7 lessons of ‘the Rona’ and how they have hopefully changed us forever.
These past weeks have been surreal, to say the least. All of us have been riding the wave of uncertainty, fear, inertia and hope as we come to terms with this new way of living. It is easy to stay stuck on what we are losing… But I can’t help but wonder about what we are gaining and learning.
These past weeks have been surreal, to say the least. All of us are riding the wave of uncertainty, fear, inertia, boredom, hope, joy and optimism on most days and it would be easy to focus only on what we have lost or are under threat of losing – our jobs, our businesses, our fitness, the roof over our head, our savings, our normally harmonious family relationships, our sanity!
But I can’t help but wonder about what we are gaining and learning. Every single day it’s teaching us something we’ve perhaps needed to learn. The lessons we haven’t thought were important. The trick will be to apply this learning in the post-Rona era. Because it will come, and maybe sooner than we think.
So, what have we learned that we shouldn’t forget?
Put simply human connection is an exchange of energy between people who are involved together in something. That privilege has been taken away to a large extent in this time of shutdown. It’s hard to exchange that energy through a screen or over a phone – you can convey feeling but the raw energy, the feeling of connectedness and value that gives us meaning, is a physical thing. And by losing it, we’ve realised how important it is. Let’s not forget how important human to human connection is when we go emerge into the post-Corona world.
This virus does not discriminate. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, Christian or Atheist, young or old – it is perhaps the biggest equaliser of all. And it has taught us that no single one of us is bigger, faster or more powerful. We can’t buy our way out of it. Nor can we use impressive negotiating power to appeal to its logic. None of us can see, hear or smell it. Whether we’re a merchant bank or café, the economic implications are profound. We can’t pray our way to safety. It just doesn’t care about any of that. Rather brutally, it’s taught us we are all equal. None of us is more or less worthy of escape than another.
We don’t like not being able to control things. We like to be able to solve problems and move on. We don’t like to wait for things – we’re used to having whatever we need (or don’t need as the case may be) at the end of a button, over a counter or delivered via a screen. This virus has forced us to stop and wait – for updates, for advice, for information, for service at a supermarket. But while waiting, we are breathing more slowly, engaging more with others, learning how to be present in a moment, learning that immediacy isn’t necessary to live well, learning that waiting our turn doesn’t mean we will lose.
We cannot deny what is happening around us. Life as we knew it has changed. And we cannot control it. All we can control is our reaction to it – how we spend our time, whom we stay connected to, how we define ourselves. Acceptance can lead us to a sense of calm and a feeling of inner peace that the hurly-burly of our previous life never afforded us. And more importantly, it enables us to see and be grateful for what we have right now, right here – the things that really matter when the chips are down.
This has perhaps given us all more joy than anything – watching how we humans adapt and find creative ways to communicate, lift each other up and get on with business and life in the face of the unknown. Our social media feeds are full of people creating fun together, business problems are being solved with the smart use of technology, families and friends are using video conferencing to stay in contact, we are streaming the theatre, gallery and travel experiences into our homes. We’ve found our creative and lateral thinking skills and learned how to apply them, and it feels great! Let’s keep that wonder alive as we return to the new version of our world.
In the past few weeks, the whole world has come together in ways we could never have imagined just three months ago. At a local, state, national and global level, in business and at home, we have seen people make sacrifices for others, put themselves in danger for others, put aside their own fears to lead others, share the inconvenience of the restrictions to minimise harm to others - the shared purpose of beating this virus has brought us together and on the most part, brought out the best in us. We’ve learned that together we can get through anything.
Now here’s a concept our generation hasn’t embraced very well! Our grandparents and parents knew about it – two world wars can do that to you. The economic fallout of the Coronavirus has put many of us on the path to learning what is essential and what we can do with less. We’re learning that the latest smartphone isn’t essential nor is the latest model SUV, nor the theatre tickets, nor the footy. A roof over our head, food on the table, the love of family and good health are the most important things. Everything else can wait.
The culmination of all these things. Our ability to adapt to changing conditions is what sets us apart in times of crisis and deprivation – Darwin’s theory of evolution proved that we survive through adaptation, and we are proving again, that creative problem solving, re-purposing what we have, accepting the changing environment, staying connected to each other and working together toward a common goal is what will see us emerge into the new world.
Imagine a world where all these things are ’normal’. We’ve been given the opportunity to create just that. Let’s not waste it.