This morning, as I was staring down the rabbit hole of a minimum of two more months with two home-schooled children living in my home 24/7, I felt that had a choice to make. Would l let the heavy blanket of despair envelope me and hold me in a state of inaction or would I choose to be proactive and engage?

What does this time mean to you? Other than staying safe and healthy, and staying connected to your friends and family, how are you viewing this experience?

Is it an unfortunate disaster? An unfair inconvenience? A blow that knocks you off the ladder you were climbing? An intolerable level of monotony?

Or is it an inevitable event–the price we must pay to be alive–and one that all of our ancestors have had to endure in a variety of ways? Is it an opportunity to come together? To find out what we are made of? Certainly, some degree of anxiety is completely normal and, actually, useful to make sure we follow the guidelines and stay safe. But, we have a lot of time before this is all over. What will your response be?

A common phrase on the pro tour when your strategy is no longer working is, “So you’ve been punched in the mouth and you’re bleeding. What are you going to do now?”

 

The mantra for top athletes is “control what you can control,” a mindset we hear constantly. It’s certainly a helpful reminder. Yet, it this reality—that we actually have so little control over this invisible enemy/terrorist—that also makes this time so unsettling. Because, let’s face it, those of us who have grown up in America, which mindset have we been taught? Control as much as you possibly can, right?

So what do we do? We create. We innovate. We fix. We try harder. We DO more. We don’t give up. We fight for it. “If we believe it, we can achieve it,” we think.

Now, almost overnight, we’re being asked to stop. Stop the busyness. We are being told that to help slow down the tsunami we need to do less, not more. For once, the solution, for most of us, becomes a paradox—doing less in our lives will be part of the cure. The fix is in the art of doing nothing.

And, as always, there will also be millions of people who survive and those who even thrive during this time—new businesses will emerge, books will be written, the landscape of education may likely change quite dramatically, new relationships will form, current ones will deepen, new “practices” will be put in place, others will fall away.

And, trust me, the jarring juxtaposition of nurses and doctors all over the country right now risking their lives for the ill is not lost on me. The level of compassion that is being demonstrated is astounding. Humanity shows itself in times like these–both good and bad.

But, perhaps, this will eventually become a positive “reset” for the entire world and we will have more compassion for each other and a sense of connection when this is all over. Amazingly, it is this outcome that is possible and each of us has a hand to play, which carries more impact than we might now be able to see.

The irony is that we can draw upon many, if not all, of the same principles we have been taught—Create. Innovate. Fix. Try harder. Do more. Don’t give up. Believe. The only difference is that we need to apply them in a different environment with different rules at this moment.

Know that if you are doing less, this is exactly the right thing to do now. This could even become the most restorative time of your life. And, ironically, perhaps even the most “productive.”

A client said to me today, “I mean, when are we ever going to get another opportunity like this?”

Doing nothing has new meaning. Take this opportunity and don’t allow the blanket of anxiety or depression suffocate you. It almost had me today. But, as I wrote about in my book, The Best Tennis of Your Life many years ago, we can all choose to “behave our way into the zone.”

For me, today, I will write. I will begin a new meditation practice. I will exercise. I will call a friend. I will write a note to you. I will spend time with my family and enjoy what I can control. I will appreciate the blue sky. I will believe that all of America will eventually come together and fight the good fight and stay at home.

But, make no mistake about it, as the days wear on, I believe we are going to have to make these “productive” choices every single day. And some days you may lose the battle. That’s ok. We can still win this war!

On a very different note, as I said a few days ago, I have been working on a new tennis project that I’m excited to share with you. More details on this very soon.

Until then, be well and keep choosing to engage in activities that allow you a deep focus and give you a sense of purpose.

We are all in this together! Please do reach out if you have anything you’d like to share or questions you might have. I always enjoy hearing from you.

10 Comments

  1. John Maurer on April 3, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Jeff,

    In meeting you at the 2018 Hardcourt Championships in La Jolla, I met you coming off the courts and asked you a question about your and my racquets and you spent time talking to me. Then hen you were on the trainers table (Don’s) Justin came up and challenged you It was funny how you answered him.. ‘Justin I won’t be here for you, I am going to go after Dad!’ We all laughed. You were very kind to us over the week and always said hi or spent time with us with a polite word or picture taken even tho Ralph couldn’t figure how to use the camera and it took forever. Lol.
    I have told my students about your book and shared it with them explaining and encouraging them how it will help them. The biggest one is gratitude. They took it for granted. Now with this virus going around and all the stay at home policies going into effect it should hit them squarely between the eyes of it not being taken for granted. I know Justin and I don’t. We have had not an easy life but are grateful for the times on the courts and the friends we have met and will meet again
    Just a note to say thank you Jeff.

    John and Justin Maurer

    • Jeff Greenwald on April 17, 2020 at 10:53 am

      John, I just wanted to thank you for your note a few weeks ago. I enjoyed meeting you and Justin.
      And thank you for spreading the good word about my book! I agree, gratitude is so important, especially now.

      Be safe. Take good care! Hope to see you in Lajolla one day again! Make sure you say hello when you’re down there.

      Best,
      Jeff

  2. J.J. Martinez on April 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Good stuff. There is still HOPE. Times HOPE is put a side & as we continue to get back in the fast pace. HOPE is put aside. “Reach out for there is HOPE.

    • Jeff Greenwald on April 17, 2020 at 10:55 am

      J.J, I hope you are doing well. HOPE is everything!

      I HOPE to see you in Lajolla this year with fingers crossed. You are an important part of my experience there and I so appreciate you in the box rooting me on. It’s always made a difference to me!

      Take care my friend,
      Jeff

  3. Luciano Fleischfresser on April 3, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for this post! This certainly is a unique time in our lives, and despite all the sorrow that may invade us with the present situation, we need to make a concerted effort to focus on the good that will come out of this.

    Personally, I am re-reading “Neurosculpting” by Lisa Wimberger, and I recommend it for all. Let’s make this journey together.

    • Jeff Greenwald on April 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

      Hi Luciano, yes, we get to choose where we put our focus. Gratitude is always a good choice!

      Take care!

      Jeff

  4. Frances Fayard on April 3, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Jeff – I love your insightful post. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Howard on April 4, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Got it, Jeff. Very nicely done, beginning to middle to end. You are thinking and cookin’

  6. Crafton Dicus on April 5, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Great article Jeff! I really appreciate the good words of encouragement and unique perspective. Perhaps we could catch up one of these days. I’d love to fill you in on my happenings since we first met in Maine, and hear more about what you are up too these days. Sending you and your family all the best during these times.

    • Jeff Greenwald on April 17, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Crafton. Yes, crazy times now. It was great meeting and hitting with you in Maine many years ago!

      Take care of yourself and I hope our paths cross again in the near future.

      Best,
      Jeff

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