It’s been almost two years since this dreaded lurgy has been with us. It has been devastating in so many arenas and to so many lives. And yes, we are all fed up with the “new norm” … hells bells even that term irritates me … but the truth is Covid is probably going to be around a while still, so it is time to stop using it as an all-encompassing excuse for everything.
It has been with us long enough now that many are starting to see the silver linings that have emerged because of it. And it is the people who are exhibiting resilience and grit during this pandemic who are seeing the many speckles of light in what has been quite a dark period.
Unfortunately, there are those who are just blaming everything on Covid and sitting back like deer in headlights, waiting for things to get ‘back to normal’. But guess what, it is never going to go back to how it was before. Too much has changed, incrementally and fundamentally.
Life is never going to be the same. So my advice is, stop using Covid as your one size fits all justification for everything around you. You are not a victim. Or you don’t need to be.
Before I get shot down for my seemingly taciturn opinion on this, please know that I am in no way minimising the destruction and trauma this horrific virus has left in its wake. It has been vicious for many people. I have been to more memorials in the past 18 months than I have ever attended in my entire life. And they are cold and lonely memorials because generally they are online. I too had Covid, and there were some very hairy days when I didn’t want to go to sleep for fear of not being able to breathe and of my oxygen levels dropping too much while I was asleep. Having Covid changes you. Living through this pandemic has changed us all.
I know it has been devastating. I am not taking anything away from that. While it is time to acknowledge the damages, it is also time to dig deep, find our resilience and adapt. We can’t keep waiting for it to get better. We need to make it better ourselves.
Seligman coined the phrase “learned helplessness” which is when people repeatedly fail at something and eventually stop trying to succeed. They learn to be helpless.
The famous experiment Seligman conducted on this was using dogs. He had two groups of dogs, which he put in two similar conditions. Group one was put in a box where they had a harness and a lever. The dogs were shocked repeatedly until they pressed the lever. When they pressed the lever, the shocks stopped. Group 2 were then put in the same box, with the lever, but pressing the lever didn’t stop the shocks.
He then moved the dogs to a different box with a small barrier in the middle of it. On the one side, the dogs were shocked, but if they jumped across the barrier to the other side, they were not shocked. ALL the dogs in Group 1 jumped across the barrier and avoided the shock. In Group 2, only 1 in 3 dogs jumped across to avoid the shocks. Initially they had no chance of avoiding the shock, in the first box, but in the second situation they had a fair chance to stop the shocks, but two thirds of them didn’t even try. They had learned helplessness.
If we look past the questionable ethics of the experiment – in fact, a lot of psychology experiments had very dubious ethics, so we will just avoid that conversation for now – we can see that only a third of the dogs from Group 2 did not allow the failure from the first situation to affect them from trying to avoid it in the new situation. They saw their failure in the first situation as temporary. This means that they are essentially optimistic. An example of an optimistic explanatory style is saying, “My business has struggled because I didn’t adapt enough to manage the pandemic restrictions.” The failure is viewed as temporary because if he/she adapts more, the business will do better going forward.
A pessimistic view would be because failure is viewed as something permanent. An example of a pessimistic explanatory style is saying, “My business has failed because covid destroyed it.” Failure is then seen as permanent. When you say things like, “it will never get better”, or “it is never going to happen” … you are giving a pessimistic explanation to the situation and an external reason to why it happened.
Such as blaming Covid for everything.
Covid has changed so much but the potential to survive is still there. We do not need to curl up in the foetal position and put our white flags up. If you want to become more optimistic you need to work on viewing successes as something that happened because you were capable of making it happen. And more importantly, that failure is temporary.
I know businesses have been challenged. My own included. But instead of sitting on the side of the box permanently enduring the shocks, we need to make that leap and try. Not just for our own survival, but overall, optimists tend to achieve more, are happier, and get better results than pessimists.
That is something worth jumping for.
So acknowledge the trauma, the failures, the stress, the difficulties. But acknowledge them as temporary. While Covid may very well be with us for a longer time, failure does not need to be. And using Covid as an excuse just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Adapt. Try. Change. And give Covid a big fat “you don’t own me or my success” middle finger.