7 Ways to Rebuild Your Life after COVID-19

Today, we are in the midst of a COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. The virus has taken many lives and affected almost everyone across the globe. The economy in the United States has ground to a halt and even experts are operating on sparse data. Many people are out of jobs and fear a lack of future work.

Although we are swimming in a sea of unknowns, we do know some things. We know that we will come out of this. We know that we will be different, individually and collectively. At a visceral level, we know that we are all connected!  What one of us does, impacts the others.

The question for all of us is: How can we make our new world a good place to be – possibly even carve a better future for ourselves?

A Path Forward: The CHOICES Map

choices map rebuild life after covid19 self fulfillment

We believe that any new chapter involves making critical choices. We would like to offer a tool that you may find useful as you navigate through your new world.

This tool is the CHOICES Map.

We encourage you to use this roadmap to help you prepare for your Next Chapter. We also encourage you to use this with any small community you engage in. Fortunately, you can use technology like FaceTime or Zoom to connect remotely when you’re not able to connect face-to-face.

The following mantra summarizes the 3 most important messages of the CHOICES Map model:

Let go of your stories, Add your dreams, Keep exploring.

The CHOICES Map uses the metaphor of a journey and consists of 7 conversations that are designed to help you explore the question: “Where do I go from here?”

“CHOICES” is an acronym for the 7 conversations.

These conversations are the vehicle to help you navigate this new reality.

C – Culture: Check your Rearview Mirror

Culture represents the lifestyle that you have observed and experienced from your childhood until the present. Until now, you may have assumed that this is how life is for everyone and this is how it will be for you throughout your adulthood.

Questions to ponder:

  • What was my lifestyle before the pandemic?
  • Looking ahead, how might my lifestyle be different after the pandemic?

Please define “lifestyle” in a way that is meaningful to you. “Lifestyle” means different things to different people. We encourage you to think about a range of areas, including family, career, friendships, health, finances, personal growth, spirituality, etc.

H – Hurdles: Watch Out for Speed Bumps

speedbump life after covid19

Hurdles represent obstacles that you may face by assuming that the lifestyles of your culture will inevitably continue. These are the assumptions that you may hold as true about how life will be and should be. Perhaps you believe that you are entitled to certain ways of life or you have earned certain rights through previous accomplishments. This only works if you can continue your former lifestyle. Holding on to these assumptions, however, can become dysfunctional.

Questions to ponder:

  • What assumptions do I have about what my life should be like in the future?
  • Which of these assumptions do I need to let go?

O – Options: Choose your Route

Options are the opportunities that you see for yourself going forward. They represent possibilities that you may want to explore in the short and long term. You may think of them in terms of yourself, your family, or other communities you belong to. Now is the time to dream about your options and to set a vision for the future. During Conversation 5 of the CHOICES Map, you will develop a specific plan or course of action.

Questions to ponder:

  • What are my dreams for my Next Chapter?
  • Realistically, what options are available for me in the short term?
  • What is my vision for the long term?

I – Inspiration: Select your Traveling Companions

Inspiration involves the people and experiences that touch your heart. You intentionally draw into your world the people whom you care about and the resources that inspire you to live with meaning, purpose and joy.

Questions to ponder:

  • Who are the people I want to be a significant part of my life going forward?
  • How am I going to foster these relationships?
  • What else can I do to fill my heart with inspiration on a daily basis?

C – Course of Action: Put the Pedal to the Metal

open road rebuild live after covid19

Course of Action is the plan that you create to guide you through this Next Chapter. In this conversation, you engage your head to put the details and specifics in place so that you can move forward on the vision created in Conversation 3 while including the inspiration that your heart craves. This is also a time to give voice to who you are and what you stand for.

Questions to ponder:

  • What is my plan for the future?
  • Is my plan realistic in the short term, given my current life circumstances?
  • Does my plan give voice to something important to me?

E – Experimentation: Head Out on the Open Road

Experimentation represents the mindset that you carry throughout your life. It involves a mood of curiosity, a thirst for learning and a willingness to stretch out of your comfort zone. When experimenting, you embrace new ideas, try something new and bounce back if it doesn’t work.

Questions to ponder:

  • Am I living with a mindset of experimentation and innovation?
  • What do I love to explore and learn?
  • What experiments could I add to my life now? In the longer term?

S – Self-Fulfillment: Find your Yellow Brick Road

yellow brick road rebuild life after covid19 self fulfillment

Self-Fulfillment encompasses all that completes you as a human being. It is about living up to your potential in life. It can be expressed through your spiritual connection to a higher power and through your connection to everything and everyone around you.  Self-fulfillment is demonstrated when you approach your life with a sense of play, humor and lightness — even when the circumstances are tough.

Questions to ponder:

  • What practices do I follow in my daily life to foster self-fulfillment?  Consider the following:
    • Social connection
    • Exercise and movement
    • Meditation and other stillness practices
    • Rituals
    • Play and laughter
  • What self-fulfillment practices will I commit to going forward?

In Completion

Rituals, including acts of completion, are very helpful for all of us. Allow yourself to reflect on the life experiences you have been through.

These questions are drawn from the ritual of Honorable Closure developed by Angeles Arrien and evolved by her students. In “When It’s Over, It’s Over,” one of her students, Mary Corrigan, writes:

“Honorable Closure allows us the time for reflection and integration before we rush into the next thing. It helps us name the threads that we want to pull through into the future and tie off what we are leaving behind. It creates space for the old form to give birth to something new.”

  • What am I grateful for from the COVID-19 experience?
  • Where was I positively affected?
  • Where was I stretched or challenged?
  • Is there anything I need to say or do to feel complete?

Gail M. McDonald and Marilyn L. Bushey are co-authors of Retirement Your Way: The No Stress Roadmap for Designing Your Next Chapter and Loving Your Future. Available on Amazon in print and digital formats.


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