Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Pivot During the Pandemic

4 ways you can transform your life and step towards happiness, including starting a business or side hustle

It was January 2020, I was super excited to celebrate my 35th birthday with my family in Japan. My mother and brother had flown in from India and my husband and I flew in from Arizona. It was the perfect start to the year. We walked around Harajuku, went on a pub crawl in Golden Gai, spent hours shopping at Takashimaya, explored the beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and of-course, slurped delicious ramen every opportunity we got.

But alas, it was time to go home. I began to pack while my husband, who was procrastinating about packing his bags, watched the news. I remember this moment so clearly because it was the first time I heard about the coronavirus when a news anchor reported that a deadly virus from bats was spreading in China and the first case was now being reported in Japan.

l. to r. Payal Gupta (mother), Deviki Gupta, Sahil Saini (husband), Yash Gupta (brother)

As much as I enjoyed my trip to Japan, I was looking forward to returning home to America, where everything would be safe. Little did I know that within months, America would become the epicenter of the pandemic and our lives would change forever.

Over the next few months, as the world attempted to cope with the pandemic and daily rise in COVID-19 deaths, the bad news continued to flow with the eruption of social unrest ignited by the death of George Floyd, wildfires in Australia and protests around the US elections. Life felt like a rollercoaster ride. There were good days where I felt grateful. There were also days where I felt stuck in a routine and completely overwhelmed by my daily tasks—and I could not move.

The first step on my transformative journey was to hire a therapist. I wanted to learn actual tools I could use to manage stress that was spiking during the pandemic—causing weight gain, poor sleep quality and mental exhaustion.

Soon Arizona went into a lockdown. With nowhere to go, the journey to seek answers began. At this time, I came across a quote from my mentor Daisaku Ikeda, a Japanese Buddhist philosopher said, “If you summon your courage to challenge something, you’ll never be left with regret. How sad is it to spend your life wishing, ‘If only I had a little more courage.’ Whatever the outcome may be, the important thing is to step forward on the path that you believe is right.” This quote inspired me to take small steps throughout 2020 to have the courage to step out of my comfort zone and live my life purposefully.

Here are the steps I took to transform every aspect of my life. Hopefully they will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone in 2021:

Talk to Someone

First things first, as women throughout our lives we wear multiple hats—best friend, loving daughter, perfect wife, efficient entrepreneur or employee, home organizer and cleaner, birthday planner—the list goes on. There is pressure to do all of that and look great while doing it. While society and media encourage women to strive for perfection, there is little or not enough focus on encouraging women to focus on their mental wellbeing and empowering them to have compassion for themselves.

The first step on my transformative journey was to hire a therapist.

I wanted to learn actual tools I could use to manage stress that was spiking during the pandemic—causing weight gain, poor sleep quality and mental exhaustion. The first thing therapy helped me understand is my relationship with exercise. I was encouraged to create multiple opportunities throughout the day to get in some exercise, and not quit if I didn’t get in a workout first thing in the morning.

I found myself struggling to overcome my own negativity and self doubt.

Now came the real challenge.

It was time for Diwali, a traditional holiday that marks the beginning of the new year in the Hindu calendar. During Diwali, there is a celebration of lights representing the victory of light over darkness, and of good over evil. I found myself struggling to overcome my own negativity and self doubt. I wanted this gorgeous red outfit to wear on Diwali—it was expensive and with all the weight I gained during the pandemic I didn’t think I deserved it.

My therapist encouraged me to buy the dress and explained that contrary to popular belief, punishing yourself wasn’t going to encourage weight loss. So, I decided to buy the dress! I felt confident and loved every moment of wearing it. That experience inspired me to take the next step for my physical wellness.

Learn to Love Your Body

Have you heard the saying “Your body is your temple”? I heard it, however I never consistently treated my body in that way. I remember even at my skinniest not feeling confident in the way I looked. During the pandemic, as my sweet tooth won over me daily—I gained a lot of weight and this affected my confidence. But, the confidence I gained by celebrating my body in that celebratory red dress, inspired me to get into an exercise routine.

Be active and get moving!

To be very honest, I hate going to the gym and associate exercise with physical pain. I had to find something I was familiar with and wasn’t scared to try again, so I turned to Yoga, which is a holistic spiritual, physical and mental practice that originated in India. After reconnecting with an old acquaintance from New York, who had begun to teach private Yoga classes over Zoom I was motivated. I had finally found a teacher that wasn’t regurgitating ancient yogic philosophy, but was making the practice relevant to life in 2020.

