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How to Be Productive During Difficult Times

In this November 14, 2019, photo, a student attaches a note to the Resilience Project board on the campus of Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. The purpose of the project is to let students know that it is OK to struggle. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
How to Be Productive During Difficult Times
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

When we are struggling, when we have a hard time focusing, or when we have a hard time in general -- we may turn to others for help. We may even wish we had a hero to help us.

Well, today we offer you some advice.

Turn yourself into your own hero!

That is the idea behind Kendra Levin’s self-help book The Hero Is You. When you make yourself the hero of your own life, Levin suggests, you not only gain focus but also purpose. To date, The Hero Is You has been translated into Turkish and Russian.

Levin based her idea on the teachings of American professor and writer Joseph Campbell and his Hero’s Journey.

Campbell studied stories from many different time periods and many different cultures. He found that many stories had something in common: a hero who goes on a journey. On this journey, the hero overcomes a great challenge and then comes home changed for the better.

Making ourselves the hero in our own story, Levin explains, helps us in many ways. For one, it can give us hope as stories often do.

“I think that’s one of the reasons that we love stories. We love to read to books. We love to watch movies and TV shows – we love stories because stories are all about hope and the belief that after something bad happens to you, you get some value out of it.”

In stories, writers often give their hero, the main person in the story, a purpose. Levin suggests we do the same for ourselves and identify our purpose.

Kendra Levin coaches writers, artists and anyone struggling to find focus in their lives.
Kendra Levin coaches writers, artists and anyone struggling to find focus in their lives.

“It’s important and valuable for all of us to see ourselves as heroes on a journey. And the reason for that is that we need to have a sense of purpose. We need to have a sense that what we’re doing matters and that it’s leading toward something.”

She says this can be a powerful tool for anyone facing a difficult time. Levin shares similar advice on the website Psychology Today.

Levin is a book editor and life coach. She uses this method with struggling writers and artists. Levin also has used her teachings with people in jail or facing possible jail time. She observed that when these people saw their experiences as part of a story, it was easier for them to see a better future for themselves.

“It’s really important and valuable to use the hero’s journey as a tool for seeing yourself as a hero and seeing this moment in your life as just that -- a moment, rather than this is just how life is going to be forever.”

Write out your mission and vision

In stories, heroes also have a mission - what they want to accomplish - and a vision - what they see for themselves. Levin suggests that we write out our mission and vision, not just for a project but for our lives as well.

With a clearly defined mission and vision, events in our lives no longer feel like separate events. They become a part of our larger story.

“There’s just a lot of value in having a mission and a vision. So, a mission meaning kind of like: What is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish? And you can have a small one and a long-term one. You know, you can have more than one. And then a vision. What do you see for yourself? What do you see that’s possible? And I think that that can really help people to stay focused on what they are trying to accomplish.”

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Levin explains that when we know our strengths, we can use them fully. In difficult times, we can make our lives easier by focusing on our strengths.

It is even more important, she adds, to identify weaknesses. All heroes have them. On their journey they face their weaknesses and learn from them.

“And the more we know about ourselves and the better we understand ourselves, the better we can figure out what to do to make the most of who we already are.”

Have small goals within a larger goal

Levin reminds us that the hero’s journey is not a one-time thing. It is a journey you are on your entire life. So, she suggests having small goals that you can measure in some way. This is especially helpful if you have a large goal like learning English.

“And that’s very much the case with something like learning a language. You’re never really done. So, to feel a sense of accomplishment it’s so important to break it down into smaller pieces.”

Our life’s journey, says Levin, is ongoing and ever-changing. She reminds us to be realistic with our goals and to be kind to ourselves, especially during difficult times like a global pandemic.

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

focus – v. to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific : focus – n. a center of activity or interest

advice – n. suggestions about a decision or action​

journey – n. something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

overcome – v. to successfully deal with or gain control of (something difficult)

life coach – n. an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems

forever – adv. for a limitless time

accomplish – v. to bring about (a result) by effort

pandemic medical noun : an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

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