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Oh No, Not 2021 All Over Again

| January 11, 2022

by Brian McDonald

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Brian McDonald, President of MOR Associates.  Brian may be reached at [email protected].]

Back in December the theme for this article was going to be envisioning your future. The idea was to offer a simple yet powerful exercise proposing you sketch out your desired future state for the year ahead. The suggestion was to step back and take a few minutes to envision yourself in December 2022 and you have had a remarkable year. What do you see for yourself? If you were to be bold what could the future hold?
And then the world turned upside down again as COVID came back with a vengeance. As the holiday season approached so did Omicron, sweeping through country after country infecting millions of people within weeks. This made me pause and shift our focus to recognize where we are collectively and individually.
Is it the start of a new year or is it a repeat of 2021?  Another constrained and anxiety producing year of COVID? The way this year is starting out makes it seem as if we are going back in time.  We must navigate a challenging surge in the virus that could mutate again, threatening to invade our lives for the third year in a row.
People on the front lines are understandably exhausted and some resentful that we have a vaccine that, had the vast majority opted to receive, would have lessened the repeated cycles or the severity of these. Unvaccinated people are once again displacing patients who need surgery because they have COVID. And once again, after an extraordinary tour of duty, our health care workers are in greater jeopardy.
This has been a long and difficult two years for parents who are trying to create a normal experience for their children who benefit by having a routine and consistent opportunities to be in school and other programs. This has been a tough stretch for small businesses, especially those in the hospitality business who are trying to stay afloat. This has been hard on the elderly and those who are immune compromised, who are fearful about going out or seeing family members. The list goes on and on and on.

What Are We to Do?  As individuals and as leaders what are we to do when we are in this prolonged period where a virus not only disrupts life as we know it, but threatens life itself?
Each of us needs to take a little time to reflect on how we are doing. How are you experiencing this stretch we are traveling through? How are you feeling? How are you doing amidst this time of uncertainty? What support might you find helpful at this point? What could you do to not only recognize what you are feeling but seek out what would give you the ability to continue along through all this?
Have you established a routine that works for you despite the upset? Our brain likes predictability. Finding a rhythm can provide some certainty to the day in a way that helps. Do you have some way to exercise or to get up and about more? COVID not only locked us down for a stretch, but for many, it sat us down in front of our computers for endless hours communicating with the world. Sitting for long hours is not helping us find the energy or well-being that can help us through this. Are there relationships you want to strengthen during this time? Are there some ways to give yourself the sustenance you need to continue to be the best of who you want to be? Maybe you want to join a MOR alumni call to connect with other leaders across the country.  Have you taken time off or found a way to get away? We all need a break from this.
Look for Joy and You’ll Find It.  Do look around despite the context and find some joy. Whether it is the little ones who are enjoying life and smiling at you or that meaningful conversation you had or a task well done. We may find it helpful to appreciate the here and now more.
As an example, Susan has asked her adult children to take one gratitude photo a day and send it along to her. Susan is a gifted photographer and she will make something meaningful of these pictures.
MOR has proposed one keystone practice you could adopt is to write down three gratitudes a day.  Over time this will literally change your brain chemistry. As you look through such a lens, your brain will be drawn to that which you appreciate.
Reaching Out, Supporting Others.  Maybe you are doing well and are one of the fortunate ones. This can give you the opportunity to be there for others.
As family members, as friends, as leaders it helps to continue to be optimistic. We will get through this. Omicron will recede and the spring will be a time of renewal. We can be encouraging and supportive of others who are also navigating their way through this worrisome time. Checking in with people, asking how are they really doing and giving them the space to share while we listen.
In our role as leaders people will continue to find clarity, consistency and consideration to be helpful as we communicate even more than we may have done in pre-COVID times. Clarity on the priorities needed. Communications are valued more so when there is consistency in the messaging and they are readily forthcoming. And consideration for the different circumstances that individuals may be experiencing and trying to sort out as they work through this stretch.
As leaders we need to continue to have huddles to ensure people are staying connected in a remote or hybrid work. Whether it is the weekly meeting or the one on one coaching session with your staff, consistency matters. As leaders, and we all are leaders, we have the opportunity to take action to bring some light into what can be a dark period for some. What could you do to acknowledge or appreciate others? What could you do to shine a light on some “bright spots?” What could you do to make it easier for others to navigate what feels like a retake on 2021?
Chas Grundy at Notre Dame made me smile as he put together his MOR wall. Maybe it will do the same for you:

Brian McDonald, President, MOR Associates