The Hidden Opportunities in COVID-19

I’ve recently gone into self isolation.

I did this after finding out that diabetics have a 9.2% chance of death if they catch COVID-19.

I’m about a week in, and so far, it’s been surprisingly good..

It’s given me some time to reflect on the big picture in life, the direction I’m going, and also a bit more clarity on what’s most important. 

I’m enjoying simple things like going for walks, cooking, and catching up with close friends and family on the phone. 

I even get to swim in the sea every morning!

Isolation gives you a lot of time to think, and it has occurred to me in the past few days that this whole Coronavirus situation (if managed properly) has a lot of opportunities too.

In this post, I’m going to explore six ways COVID-19 can be used to improve our overall quality of life.


#1 – Pausing and Reflecting

As human beings, we’re creatures of habit and momentum.

Once we get going down a certain road, we find it very difficult to stop, pull ourselves away from it, and ask: ‘Am I on the right road here?’ 

Often it takes something jarring like the death of a loved one, a car crash, or an illness to get us to reevaluate our priorities and set a new direction. 

Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is one of these jarring experiences. 

It’s a rare opportunity to assess our momentum, see what’s really important and figure out if we’re on the right path. 

Personally, it’s helped me realise that writing regularly is important to me, and that I want this to be a big part of my life going forward. 

Before COVID-19 happened, my momentum was taking me towards attempting to build a big company out of The Weekend University. 

But having time to pause and reflect has made me question if this is what I really want to do. 

I know that I love writing, so I’m going to build my life (and company) in a way that supports that. 

What about you?

What momentum are you currently caught up in? And is this getting you to where you ultimately want to go?

If you’re not sure where that is, these questions can help:

1. If you had a billion in the bank, and never had to work again, what would you do?

2. If you knew you were going to die exactly 3 years from now (in good health), how would you spend your time? What would you regret most not doing?


#2 – Adversity Leads to Growth

Adversity is training

Jules Evans

If you ask almost anyone about the most meaningful times of their life, or the times that they’ve grown the most, it’s often been through a seemingly ‘negative’ experience.

I often argue that type one diabetes was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

It forced me to develop self discipline, learn about nutrition and exercise regularly. 

Doing these things has given me a clearer head, and made me more focused and productive as a result.

Had I not had the ‘negative’ experience of getting type 1, I wouldn’t have developed the self discipline or habits I have today. 

Going through challenges is what builds strength and character, and as a human race, we are about to go through our biggest collective challenge in decades. 

But I have a feeling that we’re going to emerge from this stronger and wiser than before we went into it. 

So instead of looking at the Coronavirus as something negative that is happening to you, look at it as something that is happening for you. The experience itself is raw material; how you engage with it, will determine the outcomes you get from it. 

Take worrying as an example. 

Studies have found that when worrying becomes excessive, it can lead to feelings of high anxiety and even cause you to be physically ill. 

However, it can also be an opportunity to train your mind. 

You can actually use worry as a ‘trigger’ to shift your focus towards gratitude. Research indicates that gratitude increases happiness, improves relationships and counteracts depression. 

So, if you notice yourself ruminating and worrying about the Coronavirus, use it as a trigger to write down three things that you are grateful for in your phone.

By doing so, you’re training your mind to take control of your selective focus and attention, which is probably one of the most valuable skills you can develop in our increasingly distractable world

Not only that, you’ll be happier, more resilient, and even get better sleep as a result.


#3 – Mortality awareness

“We live as if we were never going to die, and die as if we had never lived.”

Paulo Coelho

I attended a ‘Death Incubator’ experience with clinical psychologist Dr Tamara Russell in June of last year. 

It was a full day workshop designed to help participants come to terms with the fact that one day, not too long in the future, we’re going to die.

It involved writing your own obituary, a virtual reality near death experience, and some guided meditations.

The strange thing is, the more we are in touch with the seemingly grim fact of our own mortality, the more we appreciate life. 

By realising that our time here is limited, we appreciate it more. 

We take more risks.

We tell the people we love how we really feel about them. We open ourselves up. We’re grateful for the simple things. 

We do the things we actually want to do, and stop doing the things that we don’t

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are often a pivotal event and catalyst for growth in many people’s lives. People who undergo an NDE report improved self esteem, a greater sense of meaning and purpose, and improved relationships as a result.

We’ve all heard a story about a person who gets a cancer diagnosis and then majorly reshapes their life. They take that trip they’ve always wanted to go on, or they start writing that book they’ve been putting off for years.

Anyway, I left the workshop with an immense sense of clarity about what was important to me and a new found gratitude for life. 

Collectively, I think CO-VID19 is going to have a similar effect.. 

