Do you feel like the apocalypse has suddenly descended without warning?

You are definitely not alone. As we all greeted 2020 with hopeful hearts, not one of us could have predicted that in a few short months we’d all be locked away in our homes, fearing for the physical health of our parents, the mental health of our children, and financial health of our country. And yet . . .

 . . . here we are.

Now, if you’ve read my book, my articles, or you know me at all, you know I strongly believe that every struggle is an opportunity for growth. Those horrible things that happen to us are actually happening for us. A challenge is a gift, because it teaches us how to be stronger, wiser, and better.

Of course, you might think that if there were ever an exception to the rule, the coronavirus pandemic would be it. This is a disaster with widespread consequences. Our movie theaters and gyms and restaurants are closing. The economy is in serious danger. When we pass our neighbors on the street, we have to give them a six-foot berth. This is the stuff of dystopian novels.

It’s true. These are crazy times. But your current situation can still be a gift if you choose to see the opportunity in it.

It’s up to You to Define This Era for Yourself

When you turn on the news or log in to social media, you hear other people characterize this time of social distancing using pretty consistent terms.

This moment in time is surreal and frightening.

It’s panic-inducing on a worldwide scale, but it’s dull and depressing inside your home.

This is an era of restrictions, depravation, hoarding, and panic.

No one is crazy for making these observations. But it doesn’t help anything to live by them day to day. There is no way around the coronavirus pandemic. It’s happening. We’re here. And we have to go through it. So instead of panicking over the things you cannot control, focus on what you can control:

Your mindset.

Step away from fear and uncertainty for a moment, and ask yourself: What is this struggle here to teach me?

I guarantee you, every single of one of us is about to learn a lesson. In fact, you’re probably learning already. None of us will take toilet paper, small businesses, or date nights for granted ever again. I know that much.

The coming months are going to change you. The beautiful thing is that you get to decide how.

How Can You Grow Personally?

You might have more free time on your hands than you’ve had in years. Odds are, you’re already mourning the loss of social activities you loved. Club meetups. Weekend getaways. Sunday morning coffee at your favorite joint around the corner. You worked so hard to build to this life of activity and connection. Suddenly, your routine is gone without warning.

It’s natural to feel that loss, especially now, when so much is uncertain. Our traditions and routines create a sense of comfort and community.

But focusing on what you can’t have will only hurt you. Now is the time to explore the possibilities within your new normal.

If you’re like 99.999% of human beings, there are many things you’ve always said you’d do “as soon as things calm down.” Good news! Things have calmed down a lot . . . at least as far as your schedule is concerned.

Maybe you always wanted to learn guitar or research investment property or cultivate a daily meditation habit. We are constantly wandering through the world, dreaming of who we could be if only we had the time. Well . . . you’ve got it now.

What’s even more exciting is that learning new skills or taking time for neglected hobbies helps cultivate a spirit of flexibility and creativity. We tend to get stuck in our daily ruts. Our routine starts to feel like an unchangeable reality. Have you ever thought about starting a bold marketing campaign for your business or exploring an entirely new career, only to find yourself abandoning the idea because it’s not practical? That’s because when you don’t exercise a mindset of possibility, you have a tendency to only see limitations.

Now that you’re stuck inside, you have no chance of living an enjoyable life without exploring the possibilities. Think outside the box now, and I promise you’ll be a bolder, brighter person on the other side of COVID-19.

How Can You Use This Time to Grow Closer to Others?

We already see it happening. Even as we start shutting ourselves away from one another physically, our community is reaching out more than ever.

Librarians still conduct story time on YouTube. Nursing homes help residents connect with their children on FaceTime. Fitness instructors share free videos online to help people stay healthy indoors, and viewers make donations to help sustain those instructors through difficult times.

As human beings, we gravitate towards one another, even when we have to do it all virtually. Now is a great time to ask yourself how you can contribute.

Also bear in mind that it’s not just about the larger community. You are about to spend a lot of time with your family. The thought of being with your spouse and children 24/7 might be a little overwhelming. Especially when you can’t take them to the zoo or take time out to watch March Madness.

But if you’re willing to adapt, you have an opportunity to get to know your family in a whole new light. This time of social distancing forces us to rely on old-fashioned family entertainment, like playing in the yard, playing board games, or . . . you know . . . talking to each other. Our regular lives are so full of noise and distraction. For once, you have the time and space to offer your kids your undivided attention.

Decide who you want to be for your family and for your larger community in this time of universal struggle. Cultivate those skills. And hang on to them even when the crisis is over.

How Can You Become a Source of Innovation and Inspiration?

I have no doubt we will overcome the coronavirus pandemic. But society will never be the same. Neither will business. In the coming months, we will be forced to adapt to the challenges of an isolated world. And when we can finally start opening our homes and businesses again, we’ll be looking at a new economic landscape and new standards for innovation.

Get ready now.

Work on developing those skills that will help you advance your business in 2020 and beyond. Give serious thought to ideas and dreams you put on the back burner. Get to work on creating that passive income stream. Cultivate your skills as a leader.

If you are a small business owner, you and your team are probably swamped with worries. How long will your customers remain in isolation? Where can you find new income opportunities as people are increasingly afraid to spend money? What will the economy look like on the other side of COVID-19?

Your ability to innovate, lead, and inspire has never been more important than it is right now. Fortunately, you also have more time to grow as a business owner than you ever have before. Use this crisis to build a sense of commitment and camaraderie within your team. Motivate your employees to innovate and grow with you, so you can work together to build a stronger company now and into the future.

Stop looking for reasons to be afraid, discouraged, or disappointed.

Instead, take a moment to step away from the panicked noise of social media and frantic news reports. Breathe deep. And ask yourself:

How can I use this struggle to become the person I always wanted to be?

Be true. Be you. Be great.