by Radha Ruparell

On April 5, 2020, I started feeling tired, more tired than I usually feel in the middle of the day. Two days later, I realized that I had been hit with this new virus that everyone was talking about,  COVID-19. The virus was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. I started the year as a healthy, active, young professional. Then I contracted this virus and suddenly found myself bedridden, unable to work, and suffering from a full-body assault on my heart, brain, stomach and other organs. More than a year in, while much has improved, I still have not recovered my full health.

We all face turning points in our lives. One minute we’re doing well, the next, we’re in the middle of a crisis. Turning points can be terrifying. The ultimate question is, how are we going to face them?

Here are three lessons I discovered while battling the biggest turning point in my life:

  1. Get rid of your “invisible mask”: The single biggest thing that helped me through my battle was having a strong support network. In the early days, I barely had strength. So I reached out only to a doctor friend and to my sister for support but no one else. But soon, a work colleague of mine, who I would not have expected to be one of my core pillars of support, started reaching out to me every day. Her encouraging text messages offered me so much comfort and helped me get through the difficult nights. I used to think that reaching out for help implied weakness, that strong people don’t complain, and tough it out. Now, I believe the opposite: that reaching out for help is not weak at all. What I discovered in removing my “invisible mask” was that, on the other side lay connection, a deep human connection with others so beautiful that it completely stirred my soul. What might be possible if you removed your “invisible mask?”

2. Slow down and soak it in: Like many New Yorkers, I lead a busy life. This experience has gotten me to slow down and take life in. Slowing down helped me rediscover things I had taken for granted. When I left my apartment after 27 days in isolation, the first thing I noticed were the beautiful tulips growing in a little patch outside my building. I had lived in this apartment for a year. Why had I never noticed these flowers in springtime before? Oh, and the feeling of a breath of fresh air, a gust of wind, and the first time seeing trees after a month indoors! What would life feel like if we always approached the world with childlike wonder? What if you soaked in the magic of each moment like it was your first and last on earth?

3. Focus on “being” not “doing”: When my life flashed before my eyes, I found myself wondering not about what I had accomplished, but who I had been along the way. Had I been kind to my family and friends? Had I taken full responsibility for my mistakes? We spend so much of our lives focusing on what we are doing, but in the end, all that matters is who we are being. I have found that one way to bring more of a being paradigm to your life is to pick a word or two that defines who you want to be, and then treat this as your highest priority. For me, that word is “generous”. What is it for you?

I’ll leave you with one final thought from my new book, Brave Now: “Being brave is not an innate characteristic reserved for a select few. At any moment, any one of us can choose to be brave.” 


Radha Ruparell has worked with CEOs, Fortune 500 senior executives, social entrepreneurs, and grassroots leaders around the world to unlock their leadership. She currently heads the Global Leadership Accelerator at Teach For All, a global network of organizations in 60 countries committed to developing leadership to ensure all children fulfill their potential. Her new book is BRAVE NOW: Rise Through Struggle and Unlock Your Greatest Self.

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