Because we are now confronted with mortality on a daily basis, and the fact many of us (and our loved ones) are now at risk, we can no longer ignore it. 

Therefore, the situation we find ourselves in can be a wake up call to get us to appreciate the very magic of the life we’re living. 

It can help us become more compassionate towards each other. 

And maybe it will move us away from being so individualistic as a culture, and help us become more community-focused. 


#4 – Overcoming Procrastination

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Plato

I’ve been wanting to set up The Weekend University online for a long time.

By doing so, it’ll open us up to an international audience, and will really drive the business forward.

It has huge potential..

But I’ve been putting it off; always finding an excuse or something else to focus on. 

However, now, because of CO-VID19, I have no choice. Who knows when the next time we’ll be able to do a live event?

It could be 3 months, 6 months, maybe even a year..

Therefore, we’ll be doing a video conference in April with three of our best speakers. 

As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and it really is. 

If we didn’t have to do the video conference to survive, it’s doubtful that I would have gone through with it.

So ask yourself, in what ways is the Coronavirus an opportunity to take action on the things that you’ve been procrastinating on? 

Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your own online business, taking a part time degree online or writing your own book. 

Whatever it is for you, now’s the perfect time to start…


#5 – The Ultimate Motivation to Improve Your Health

According to leading experts, one of the best ways you can protect yourself against serious negative complications from COVID-19 is to be in good health and to have a strong immune system.

Health is built on three simple primary pillars:

  1. Sleep 
  2. Nutrition
  3. Exercise 

What usually stops us from developing healthy lifestyle habits in these areas is motivation

We don’t have a clear or strong enough why behind making a change.

However, now that’s all changed.

Now, it really is a matter of life and death…

If you manage these three pillars well; sleep, exercise and nutrition, then you’re actively strengthening your immune system and increasing your chances of survival. 

If you don’t, then you’re contributing to the potential of your own early downfall.


#6 – A Common Enemy

I’m a big believer that one of the best ways to bring any group of humans (no matter how large) together is to give them a common enemy. 

Think about how unified the British people were during World War Two.

Or the fact that NASA put a man on the moon within a decade of JFK’s speech.  

What was behind this? 

Well the British had the common enemy of the Nazis, and the Americans were in the middle of a space race against the Russians.

I’ve often thought that the quickest way to create peace on earth would be if we were under the threat of invasion from aliens from another planet. 

In this situation, we would have no choice but to put aside our own petty conflicts, and focus on dealing with this external threat. 

Well, what if the Coronavirus served as this common enemy? 

What if COVID-19 was the external threat that brought us together?

Collectively, we’re in for a rough few months ahead. 

And the only way we’re going to get through it, is by increasing our cooperation with each other, and hopefully over time, it’ll help us to realise that despite our surface level differences, we really are connected to everyone in the world around us. 

As cheesy as it sounds, we belong to one big human family, and the world would be a far better place if we all started acting as if this was true.


Every problem situation contains seeds of opportunity – no matter how difficult it seems at the time. 

The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunities it contains. 

And the same for the Coronavirus.

There are opportunities now, that if we take, have the potential to dramatically improve our lives – both individually and collectively. 

If we pause and reflect, we can get clearer on the direction we really want to take our lives. 

If we see adversity as training, we can use the challenges presented by the current situation to shape the kind of character we most want to become, increasing our resilience, compassion and gratitude in the process.

It can make us more mindful of death and the finite nature of our existence, and therefore more appreciative of our time, our loved ones, and the magic of life itself. 

As necessity is the mother of invention, CO-VID19 is going to force a lot of us to overcome procrastination, innovate and come up with unique solutions that are going to benefit our own lives, our communities and the economy as a whole. 

It can help serve as the ultimate motivation to improve our health.

And finally, it has given us a common enemy that has the potential to bring us together and to start seeing ourselves as a global community. 

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2 thoughts on “The Hidden Opportunities in COVID-19

  1. A wonderful inspirational message to the world. I am dreading the isolation in Londons East End but agree it is all about how we organize ourselves. We have got to seek alternatives the other options just are not attractive. My college closed today and I will really miss the social integration being a Cornishman it’s in the blood. It’s not the end of the world a lot of training and personal counseling has gone online in the last few days and I really look forward to attending the online Weekend University next month. Time to reevaluate the good things we have shared and trim the negatives. I won’t miss being a sardine on TFL as effective as it tries to be.

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  2. Niall, this is a wonderful share of your worldview in these challenging times. I was excited to reflect on these things you mention and my own answers to the questions posed. There is so much value in unpacking and finding meaning in lifes experiences. Thank you and I cant wait to have WU as my favourite resource online as well as face to face soon.

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