“The only thing constant is change” is an axiom I have heard for decades. Not only is it a truism, but it is also self-evident. Yet, we zoom along in life thinking the way things are is the way they will stay. It might be we are in tough times or good times; it usually doesn’t matter. We begin to believe things will stay the same as they are. And to prove it, just think about the thoughts that go through your mind. If you are unable to find certainty in uncertainty then the following will help.
Think about how the world was pre-COVID-19. The U.S. was experiencing the second-longest Bull Market in history. Some financial experts were cautioning that it wouldn’t/couldn’t continue for much longer. Few paid attention. Most prefer to believe that things would ‘remain the same’ and trying to drain every drop of immediate return on investment from the ride.
Even as the world became aware of COVID-19, world leaders were slow to act, again, preferring to believe that such change wasn’t possible or a potential threat to ‘the way things are’. As we now know, just one day delay in putting in place ‘stay-in-place’ restrictions exponentially raised the number of infected individuals.
As of the writing of this article, the U.S. and a few other countries are loosening their ‘stay-in-place’ orders and providing economic stimulus to their economies in an effort to get back to the way things used to be. In fact, I read an article this morning by one of the largest investment companies stating that we will likely go right into a new Bull Market.
Have we learned any lessons?
As we come out the other side of the pandemic, the important questions to me are, “Have we learned any lessons? If so, what are they?”
For the purpose of this article, I want to stay focused on us as individuals.
The first lesson I would like people to take away is that what is happening around us shouldn’t dictate our response. In college, almost every student is required to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. To me, the most profound lesson from his book is this statement, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Similarly, Stephen Covey wrote in his book The 8th Habit, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
At the outset of COVID-19 here in the U.S., we saw many examples of the herd mentality, people didn’t stop to allow time between stimulus and response so as to choose what’s most important. So, what did we see? A hoarding of toilet paper. Of all the necessities in life to choose from, toilet paper was first in line. Other than the herd mentality, I have no psychological or emotional explanation. Mankind did without toilet paper until the 1920s. Surely, we could get by without it again.
But, that’s just one example of allowing others to make us feel uncertain in uncertain times.
Creating Certainty in Uncertainty
How do we create the powerful mindset that both Frankl and Covey point to so that we maintain our real and final freedom, the power of choice, to feel certain during uncertainty?
As I stated at the beginning, the only thing constant is change, with one rare exception. Our Core Identity. Both Frankl and Covey knew their Core Identity and used it as an anchor in tough times and as a constant guide for their important decisions.
However, in the midst of all the roles we play in life, most people have lost who they are at their Core. You see this when they lose a job, a child moves away from home, they go through a divorce, they retire, and other life-changing events. Even while fully functioning from a role perspective, happiness and satisfaction seem elusive; no matter how many vacations they take, no matter how many material things they gather, etc. This is because roles are ever-changing and evolving, which means they are never fulfilled.
So, if they aren’t a (whatever their job was), who are they? If they aren’t a parent, who are they? If they aren’t a spouse, who are they? And you’ll see these people desperately search to find an answer only to never feel truly happy and satisfied. Uncertainty prevails.
Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic has caused you to question who you have been being before it, during it, and if there is a need to be different after it. I believe there are changes that the pandemic has caused that will require permanent change. Some of what existed before will remain the same, or altered slightly. Whatever the case, a necessary part of being human is the need for growth with the roots firmly planted in their Core Identity.
Those in a position of leadership especially need to fully consider post-pandemic growth, to be more afterwards than they were before, to be able to bring certainty in uncertainty. Imagine having such a deep grasp of who you are that you feel an unparalleled sense of clarity, focus, certainty, and power that you help create the ‘new normal’ while others are still trying to figure out what the ‘new normal’ is.
Not everyone is ready for such profound growth. Are you? Call me so we can discuss if now is the right time for becoming a leader with more clarity. more focus, more certainty in uncertainty, and more power and becoming a leader in establishing the “new normal”.
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