How the crisis has shaped us

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The scale of how this crisis has impacted lives is unprecedented (the word ‘unprecedented’ has been used so often now that I feel it has lost its meaning). When the crisis first unfolded in January and even up to February, we felt like helpless observers to the crisis, until it hit us closer to home and saw its massive impact to the world.

Well, one of the first things which this crisis has prompted me to do was to start writing again. No matter how rusty my writing is right now.

Fragility of life and resilience of the human spirit

I think the first thing which I’d learnt from this is the impermanence of all things and the state of things. It may seem obvious. However, we plan each day like we will live to our expected life expectancy. The practice of Buddhism has always expounded the philosophical concept of impermanence. It is a concept which seems far from our daily lives or perhaps just something we do not want to think about in our lives at this point, until we are impacted.

With all that advancement in science today, our human lives are still very fragile. There’s fragility in life, but I’ve also learnt that we’re resilient and adaptable which are a result our minds. We managed to adapt to the way we work and the new stayhome weekends. We start to see video conferences as a norm. Our minds have the power to shape and reframe reality, which also gives us control over our happiness. Happiness, a fundamental need for us all, seems so simple, yet so profound at the same time.

Power of our thoughts in moving us

Our thoughts shape our behaviours. We are a product of our thoughts. I participated in an instructor-led virtual course on ‘Leading through crisis’ recently at work, of which John Maxwell’s talks were used as our main discussion. What he’s said about a crisis moving us resonated with me. It [Crisis] never leaves us the same. We make the choices of whether it moves us positively or negatively.

We’ve observed how this crisis has moved us to [re]act, mostly compelled by the need for self-preservation. Above that, I think what has changed the most may be mindset. We gain more perspective during crisis, as we all review what is more important to us. All the things we care about seem so frivolous in light of what’s happening around us. We get bothered about small things which happen at work but at the end of the day, do they all matter? At the end, we reflect on how we’ve lived our lives. Are we happy most of the time or are we angry, bitter and sad? Have we spent enough time doing what we enjoy in life? Have we tried to be better everyday? How are other people sheltering in place? Are we being overly obsessed with ourselves? ?

Change and the new normal — opportunity for recalibration

It is not easy to make big changes in our lives even with these perspectives but I think it is important to see this as an opportunity to take baby steps towards positive change. The shared human experience has brought about lots of positive stories of people coming together to help others. It has also brought about a collective sense of gratitude and appreciation. We try to help others in ways we can while hoping that we resume the ‘normal’ state of things.

What’s ‘normal’? I don’t think we will be going back to that ‘normal’. Shouldn’t we challenge the status quo? While we hope for some semblance of normalcy, I do hope that we change some of the ways we see or do things. It should be seen as a way to rethink how we’ve been conducting ourselves before and recalibrate for improvements. One thing’s for sure is that we will face more issues with privacy, as being able to track and trace people worldwide will be critical. That’s a separate discussion.

The world is changing and has changed many times before, and at the moment, with current state of politics and social issues, the situation is more uncertain than before. What we can manage are ourselves — thoughts and actions.

At a more individual-level, we have found new ways of living and working. I’ve been working remotely with colleagues around the world before the crisis, so having to work from home now is not that much of an impact to me. That said, there are limitations now to meeting people and the occasional meeting of people to exchange ideas. The absence of that platform now has manifested into other ways of connecting — through sharing online.

Colleagues who were used to working together physically at the office will now have to find ways to stay connected and will need to work harder at forging relationships. It will and has changed the way we communicate and connect.

Companies will need to start looking into thinking virtual teams-first and think about how the structure of teams may look like. While at it, also streamline technology (all of the existing technology) instead of adding on to existing systems. To save cost in the long run, efficiencies from have a good integrated system and better adoption.

Mindset shifts are needed to operate in today’s environment. As teams start to evolve, we would see changes in our roles and that means having to evolve in our functions. A growth mindset which looks at continuous learning is key today. That applies to leaders as well.

Our content consumption and content expectations have changed too. The ‘peer-to-peer’ (content from one user to another) support network online is emerging. As we are probably aware, online media consumption has increased during the crisis as we consume more online content during this time. Consumption of user generated content is getting popular as people seek to see how other people are living their lives now during the crisis. People were searching for content on home workouts, working from home and the hashtag #StayHome grew from zero conversations to a total of 3.9mil mentions within a month.

After getting used to seeing ‘made-at-home’ content and celebrities who make that more acceptable, are our expectations of branded content going to change, if it hasn’t already evolved? We seek more authenticity and honesty in the way the brand communicates with us. Corporate videos may be a thing of the past as we put content creation in the hands of more employees [and even leaders] themselves.

Our expectations of leaders have changed and partly thanks to, Jacinda Ardern, among other brands that attempt to balance people and profits. We expect leaders to lead with courage and integrity. The time for progressive change, is now.

How has the crisis shaped you? I would love to hear your views.

First published on my Medium page:

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