Give reality the middle finger.

During meditation, she guided me by saying, “Give reality the middle finger, you are capable of flipping any situation.” That was it, I was sold. I knew I had found someone who could help me transform my body inside-out, one stretch at a time. I am happy to report that through yoga I was able to eliminate my back pain. As a result, I can finally touch my toes!

I am happy to have begun my weight-loss journey and glad I have found a form of exercise that I enjoy. Most of all, I am grateful for my body.

Consistently Fight Your Self-Doubt

I have worked at a consulting company as an Industry Analyst for EdTech and big data markets for more than five years. My work involves speaking to vendors in the market, understanding trends, building market forecasts, identifying market opportunities and delivering recommendations.

While I loved the team I worked with, I felt the need to take all this knowledge and apply it in a more dedicated role for a EdTech or big data company—where I could have more of a direct impact. I feel strongly about making education more accessible and using data to improve learning outcomes. However, I was unable to muster up the courage to step out of my current role and my comfort zone. Why? Because my mind was cluttered with thoughts such as “Will they value my skills?”, “Will they provide work life balance?” or “Will they pay me enough.”

…be prepared and don’t be hard on yourself. As long as you are giving it your best shot—in time things will work out.

Time for a reality check.

As I share these self-doubts, I can see how illogical they sound. It took a pandemic for me to realize that life is short and if I didn’t work towards finding a job I loved—I would be filled with regret. So I dug deep to find the courage and wisdom to share with my manager, my dream of working for an EdTech company. Through the process, I was able to negotiate a 6-month sabbatical, where I could go out and explore opportunities and my old job would be available to me if I chose to return.

Now, if you choose to pivot or make changes to your career—yes it takes courage but it will also require having a lot of compassion for yourself on this journey. I am in this process right now and it is a rollercoaster ride. Some weeks will be filled with networking and interviews and other weeks you may have nothing on your schedule. So be prepared and don’t be hard on yourself. As long as you are giving it your best shot—in time things will work out. When doubts do emerge, write them down and then continue to make efforts towards your career goals. Think of yourself as a Samurai—using your sword of wisdom to slice through these self doubts on a journey towards your dream career.

Nurture Your Side Hustle

For years I have believed that since I spend eight hours per day in my job, that it will feed all my ambitions and interests. This is absolutely false. A single job may not give full play to your skills, interests or values.

So how do you fill those gaps and feel more fulfilled?

You can choose to explore them as a hobby, volunteer at an organization that aligns with your values, or you can create a side hustle.

Get creative and discover what brings you joy.

The pandemic helped me find my side hustle. Back in March, my husband and I were both working from home. Going out was restricted so to keep things interesting, I started decorating small spaces in our apartment for dinner dates. On one occasion, I set up a little picnic in our living room with floor cushions and a lavish spread of Indian food—my husband thought I was punishing him by making him sit on the floor to eat.

While the indoor picnic was a fail, the light bulbs in my brain were suddenly switched on. I thought back to all the celebrations we would have at home growing up and how the pandemic had forced us to rethink how we celebrated—be it virtually, in small groups and at home. I created an Instagram with the handle @good_earth_therapy, named after my favorite Indian decor brand, Good Earth India.

Get inspired and be inspiring.

The theme of the feed is focused on giving a modern twist to Indian decor and designing spaces for celebrations at home. My ideas and posts have since been re-shared by design and decor companies across the globe including Umbra (Canada), Living Spaces (USA), Jim Thompson (Thailand) and Nicobar (India). Based on the audience feedback and insights I received from the blog, I am now in the process of setting up my own business around virtual event design and planning.

While I have miles to go before I sleep, I hope my pursuit of happiness inspires you to take even a single step towards landing your dream job, achieving mental wellbeing, finding your side hustle or treating yourself to that beautiful dress.

Resources & Connections

Yoga Instructor: Shuchi Kwatra

Online Course: Science of Well-Being offered by Yale

Book: The Magic Weight-loss Pill: 62 Lifestyle Changes by Luke Coutinho

Follow Deviki Gupta on Instagram @good_earth_therapy.

By Deviki Gupta

Deviki Gupta is an Edtech and big data consultant, organizer of data, spaces and events, lifelong learner, introverted extrovert, spiritual gangster, traveler, storyteller and global citizen.

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