How we should live, regardless of the times

Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership
9 min readNov 24, 2021


How we should live regardless of the times. Life lessons focused on mental health and a life well lived.
Photo by Valeria Zoncoll on Unsplash

There are an infinite number of reasons to worry. An endless list of concerns distracting from our lives and our work.

Coronavirus, atomic bombs, climate change, gang violence, loneliness, political and cultural polarization, autocratic governments, genocide, fake news, systemic racism, addictions, domestic abuse, unemployment, wildfires, droughts and famines. The list goes on. These threats call for our attention, each telling us that our end is near if we don’t keep our eyes on it every hour of the day.

And we should pay attention, at least enough to be aware of what is going on around us, and at least enough to take responsibility for doing our part where we can. But it must not come to define us, nor distract us from the life each of us was meant to live.

In other words,

Our primary focus must not be on the threat or on the times in which we live, but on how we should live regardless of the times and regardless of the types of threats we currently face.


Think about it. If your focus is on any of the items on the list above, what are you not focused on?

I have noticed that the more time I give to thinking about these threats, the less time I give to my personal and professional priorities.

You might say, “But Mike, I can’t just ignore Covid, the risk of losing my job, or the loneliness I feel”. And you would be right. We cannot and should not ignore these, which would only set us up to be blindsided by them later.

I can identify with each of those concerns at certain points in my own life, and when I tried to ignore them, they always returned later with greater force. While I’m no expert on the subject, I have read enough to know that one of the keys to mental health is to choose the third path. In other words, rather than ignore or be devoured by such concerns, we must acknowledge and work through them responsibly.

What does this look like?

If you’re concerned about losing your job, then have a transparent conversation with your boss to see how you can learn and grow to become invaluable for your organization. Don’t trust your boss? Find a mentor within the organization who can act as your champion, or perhaps find a new organization in which you can find such a relationship.

If you’re worried about climate change, do your part by recycling and limiting your use of water and fossil fuels. Encourage your friends to do the same. Perhaps even consider how your strengths, passions, and core values might fit in a field that will help make our lives and work more sustainable.

If you’re lonely, seek out supportive, encouraging community that won’t pull you into other problem areas (such as addictions). From my experience with this particular issue, there are a few good places to start:

-Take a class at a local community college or community center.

-Sign up for a local sports league and ask to be placed on a team. (Maybe they’ll invite you to hang out after some of your games.)

-Visit a local church and find a small group. (If this seems daunting, consider a ‘seeker’ church — one that focuses on building a supportive community for people who are interested in community and open to exploring faith, but don’t know yet what they believe. Every city has these, even if it takes a little research and a few visits to identify them.)

What does any of this have to do with distraction?

Actually, everything.

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

When we allow something to devour us — eating up all of our attention — we lose sight of everything we care about, giving less of our time and mental energy to the most important people and tasks. In other words, we are distracted. We trade what we most care about for worry, which is always a terrible trade.

Additionally, when we ignore a concern, it may be ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ but it’s surely regrouping to come back in greater force. At least until it gets strong enough that we can’t ignore it. That’s a dangerous game to play, so don’t do it.

Ignoring the problem or threat just sets us up for bigger distractions in the future.

Instead, acknowledge the concern, then ask: ‘How can I take responsibility for this?’ A good place to start is taking responsibility for it in your own life (finding friends, recycling, etc.).

A next level would be taking responsibility for others. On a small scale, this may look like inviting a lonely friend to hang out with you and your new friends. On a large scale, it may look like redirecting your career toward a field that battles climate change by creating a more sustainable world (if it fits your core strengths, passions, and values).

Instead of seeing oneself as a helpless victim (or potential victim), once you or I decide to take responsibility, it’s incredible how a solution nearly always presents itself.


When we let something to regularly distract us, we are allowing it to define us.

As children, we said, ‘You are what you eat’. As adults, we might say, ‘What you read, watch, listen to, and who you hang out with quickly begin to change you.’

If we live in a world of distraction, we surround ourselves with reminders. Not only do these take away from the time, attention, and energy we give to the people and work we care about, but they also begin to change us — to define us.

Who are you? Who do you want to be?

I imagine that your answers to these two questions would not be ‘the girl who worries all day about falling back into my addiction,’ or ‘the guy who worries all day about losing my job’.

What we need is something that defines us far more deeply and powerfully than any of these concerns, such that our answers to these questions do not change based on the threat or concern of the moment.

