The impact of COVID-19 has literally rocked our world. As this virus has rapidly spread, schools across the country have closed, businesses have been shut down, and people are working remotely in their homes. Everyone is challenged in a way that we did not expect a few short months ago. Whether people are working from home while simultaneously caring for their families, providing instruction to their children because it is required by their schools, or simply adjusting to the "new normal," these past few weeks and the time moving forward have been, and will continue to be, a drastic change. Since my life has slowed down, much like everyone else in recent weeks, I have come up with a few thoughts related to the state of affairs in our world. I have come to one certainty: we will never be the same.
Conventional wisdom holds that when experiencing adverse situations, there are two paths to follow. One path leads toward struggle, resistance, and negativity. This is essentially post-traumatic stress and one that is very real. The second conventional path is one of neutrality where the person is no better or worse after experiencing the situation; they simply move on. Research in the field of positive psychology from the likes of Shawn Achor, the late Chris Peterson, Lawrence Calhoun, Richard Tedeschi, and many others much smarter than me have discovered there is actually a third path that leads to resilience and growth. Tedeschi has said people develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life when experiencing post traumatic growth.
In the midst of COVID-19, is there a chance that we can come out of the situation better than when we came in? My definitive answer is absolutely, 100%, yes. Please know that I am in no way minimizing the absolute horror that people have experienced or will continue to endure during this awful pandemic. I loved what was said in this Altogether Mostly blog. The author asks what if we came out of this situation with more empathy for critical workers, what if we took advantage of the time at home to deepen family connections, or what if our children found ways to entertain themselves productively while being stuck in the house? There are so many events that happen in our daily lives. Some of these events are small, very routine, and monotonous, while others are enormous and completely rock our worlds, like COVID-19. How we choose to respond has been, and will continue to be, absolutely critical during these challenging times. Will we respond with courage or fear? Will we choose to model kindness or resentment? Will our focus be connection or isolation? Our responses are everything if we hope to experience desired outcomes.
I was absent on the day of school leadership courses where we learned how to appropriately respond to a global pandemic. In all seriousness, none of us were prepared for this. We didn't ask for this. However, we have an obligation to respond in the best way we know how. What I know with 100% certainty is that if we stay connected to our people, live in a way that is true to our values, and treat all people with dignity and respect, we are going to get through this thing better than when we came in. We will never be the same, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.