It has been remarkable to experience the changes related to the pandemic. Across the world, people stopped activity and focused on a common challenge. We can see that changes are evolving and our lives and world will be different. We know that change is a constant. How do we be resilient during this time of uncertainty?
There are many levels of resilience required. At a personal level, I believe we need to make the intention to be open to what is emerging. This means we need to acknowledge and accept our range of emotions and trust that we are capable of seeing new possibilities and adapting as needed. We need to take care of ourselves with the basics of rest, healthy food, exercise and meaningful connections to enhance our energy. When we practice being open, we will recognize patterns and needs, be able to draw on our strengths, experiment and learn. It is through adversity and challenges that we grow.
Resilience at an organization and community level is also needed. Here we need to engage in open-minded conversations with others and create the conditions for awareness, innovation and collaboration. We need to focus on being inclusive and respectful of different points of view and perspectives. Given the uncertainty, it is too easy to exaggerate polarization and fail to listen and understand one another. When we are centered and open, we are in a leadership position to be compassionate and support collaborative conversations. We need the multiple perspectives and diverse talents and strengths to create positive environments and clear agreements.
Let’s work to be grounded, open and clear about our intent to be resilient and a positive force as we collectively create new possibilities.
There are so many challenges facing us and our collective society. Do we have adequate health care for all? How will we strengthen our environment? How do we ensure peace amidst polarization? How do we address food scarcity? How do we support those who are isolated and lonely? How do we deal with biases and create inclusive compassionate environments? There are so many more.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the mountain of challenges in our own lives and in our communities. One response is to say it is too much and to feel helpless. Another option is to choose one issue that you care about, say climate issues. Then make the commitment to learn more about that issue. There are many resources available. Then you may choose to work with or support an organization that is focused on that issue. You may simply donate or write letters to politicians or plant trees. It sounds simple, but what if each of us devoted some of our time and talents to an issue we care about?
There is great value in picking an issue and devoting time to learning and supporting that issue. You will get the benefit of feeling more on purpose which provides meaning. You will connect with others who also care about the issue and you will see benefits for the planet or community.
Also, connect with others who want to make the world a bit better and support each other with your projects. I have hosted some of these groups and it is amazing how we can easily provide resources and ideas for each other. We create awareness, feel less alone and are more committed to taking action.
Take the first step today of devoting some time, even if an hour a week, to learning more about an issue and exploring.
I facilitate virtual courses for leaders on how to engage in open-minded conversations and to create positive and productive relationships and environments. In addition to the content and coaching, a big benefit of such a course is for participants to connect with peers across the organization and to learn from one another.
During this pandemic period of uncertainty, leaders need one another more than ever. Many leaders are working from home and are under a lot of stress both personally and professionally. When they give empathy to each other it enables them to better support their teams.
In addition, they share ideas of how to operate in this new environment. For example, one leader mentioned that staff were worried about resources being taken away from some projects and thus job security for his team. Another pointed out the need for the project and how the changes were temporary to respond to Covid-19 issues. The first leader was relieved and had a way of responding to his staff.
Peers are positioned to provide empathy and support in a way that others are not. I believe this is a time for peers to convene in small groups using the virtual platforms and technology to provide support to one another, to engage in creative problem solving and to encourage engagement and positive cultural change.
Peers could be convened to find creative ways to move forward with the goals of the organization and to work on projects that will benefit all. During this liminal space it will not be business as usual. It is an opportunity for new structures and new ways of communicating. Participants in my programs say the convening is a respite and positive experience. It is rewarding to hear about the impact on staff and the organization as they take collective action.
Platforms such as Zoom offer functions and ways of connecting that are efficient and effective. For example, all participants can be seen and the chat function allows all peers to be heard and a way to generate innovative solutions.
Support peer conversations for greater impact on all levels.
Experiences such as the coronavirus pandemic remind us that we are not in control. We can’t control such external circumstances but we can manage how we respond. First, we need to notice our reactions, our fears and concerns. We can give empathy and compassion to the part of us that is concerned. Then we can be open to more creative responses.
It is normal that we have a range of emotions when faced with uncertainty and disruption. It is also good to remember that some of our best learning and growth comes from challenging situations. Some have called this post-traumatic growth. We don’t usually wish for more difficulties but I know that out of my hardships came my strengths. For example, I now see the benefit of struggling to earn money for college and it is out of some of the challenges I faced in the workplace that I pursued my doctorate, research and then developed leadership programs.
My coaching clients report many new insights from this coronavirus experience. Some are appreciating family and health more. Some report that changes have been made in a few weeks in their organizations that would have taken years to implement. They appreciate their teams and the importance of team cohesion.
It is useful to reflect on what lessons this experience is offering you. We actually each have the opportunity to reset. We can re-examine the habits we want to pursue and reflect on what is most important to us. We can look for opportunities for growth.
Pause and reflect on what you are learning from this experience and how you are growing.
During this time of uncertainty and disruption we are each experiencing many emotions—fear, worry, concern about health, finances and the future. Many of us are working long hours and are tired. We have additional stresses such as home schooling, not being able to see family and friends, the need to socially isolate and the disruption of habits.
When we are stressed and contracted we can be irritable and not our best selves. It is easy to be swept away with negativity as we hear fear-inducing news reports.