Equally, when we have this unshakable core, our responses to these moments come from who we are, rather than from the tyranny of the urgent threat or concern.

‘Ok Mike, that sounds great. But how?!’

Great question. I’ll offer a basic framework here, and plan to dive deeper into these topics in the near future.

Genuine, Responsible, and Free

Here are three useful steps to conquer worry, move forward in what matters to you, and live in freedom from the inside out.

Step 1: Begin to respond differently to current concerns

Coronavirus, immigration, political/cultural polarization, and systemic racism have been topics of conversation in my home. Instead of allowing these concerns to dominate our thoughts, we are learning to acknowledge these as important issues, talk about them, and identify how we can respond responsibly to each of these to ensure we’re not deeply distracted or passively defined by them.

While most of us sigh at the idea of responsibility, it’s actually a beautiful thing.

When I don’t take responsibility for an area of my life, then any wind, wave, or tremor pushes me around. When I choose to be responsible, I respond tactfully in order to help shape these forces or their impact— at least on my own life, and often on the lives of others including those I care about most.

It doesn’t mean these forces don’t affect me. It means that, instead of being their victim, I have a place at the table in deciding how they affect me.

In the extreme sense, think of the story of Viktor Frankl in a WWII concentration camp.

Step 2: Move from tactical response to identity

Responding responsibly is a great start, though it still means we’re reacting to the forces that surround us.

Once we have learned to take responsibility, we can go deeper. We can get to an even stronger place. We can be proactive by anchoring ourselves before any storm hits, before any worry tries to distract or define us.

Though the idea of being genuine (or authentic) may seem ‘soft,’ it’s actually one of the best ways to build strength.

Recall the questions above: Who am I? Who do I want to be?

When these are anchored in something greater than ourselves — that holds significant meaning for us, does good for others beyond ourselves, and doesn’t primarily rely on our own strength to make it true — we experience two incredible benefits: The joy of knowing and appreciating ourselves more deeply, and the strength to live as that person regardless of the winds and waves.

Simon Sinek wrote an excellent book, Start with Why. I fully buy into his concept. However, I do believe there is an earlier step that makes his approach even more powerful:

Start with who, and the why will flow naturally from it.

We must ask who we are, and discover the answer, even before we can ask why. Only then can we expect to find a clear, genuine answer. Ask, ‘If this is who I am, then how would I respond to my present concerns?’

I’ll address this more deeply in the coming months. For now, begin to ask the question.

Step 3: Move from survival to “fully alive”

Rather than surrounding ourselves with reminders that increasingly distract us and give us reason to worry, we can focus forward on where our identity takes us.

In a world surrounded by reasons to worry, our natural focus and priority is avoiding or preventing that thing.

However, if we insulate ourselves with reminders of who we are, and a truly inspiring why that flows from it, our number one focus and priority is in pursuing that instead. Our lives become meaningful and inspiring to us, and likely to those around us.

We begin playing a much bigger game than simply trying to survive.

And at this point, we come to best understand why going through this process is ultimately worth it. We are made for far more than simply survival.

As St Irenaeus famously wrote,

The glory of God is man fully alive.

Survival by avoiding the onslaught is not begin fully alive. Neither is simply navigating it with tactful responses. We must learn who we truly are, and allow that person to live fully alive in the world.

We must use our time, attention, and energy FOR something, not simply against something we’re afraid of or don’t like.

And what we’re pursuing — what we are for — cannot be simply self-promoting nor merely self-preserving, or else we have missed the point. Pride, as with fear and survival, is all about me. For each of us, to be fully alive is at once to know who we are, and to realize that our identity calls us to live for others — to be about something far greater than ourselves.

Wisdom of the ages

To put it another way, what follows is a short excerpt from the 1948 essay, On Living in an Atomic Age, by professor and author CS Lewis. Brian Tome suggests this approach as you read through it:

“Replace the word “atomic” with “coronavirus”. And ask yourself, how will the bomb (or the virus) find you?”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat at night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented… It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

What the atomic bomb has really done is to remind us forcibly of the sort of world we are living in and which, during the prosperous period before, we were beginning to forget.

…Let the bomb find you doing well.”

In other words, we must not focus on the times, but on how we should live regardless of the times.

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Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership

To live a life worth imitating: Son, Husband, Father. Passion for developing leaders + elevating families, organizations, & the discourse of US/Global affairs