Reenvisioning our lives and world, post-COVID-19
Thursday, April 16, 2020
As days of social distancing turn into weeks, it’s not a bad thing if overdoses of the news, scrolling through social media posts and funny cat videos feel increasingly hollow.
Upheaval surrounding the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to adapt, create new routines and be resilient. And although much remains outside our control these days, each day gives us opportunities to observe silver linings and forge new beginnings for our lives and world from this point forward.
Use time at home to hone in on what really matters
Essential workers report remarkably light traffic in major cities while the rest of us continue to obey stay-at-home orders. In the midst of collectively grieving multiple losses, from loved ones taken and layoffs to our sense of control and normalcy, we’re suddenly the bosses of our time as external structures of work and school have vanished.
People I know personally and on social media report taking advantage of this restructuring and respite from overly busy living to heal, to get closer to family and to help others. Spikes in the purchase of puzzles, yard games, house paint and bakeware speak to humans simplifying, unplugging, playing and nesting.
“We’re being given a huge opportunity to pause and observe how we spend our time and where we direct our focus,” says Jill Sawchuk, my longtime mentor who has taught yoga and mindfulness for 20 years.
“What if everyone uses this time to slow down, to take care of their own lives, do the things they haven’t had time to do: paint, draw, play music, tell stories, spend time with loved ones, reach out to old friends, find peace with the past and create a vision for the future?” she asks.
Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy UK, encourages employees to be of service in their communities and take time for creative self-realization in the agency’s guide to managed remote working.
“Do something you’ve been meaning to do for ages, but have never had the time to do. Write. Lose weight. Read Proust. Learn Spanish. You may never get this chance again.”
Slowing down, facing fears and living passionately
While Sutherland’s sense of urgency might just be the catalyst some need to snap out of complacency, during this pandemic I’d caution against approaching a pastime or long-dreamt-of endeavor as a “should” or out of any pressure to improve oneself. It’s more likely that you’ll experience joy and fulfillment listening to what Tamara Jacobi, author of “Wildpreneurs,” a guidebook for turning passion into business, calls your inner compass.
To discern what your inner compass is telling you, tune into that feeling of fear that pops up when embarking on something unknown, says Jacobi, then get in touch with the feeling that accompanies that fear — most likely excitement or anxiety. “That’s your barometer, if it’s excitement, that’s pointing you in the direction of growth, whereas when it’s anxiety that may be a warning sign to slow down and proceed with caution.”
Slow is especially important right now. Our normal fear and anxiety is compounded as we internally process what’s occurring in the world and cycle through the stages of grief. Yet grief is sobering and can remove the haze of what’s irrelevant making us acutely aware of the essential.
“With so much uncertainty and fear in the air, we’re being challenged to look inward and face our own fears,” explains Sawchuk, who advises students and people interested in creating happier lives to incorporate into their daily routines contact with nature, breath awareness, conscious movement and natural foods.
If some shift you've made during the current crisis is working for you — whether it's long walks, boasting your immune system with green veggies or reading Proust — it makes sense that it'll also nourish you when the pandemic lifts. Surely more activities will be competing for our time, still how we spend it is ultimately up to us, if we're courageous enough to stand up for it.
“What are you learning through this event that you hope to take forward?" asks Sawchuk. "And if you could have a total reset and design life post this event, how would you live your life differently?”
Jacobi puts it like this, “Ultimately, it comes down to living a life of no regrets. Where you won’t look back and wish you’d done things differently.”
Rebuilding a kinder and saner world
Along with collective grief, there’s plenty of evidence these days that points to a collective desire for a healthier existence on our planet.
“I don’t know a single person who was feeling at ease in our world before all this was happening,” explains Sawchuk. “Everyone I spoke with thought the world was spinning out of control. And now we have a chance to participate in creating the world we want to live in.”
She notes how individuals in her home province of British Columbia have rallied together with healthcare workers toward a common goal for the good of everyone. We’ve seen this play out in Italy and other areas plagued by the epidemic as people demonstrate the power we have when we unite.
“As I see it, this global phenomenon is revealing to us so many important issues,” says Sawchuk. “It’s time to ask ourselves what kind of world we want when this is over? Do we want to go back to things as normal or do we want a new normal?”
From a business perspective, Sutherland expresses similar sentiments.
“When this is over, we can build a better, saner commercial world and a finer society,” he says. “We are hardly an anti-capitalist business: but most of us I think have had the inkling that, for the last decade or so, business and government priorities have been over-optimized along the wrong lines. This is an opportunity for everyone to start afresh with something better.”
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