In a matter of weeks our day-to-day was upended from every possible angle. We’ve had to shift and adapt in ways that we’ve never seen before, and quite frankly, in ways we never thought possible. Everything from homeschooling kids, waiting in a long queue to pick up groceries, visiting aging parents through the glass window of their nursing home, postponing major life events, and for some, losing loved ones far too soon. But to quote Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Adversity can bring out the worst in us, but it can also bring out goodness. If we take a step back from our news feed, we may be able to spot some positive outcomes and opportunities, no matter how small, that have emerged from this crisis. In my attempt to do this very thing, here are a few “silver linings” I have seen transpire over the past several months of quarantine.
Stillness is a gift
The Governor of New York has dubbed the state’s shutdown as NYS on Pause. The word itself – “pause” – almost triggers one to take a deep, cleansing breath. We spend so much of our lives going to, coming from, thinking, analyzing, making hundreds of decisions daily, doing, not doing enough, and on and on. The pandemic has indirectly gifted us a chance to unplug and also to welcome stillness where reflective thinking can have a place in our lives. Taking a pause from constant movement has brought us to a place where we can re-evaluate ourselves, realign our goals, and fully understand what brings us meaning. Of course, if you are now wearing multiple hats because you are being pulled in different directions at home, the idea of “stillness” may seem laughable. If this is the case, perhaps filling the space that was once occupied by stressful commutes or making lunches can now be filled with much needed solitude and calmness.
A chance for the earth to heal
With a sharp decrease in human activity, we were bound to see some environmental side effects – less air pollution, wildlife roaming freely in the absence of humans, and cleaner beach waters to name a few. And while these byproducts of societal shutdown are indeed positive, the reality is that a temporary human quarantine will not be enough to salvage the planet from the harm we have already imposed. Global economic activity will make a comeback, and the temporary sigh of relief Mother Earth has experienced will revert to environmental strain. So, how is this a silver lining? Well, it gives us an opportunity to rethink our relationship with nature. Indirectly, we have now seen what is possible for the environment if we all come together in conscious effort and action to put the planet on the mend. It’s time to start reinventing our footprint on the planet for the long haul. Paper straws and bans on plastic bags are honest efforts, but we’re still only scraping the surface (no pun intended).
Reconnecting with old passions and hobbies
Once upon a time, you might have played an instrument, or fixed up old cars. Perhaps you had a knack for drawing. Depending on individual circumstances, for many people this could be a time to delve into hobbies and passions long forgotten. Growing up, music played a huge role in my life. Then, along came college, grad school, and entering the workforce. My saxophone and piano sadly became nothing but dust collectors. A few weeks into quarantine, I decided to look into music courses online and was pleasantly surprised to find Coursera, an online platform offering hundreds of courses across a range of disciplines and interest areas. Just thirty minutes a day a couple of times a week and I feel like I am reconnecting with my 15-year-old musician self who used to thrive in competitions and auditions. It’s a breath of fresh air that allows me to stimulate and enrich my mind and soul with something other than my fulltime career. Maybe for you, it’s time to dust off the old sketch book or reacquaint yourself with your old friend, the guitar.
The gains from a remote work era
Historically popular in the tech industry, many companies have not yet fully bought into the idea of offering work from home options to their employees, whether for logistical or other business reasons. But when a public health crisis is thrust upon the world, you’re left with two options: either your business shuts down, or you find a way to stay afloat by implementing the necessary remote work plan and infrastructure. And guess what? It was possible. What’s more, some companies are extending their WFH policy through the end of 2020. Now that we know it is possible, employers can start considering how flexible work can be integrated into their business model and talent strategy. According to an April Gallup poll, most people would prefer to continue working from home after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Furthermore, the benefits that accompany remote work such as less time on the road, contributing less to traffic pollution, less stress, and in many cases greater productivity make it all the more appealing. When employers start embracing the positive effects of remote work, and thus realign their workforce strategy accordingly, they inevitably promote a healthier company culture as well.
People navigate and cope with uncertainty in different ways. For some, times of uncertainty trigger fear or a sense of loss of control. For others, diving into the unknown can be a boost of adrenaline and something in which they thrive. Whatever the feelings are for an individual, they are perfectly valid. But perhaps adversity and ambiguity can be capitalized on to sharpen our awareness, nurture a growth mindset, and learn how to better deal with moving targets and/or information that is constantly changing. It gives us an opportunity to do better and be better. After all, we are all continuous works of art in progress.