2021 Forethought

Can the pandemic modify our thinking and living

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Having faced the havoc caused by the novel coronavirus, our approach in 2021 must change.

The virus has waged war on our physical body, our social well-being, and for many of us, our livelihoods.  The human existential crisis was caused by a random event in China.

We have been humbled by a tiny virus that is merely half of  DNA — a strand of RNA.

The stories that we used to tell ourselves do not hold, plus the stakes are so high.  2021 will require a course correction.  My attempt at course correction is one of connectedness and contemplative living.

I emphasize these not just as coping mechanisms but as evolutionarily important steps.  If the virus mutates and we do not evolve accordingly, we could lose the war.

A new way of doing business:

At work, we need to move away from the mentality of casual networking with many, to deeper connectedness with a few.

Employees and customers must be approached meaningfully and purposefully.  Lockdown has brought our personal and business worlds together.  The old compartmentalized world has been inefficient, stressful, and unnatural.

Overuse of Zoom is not resulting in stronger engagement either. We would do a better job if we focus on what is important to employees and customers, both professionally and personally.   

Even social issues of inclusion and equality are no longer off-limits to discuss with customers and employees. The solutions of issues may be debatable but not their need.

Social media will also lose its appeal unless they become the platform of purposeful engagement instead of generating controversies. Companies’ products are easier to change than their culture,  creating opportunities for new startups.

Businesses will retain employees when they become mission-driven.  This is how JPL, an arm of premium university Caltech and funded by NASA to develop its space missions,  brings scientists together, with no illusion of personal glory or getting rich quick.  Its mission is the game-changer.

The economic gains are an outcome of uplifting people, not just through handouts, but by funding vocational training for the post-corona world, like the G.I. Bill for the veterans post-WWII.

A new experience with family members:

On the personal front, under lockdown, professionals working remotely or retired, are now living under one roof, sometimes with their adult kids. Cohabitation without outside social interactions can become annoying.

Respecting individuality and boundaries and bringing work communication practices to home, can be useful.  It is a new connected experience with family members.  We need each other, more than ever before.  It can be a learning experience.

My husband and I have been married for 45 years, and like many couples, our communication breaks down resulting in arguments.  Our adult daughter would soften it saying, ‘have you asked mom or dad?’.  It is a simple technique change, but effective.

Dealing with old relationships in a new way takes work.

Stronger bonds get created with conflicts and conflict-resolutions, forming a new form of connectedness.

We also observe more closely how other adults in the house organize themselves and from their finer ways of navigating their professional lives.

Connectedness is far more than love and affection.

Self reflection:

Connections grow and we grow by engaging in contemplative thinking and living a better self-examined life.  In conversations with ourselves, we change ourselves and try to accommodate people that we want to connect with.

The training for contemplative living starts with improving our own integrity and selflessness.

Focusing on self-integrity training simplifies lives and brings tranquility.  In that sense, it is easier to work upon, but is deeper than we think. Col. Eric Kail, a recipient of several Medals of Honor, wrote, “Being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral or ethical violation, ever. It means having the strength of character to learn from those ‘misbehaviors’ and seek continual self-improvement. […] integrity (should not be) only as strong as the secrets they keep”.  Further, the vanity of superiority in this pursuit can impede progress.

These ideas can be confusing.  But for directional change, we need to rethink. That is the essence of contemplation.

The opposite of selflessness is selfishness.  Selfishness is placing ourselves in a place of wanting all the credit but none of the blame.  Selfish people are annoying to be around.

Selflessness is a characteristic we can sense in others but not in ourselves, that is why selfishness is difficult to change.  According to Kail, “when we ask a question, make sure we are listening instead of waiting to talk.” I also sense it when I reread my email responses, and see how many sentences start with “I.”

These concepts seem too philosophical to adopt, even for me.

In preparation for the war against the pandemic, I like the words of Dwight Eisenhower, also a US General in WWII, “…plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.

We may not get there in one shot.  But we can plan to focus on gaining further insight within ourselves for contemplative living in 2021.

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