So, what have we learned?

As you are painfully aware, the last few months have wreaked havoc on our collective psyche.  Fears about our health, an economy facing a historical uphill climb, and disruption in most aspects of our lives has forced most of us to re-evaluate the status-quo.

And its not over yet, perhaps not by a long shot.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t pause NOW to examine what we’ve learned from the chaos, how we’ve grown, how–despite the challenges–we’ve gained new skills and new capabilities!

Of course, for many of us, this is counter-intuitive. Oh, how we long for “the way it was!” Before COVID-19. Before working in our “comfort-pants”. Before all-day Zoom calls. Our brains love the certainty that surrounded us before all that and resists seeking a different, perhaps, better path.

But this forced re-examination should be a good thing. While operating in the status-quo, we not only knew our environment, we were comfortable in it. And it is that comfort that lulls us into a state of complacency in a world that demands and requires change. If there was ever a time to drastically change, no matter what our brains prefer, this is it!

So how do we change when are brains aren’t in the mood? With chaos around us, many of our brains have gone into distress. While this is useful when being chased by a hungry animal, it can be an obstacle when trying to be productive at work and supportive at home. In this environment, we are flooded with cortisol, adrenaline, our hearts beat faster, and blood flows to our larger muscles. We don’t think as clearly, don’t connect well with others, and good decisions and innovation are next to impossible. While an important part of our survival, its not ideal for being our best selves. “In other words,” writes best-selling author, David Rock, “just when people most need their sophisticated mental capabilities, the brain’s internal resources are taken away from them.”

And this is why a self-evaluating pause is critical today. A pause to move our mindsets from threat to growth. From negative to positive. To move from the comfort of the past to a future of growth. As Dr. Carol Dweck pens in her best-selling tome, “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

While there are numerous evidenced-based ways to do this, taking an intentional pause to note and appreciate our growth allows our minds to settle and accept change (rather than be held prisoner to it.) Note that your brain is shaped by what it rests upon. So let’s rest upon what we’ve learned from the past few months.

Here’s a few positive suggestions to get you started. We’ve learned:

–In a crisis, we are often at our best.

Everyday essential workers have become well-deserved heroes. Friends, colleagues and neighbors have demonstrated a depth of care, self-sacrifice and kindness that has brought us all closer together. The best of humanity has been laid bare despite the risks.

–Corporate Good is not an oxymoron.

The list is too numerous to print but many corporations have made the right call by putting people first: many paying employees even if they can’t work. Some companies have donated time, money and supplies, even re-purposing factories to create PPEs and ventilators for those stricken with COVID 19. When companies care, everyone benefits.

–We are wonderfully adaptable.

We all have psychological mechanisms to help us handle chaos and adapt. As most have experienced in the past, no matter how bad things get, we tend to drift back to our happiness set-point; we are wonderfully capable of turning tragedy into triumph. This crisis has tested us all but it has also proven our incredible resilience.

A Call To Action

As you complete this read, take a moment to do this exercise yourself. Consider the challenges you have faced and how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned. What are you doing now that you couldn’t/wouldn’t before? How have you stretched and succeeded? And finally, how can you use this knowledge that you have not only survived this crisis, and actually grown as a result of it, to make you more effective in the future? Better leaders, better employees, and better people.

To summarize, here’s part of an email I received from Liam, a former colleague, “The best part is that I have been able to spend lots of quality time with my grand daughter.  Time I would not have had if it weren’t for this crazy virus.  I get off a teleconference and can spend a few minutes with her, see her smile and it just totally brightens up my day.  I just finished dancing with her in my arms in the living room… totally spontaneous and wonderful!!”

So what have we learned? You’ll discover that when you do the exercise yourself. But, in general, we’ve learned that we’ve got this…big time!