Recently, I returned to Dubai from India after a short trip while my wife and little daughter stayed back. The third day after reaching Dubai, I started coughing, headache, and the worst fear of being Covid positive came to be true. I still took it lightly the first day and the doctor had to be called in midnight on third day, due to breathlessness. I was advised rest for the next two weeks.
So, here I was — alone, sick, worried about work, figuring how the family would travel back to Dubai, and worst of all, the increasingly grim situation of Covid-19 in India. There were friends and relatives struggling for oxygen cylinders, or a bed in hospital, and some had to wait for hours for the cremation/burial of their loved ones. The basics we always took for granted were crumbling down. It took my wife several calls and follow-ups along with tweets to get the RT PCR test result after 48-56 hours. Not an oxygen cylinder or a bed in a hospital, just a simple test and its result, without which it was not possible to board a flight. In all of this, the only saving grace for myself were the inner-conversations I had.
I deactivated my Facebook account, deleted WhatsApp, and brought calls to an absolute minimum level. A workaholic, it was not easy at all. The first few days were quite depressing. Bored and unable to go out due to mandatory isolation, one day I thought let me pen-down all that I was planning to do in the last few years but could not complete. Not the usual professional goals or shopping or client meetings that I missed. The deeper goals.
In the next two weeks of solitude, I had hundreds of conversations with myself. By the end of my isolation, I took several decisions — including the two I would like to share here. I changed the focus of my next book, that I am beginning to write, from ‘how to sell better using real conversations’ to ‘real conversations led leadership’ with empathy and gratitude as the underlying message. I restarted the experiential-learning based leadership training programmes that focus on inner-conversations through off-sites and team retreats. The idea was shelved due to the onslaught of virus last year. And when I casually floated it within my closed group, I was flooded with requests to sign up. Everyone around seems to be fatigued and tired of looking at the screens and being part of endless virtual meetings. Add to that, the non-stop negative news that is bound to turn the most optimist among us, a pessimist. We all need a break. And for once, leave aside our smartphones and be with ourselves.
Imagine just two weeks of solitude and thinking inwards could help get so much mental clarity, what miracle the habit of regularly enjoying a small talk with ourselves do to our mental strength. The challenge, however, is that being alone with our mobile or laptop is not solitude. Because then, the focus is more on taking a selfie and posting it on Instagram, or responding to that email notification, or probably refreshing the Facebook timeline. If you are reading this, take time out and talk to yourself. It could be both mentally therapeutic as well as meditative.
If not a long walk on the beach, sitting on a mountain peak or near a flowing stream, or amidst dense trees — maybe a walk on your terrace, sitting in nearby park or the morning jog — whatever you can lay your hand on. You definitely owe yourself few minutes away from the daily madness and noise. And the calmness you build will help you steer past the next pandemic of life.
Ritu Kant Ojha is an author, leadership trainer and CEO, Proact
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