Until this year, I was quite clear on things I did not like in life. This included coriander, being late and slow drivers. However, now I have another item to add to my dislike list: a global pandemic.
Even though COVID-19 made my life difficult by causing hell at my work, ruining my international holiday plans and ultimately locking me up on a big island (Australia), I can’t deny that it brought a lot of opportunities to reflect on life. Whilst some people complain about the temporary inability to go to the pub, others do soul searching exercises. I am probably somewhere in between.
What did you learn during this global pandemic? That people follow the crowd and buy way too much unnecessary things? That you can or can’t live without the gym? That you hate or love your partner? That pyjamas are the best work outfit you have ever had?
Whatever it was, it is important. Life permitting, we will never have to experience anything like this ever again. Why not use this as an opportunity to learn and to understand yourself and others better? I am not trying to suggest that after all of this is over, you should change your career, get married (or divorce) or become a spiritual guru. What I am trying to do is to point out that every situation has a silver lining and that perhaps constructive reflection is better than self-pitying.
What did I learn during COVID?
1. We take too many things for granted
Taking things for granted is probably one of the strongest learnings for me. I have to say – I am a social butterfly. I enjoy networking, meeting new people and connecting with the old ones. I teach at University, help to run a language school, deliver multiple pieces of training online, workout at the gym five times a week, sail on weekends and do several other activities. Deprivation from all of this was a difficult one for me – especially not being able to travel back to Europe to see my family and friends, and what is worse, not knowing when the borders will open to be able to do that.
Probably from the start of my professional career, I took all these things for granted – exercising, travelling, socialising. Not having all of that was interesting learning that made me think that perhaps we take too many things for granted. We live in an ever-changing world, and as much as we tend to believe that we are in control, we are not necessarily in charge of everything that happens around us. What we are capable of is taking charge of how we react to things that happen around us.
Perhaps taking things for granted makes us appreciate those things less? Just a thought.
2. Resilience should be cultivated
Among other things that I learnt during COVID is that resilience is not something that simply comes to you when you need it – you have to cultivate it. Elizabeth Edwards once said that “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
Resilience – same as any other character trait – has to be learnt. And as much as we do not want it, the best time to learn is a crisis. Things do not happen specifically to you. They happen around you. How you take them – is a whole different conversation.
Have you really done everything in your power to stay strong, keep positive, take care of your (and your loved ones) well-being and take this as an opportunity to ‘learn on the field’? I know I didn’t. Did you?
3. Connecting with others is important
Many years ago, Aristotle concluded that human beings are social animals, and therefore, they naturally seek the companionship of others as part of their well-being. This seems to be true until this modern day.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert (or ambivert, or…), having a social aspect in your life is important. COVID deprived many people of this part of their life which made a lot of people I know miserable. As much as you think that drinks on Zoom or online yoga are lame – these are the very things that at the end of the day might keep you sane.
Some people started socialising with people they haven’t spoken to for years. Some set up regular weekly catch-ups with family and close friends. Some started sending post-cards, others – voice messages. There are ways to connect, and even if they are not entirely perfect – that does not negate the usability of these tools in the current situation.
As Esher Parel suggested in her interview with Tim Ferris, too many people say: “My family is healthy and all things considered, all is well.” People do not reveal how they actually feel. Have you also been sold on superficial answers? Have you put some effort to ask others how people are really feeling? How are you feeling?
Humans have a unique ability to learn and through this process to acquire new understanding, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, and attitudes. It seems a shame to waste such an opportunity to learn (global pandemics, luckily, do not happen too often). Reflection is a great place to start: things I learnt during COVID are…….