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fresh thinking

There is a German saying which, roughly translated, goes something like “shared suffering is only half as bad”. Depending on how you see it, it can mean that if I tell you my problems, they only seem half as bad or, since we both suffer the same bad situation, it’s easier than suffering alone. In these difficult times, it is probably a bit of both for many people. Yet there is another part of this common saying that is often left out: “shared joy is double joy”.

In that vein, I would like to share some of my problems and joys with you in the form of 5 lessons on which I have been reflecting. I encourage you to do the same with the people close to you now as we cannot afford to stop learning, especially in a crisis.

  1. Leadership opportunities abound! Particularly now, when there is less guidance than ever, I experience people lamenting a lack of clarity about what to do. By contrast, I also observe a lot of people, with or without formal authority, finding the courage to attempt to fill that vacuum. They identify pressing issues, reach out to others, find out what they can and press for a common decision on what to do. So far, I have only seen this met with gratitude. No one has asked them “who told you that you could do that?”
  2. Self-care is a pre-requisite for other care. One of my colleagues uses the analogy that in the pre-flight safety briefing you are always instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. In “normal” times, many of us deal with stress by pushing it away, ignoring it or claiming we thrive on it. However, these are not normal times. For me, self-care means scheduling fresh air and exercise time into my day. It means continuing to paint in my studio even though I can think of work that needs to be done. These activities refresh and enable me to face increased challenges with a freed mind and buoyant spirit. How do you practice self-care?
  3. RE….! This is a time to do a lot of re: -assessing, -prioritizing, -inventing. Things that seemed so critical 2 months ago are not even on my radar anymore. On my fresh air walks, I see nature going on about the business of spring and rejuvenation is all around us. New leaves are budding, flowers are blooming and during breaks, I watch birds build their nest in the birdhouse off my terrace. The period we are going through invites us to reassess what is important, re-prioritize our activities accordingly and become the best version of ourselves we can be in what many already call the post-covid world.
  4. Trust is the new “crypto-currency” and empowerment is a key pillar. It’s hard for me to relate to an intangible crypto currency. You can’t “touch” it like a euro, dollar, pound sterling etc. Equally, trust cannot be “touched”, only felt. Few things demonstrate trust like empowering others. We know from psychology that the “demand v control” ratio is a key indicator of peoples’ sense of well-being. If a person feels that they have enough control or influence over their environment and circumstances to meet the demands placed upon them, even if those demands are difficult, they experience much lower stress. We have been working with clients extensively on how successfully to empower people more, helping them to manage their stress. We are confident that the investment in time and effort will pay off in increased trust when we return to more normal conditions.
  5. Learning is communal. In our recent webinar work, we have put an emphasis on building communities in which people can learn from each other. None of us have ever lived through a world pandemic of this size before. There is no book to read or expert to ask. However, there are a lot of us in the same boat searching for answers. We are grateful that, through asking good questions and providing a platform for organized sharing of answers, people are finding that they are not alone. By pooling our experience and knowledge, we are learning how to deal with this together.

I could continue but I will stop at my 5 “Lockdown Lessons”.

We know that there are many more out there and, in the spirit of communal learning, we would be delighted if you would comment below and share your learnings from these challenging times with us.

Author Michael Couch, Partner dolphinblue