A useful exercise is to reflect on who you want to be during this time. How are you taking care of yourself? What habits can you incorporate that support your health and well-being. Are you reaching out to those you work with and care about? Are you being courageous and taking positive action?
In a virtual workshop I am facilitating leaders focused on creating respectful environments for their teams. They took time to really listen to hear what their team members were experiencing during this time. They gave empathy and appreciated some of the challenges. They found it rewarding and experienced more connection with their team and more energy.
Having the intention of being present, empathetic, caring and connecting with others benefitted not only the leaders but those around them. They found the same behaviors enhanced their family life too.
Take a moment to reflect on who you want to be at home and work during this time and set your intention.
I often advocate the importance of an open mindset to realize potential and to see possibilities. I would also like to emphasize the value of an open heart or a positive “heartset.”
We have each had the experience of being open, present and embracing what is before us. Perhaps it is when we see a young child, a beautiful scene in nature, a piece of inspiring art, a moving song or the view from the peak after a hike. We sense the preciousness and embrace the moment and connection without judgment or fear. We are in an open and accepting state. We appreciate the moment and are open to what is and what may emerge. Our mind and heart are open. We may experience compassion for a person and their situation. We recognize our humanity and experience connection with others.
I try to remember such moments in my life so that I can reconnect with my open heart and experience the sense of openness more frequently. I have a photo of Santorini, Greece at my desk that reminds me of a beautiful holiday where the blue roof tops of the white buildings mirrored the blue skies, the water sparkled and was clear and the warm sun and cool breeze werewas delightful. I felt glad to be alive and just wanted to be in the moment. I dropped my “to do” list and judgments and enjoyed just being. When I recall that moment, I can drop from my everyday worry and stress and open my heart and connect with myself and others.
I encourage you to recall such moments and revisit them to allow yourself to connect with open awareness and relax the part of you that may be trying to figure things out, predict the future and that may be worried. You can shift your attention to being aware of awareness and open your heart to the moment. This is a muscle that we can build. We have more capacity with an open heart. We are more likely to trust that things will be okay as they have been for us. An open heart allows us to be present and to embrace opportunities and possibilities.
Choose to connect with your open-hearted awareness and experience aliveness and possibility. Choose an open heartset.
Understandably, many people I have been talking with are fearful during these uncertain times. Watching the news and updates brings anxiety and more questions. Worrying takes a lot of energy and does not change the situation. How do we calm ourselves so we can positively influence others?
A very simple practice is to first acknowledge our fear and uncertainty. You might say, “something in me… is afraid of the unknown and what I am imagining.” You are more than this thought and the truth is there’s a lot of negative circumstances and possibilities. This is “what is.” The larger part of you can hold and be with the part of you that is concerned. Just as a parent acknowledges their child’s fear, we can just be with this part. We don’t have to demand that it shape up or change or argue with it.
After we acknowledge “what is” we can simply notice our breath and as we breathe in we can say, “what is” or “world” and as we exhale say and imagine spreading peace. You can use any words that support your intention of spreading compassion, peace and kindness.
Breathe in: “What is” or “World” (imagine taking in the uncertainty, pain and negativity)
Breathe out: Peace (imagine spreading peace, compassion, kindness, light and positivity to all)
You can consciously do this simple breathing practice when you are walking, sitting, being with others, watching the news and anytime. It is also useful to be grateful for all that we have and what the world provides.
One small thing we can do is to calm ourselves, breathe and spread positivity. Notice how you feel and the impact on others around you.
Like many of you, I work hard to feel like I am in control. I pride myself in being responsible. However, the coronavirus reminds us that there are some things we can control and some that we cannot. We suffer when we try to control what is not within our power to do so. We can’t control the virus at this point, but we can manage how we respond.
Yes, there is a lot we can do. We can be proactive and follow recommended hygiene practices of washing our hands, engaging in social distancing, sheltering in and self-quarantine. While we would like to know the outcome of this pandemic and how our lives will be impacted, we need to ride the uncertainty.
We need to face our fear of not knowing. We need to give ourselves and others empathy and understanding. We recognize that when we are contracted in fear we lose the full capacity of our neocortex. We may react and do things we regret like fight over toilet paper or hoard food.
We can use this experience to practice being in the present. We cannot control the future but we can become calm to face what is in front of us. We can be responsible and positively influence others. Leaders are needed to support others through this unknown territory.
We don’t have to be strong alone. In fact, together we can support and inspire one another. Reach out to others during this time. Let people share their real concerns such as worries for elderly family members, children, finances and the future of businesses. Really listen to people, give empathy, assurance and support.
Visualize finding strength during this experience even when we know we are not in control.
The disruption caused by the coronavirus gives us the opportunity to revisit and reflect on what is most important to us. Were we spending our time and life energy in the most useful way? What can we let go of that is not really essential? What do we most miss and value and how can we incorporate that into the present circumstances? How might we reimagine our lives? How might we reimagine our society and world?
This moment gives us the collective opportunity for conversation about what is most important. How do we collectively weather this storm? How do co-create a new future?
I encourage you to consider these questions and engage in open dialogue with your family, friends, colleagues and community. We have the opportunity to create new patterns. Leaders can encourage being open-minded to possibilities rather than contracting in fear and self-concern. Together we can use this disruption for positive change.
Begin to be still, listen, reflect and engage in what is possible with others for your family, team and our connected world.