I do hope that you are managing to keep well and safe as Covid-19 seems to spike almost globally.
With the persistence of the pandemic coupled with 2020 coming to an end at the same furious pace it showed over the last eleven months, I often hear it being asked what we have learnt from this year that we can implement as we return to the new normal which, in itself, seems to me to be a blatant oxymoron. Firstly, I think it has become clear that we are highly unlikely to be returning to anything and secondly, whether or not there will be a normality to our future is probably a mute point at this stage; however, whatever the future brings it is likely to be new. So, the first question is probably not what will the future look like but what have we learnt with the benefit of hindsight, ironically also known as 20/20 vision, from how we were before the pandemic and what we have learnt about ourselves, our society, our businesses, etc that we can take into the always uncertain future, that is going to help us to thrive?
Personally, at a macro level, I am hoping that the world (or western world anyway) finds new ways to do democracy and capitalism. I often (half-) joke that democracy was never meant to be about politics and capitalism, was never meant to be about greed. Without those vices these two institutions might just be able to work, even if not perfectly. However, present-day politics and greed are both, in my view, based on a scarcity mentality, a fear that I might not get what I want – an ego – or ethnocentricity that doesn’t look at what’s in the best interests of all. And it’s a vicious cycle because it pulls everyone into this fear and competitive ambition.
At a micro or individual level, I think something similar has brewed for a long time. For a long time, I have been of the view (and I hope my psychologist readers will excuse me if I am wrong) that there are basically two emotions – love and fear. All the other emotions seem to me to fit into one or other of these categories. Coincidentally, over the two days prior to me writing this newsletter, I have heard these two emotions, love and fear, being discussed twice, once in a podcast I was listening to and the other in a book summary I was reading:
- The podcast had Michael Neill talking about what he called Original Grace. His view, as I see it, was that babies are born perfect and that our imperfections and insecurities develop with our personality. He provides the example of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and says if sin was only ‘invented’ when Eve chose to eat the apple, then they were impeccable or without sin prior to that, so that original grace precedes original sin. My take on this is that, whatever our religious or spiritual views might be, grace is akin to love and so-called sin akin to fear and that we focus too much on original sin rather than original grace with the consequence that our fear grows into our insecurities, self-limiting and self-sabotaging beliefs and anxieties.
- The summary was of a book called The Evolved Executive by Heather Hanson Wickman and the bit that particularly caught my attention was when it said that the evolved business and the evolved leader should lead with love, not through fear. Once again, for me, our focus on fear and greed has taken the soul out of businesses. As the pressure gets bigger, the soul gets smaller and the drive for profits gets bigger.
And so, for me, the macro and the micro seemed to integrate. I think we are learning that we aren’t able to control everything. We can’t control the universe and nature – if the ecological equilibrium in forests gets too much out of kilter, then nature fixes itself by decreeing that forest fires will occur. We have also seen that we can’t say that the pandemic is going to go away because we say so. The decisions we make contrary to the interests of the whole seem to come back to bite us sooner or later.
And it seems to get worse as our fears mount. The other day I heard a virtual keynote speaker say that we have two pandemics this year – the second one is anxiety. In my mind, anxiety and depression became a pandemic long before we noticed the virus. My psychologist friends say they have never been busier than now! Whatever the sequence of these things, anxiety and depression seem to me to be serious fear-based, ever-spreading emotions.
Where does this all leave us? Well, if anything is going to improve our governing and financial institutions such as democracy and capitalism, and our environment, it has to start at an individual level. That brings me full circle to love and fear. The only antidote to fear must be love so what if we became more compassionate, starting with self-compassion and compassion for others (our family, friends, fellow workers and so on) and the environment around us. What if we cared more for others, and protected ourselves less?
Sounds idealistic? You’re right! This is not like instant coffee – just add water and stir twice. But what would happen if you were more self-compassionate, by 1% (perhaps per day or per week)? What would happen if our leaders cared 1% more for the world and people they are leading? Small change, big difference. Better people, better leaders, better world. Isn’t it worth a try going into 2021? Isn’t it miles better than what we are currently doing? Worth a try? What if world leaders started caring about the world we live in?
That’s my New Year’s resolution! What’s yours?
Kind regards and best wishes
PS: A cautionary note: please understand that the examples I use and commentary I provide are largely anecdotal and based on my observations of and experience with numerous clients over 20 years. Although I tend to read extensively, I am not a psychologist and the “theories” contained herein are intended to provoke thought, discussion and awareness. I hope that you enjoy them in the manner intended.