: Do you pay attention to the example you’re setting for others?
The last of the undulating waves is your Sleep Pattern. This one was really interesting to watch. Light sleep or going to sleep was just a small, equally sized wave. As deep sleep descends, the waves have a deep trough as the waves go higher on the screen. At times something disturbs the sleep, and a bump occurs in the consistency of the undulations. The other day I read an article titled something like: 7 Ways to Improve Your New Year. I dived in only to discover the ones we know: Sleeping; Eating; Exercising; Relaxation; Relationships; Purpose and one other. Without disparaging the content, we need to sleep, eat, exercise, and relax while we drive our businesses and/or our interests and the giving of our time.
I do not apologise for repeating that nothing replaces getting this right for you and me. We cannot be at peak performance if we systematically undo the good of proper sleep and food and exercise. Christmas is a time to let go as we relax but it takes more than a perennial new year’s resolution to pull back to peak physical and mental form. You get out what you put in and your body is perfectly balanced given the right fuel. Consistently denying ourselves can have serious consequences. Discipline yourself, eat well, stop worrying and move at pace; it is good for you.
My Takeaway: I commit myself to improve the “over-relaxation” I have enjoyed for a season.
The Question: Want to join me?
Blood Pressure is on the bottom left of the screen. What gets yours up? Fools, taxis, banks, teenagers, cashflow, regrets? Oh, the stuff we give our lives and our sense of peace to! One of the things covid has taught me is not to “fetch” things. It sounds trite and a lot like not worrying but for me it is much more. In negative situations, I have joined the dots even for years forward and ended up with catastrophe in mind. The long days of isolation have cured this trait. The play between living in the moment and being ultimately responsible for everything that can go wrong is simply an overstatement of the facts. Live in the moment; it is good for you and many experts advocate it as the only time over which you have control. Breathe deeply and regularly; it will give you oxygen and regulate your heartbeat. And then analyse what is driving your blood pressure up.
Is the matter caused by facts or self-induced by your own imagination? Do you have control or not? Is there a point in time where you need to act, or would patience be the virtue you need to apply? We may be entering 2021 off a lower base emotionally, physically, or financially so what is it that takes us through or takes us up? Edith Eger in The Choice writes: Be the author of your choice rather than the victim of your fate. But not everything needs to be answered immediately and often patience to wait or allow time to evolve is as good a move as anything. On the other hand, if you need to act, do so. Life is not always easy, but it can be nonetheless rewarding for you.
My Takeaway: Things rile us. Are they worth the anger or could they be prevented or allowed to unfold over time? Focus on the big rocks and you may well find the smaller issues that perplexed your mind dissipate as you work at your priorities.
My question: Do you have clear goals for this year? Are those goals meaningful to you?
Temperature is on the bottom right of the monitor. 37.2 degrees is normal. Anything higher is a sign of illness and inflammation and needs to be dealt with. Anything reasonably under that is still healthy. Of course, on the lighter side, all you have to do is go into three shops in the Mall and have your temperature taken at the door. Between 35.5 and 36.5 degrees, as a rule, I always chirp, I’m cool, hey? as the security guard looks on nonplussed. I’m sure the heat guns are set to give a “next number” like a slot machine gives a random result – whatever! But for our purpose, we live in an environment. It is all around us – invisible dust and viruses, clean air, viewscapes of land, sea and sky, rain or sunshine, people we love and those to whom we are less partial, fairness or unfairness, and life to the full. We are constantly taking the temperature of our environment. We know that our perspective and opinions drive so much of what we believe we are experiencing.
Gratitude and thankfulness are always to be had; there is always something to be thankful for. I listened to that song by Josh Groban and sent it out to tens of contacts on WhatsApp on Christmas Day with tears in my eyes. Always something to be thankful for! On the other hand, life may be happening while you make other plans. Adversity knocks every now and again and indeed I’m clear on my view of 2020 – I’m glad it’s passed and all I want to take from it are the learnings for the future; the rest can sink into forgetfulness. Attitude is often the game-changer of the temperature. I’m always amazed at how two people can be in similar circumstances and take a completely different view of them. None the least, our views and participation in this beautiful, tortured country.
My Takeaway: We can be products of our environment [an external locus of control] or impactful on it in a positive, sustainable way [an internal locus of control]. I have a few close friends who are my “thermometers” when it comes to the power of impact – positive, optimistic and action orientated. I am grateful for their role in my life.
My Question: Where do you stand at the genesis of 2021?
It remains only to wish you a prosperous new year from HLJ. We have much to achieve and many opportunities confront us. Plain sailing it probably will not be, but we trust if the wind howls you will be able to tack your sails and use it to your advantage. Your monitor – the monitor of your heart and mind – will give you important, immediate feedback and what positive you do with it will enhance your life and those of others around you.
We wish you success and standby you as much as we possibly can to help you ensure that.
Some quotes to express my theme a little differently:
“No one has a problem with the first mile of a journey. Even an infant could do fine for a while. But it isn’t the start that matters. It’s the finish line.”
“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”
“When we make progress quickly, it feeds our emotions. Then, when there’s a period of waiting or we hit a plateau, we find out how committed we really are and whether we’re going to see things through to the finish or quit.”