As we look forward to the vaccine and the new year, I’ve been reflecting on what I learned about this year and would like to share four lessons that I hope you’ll find helpful and hopeful.
- Adaptability. More than ever, I have learned to get out of my comfort zone and my routines, and have adapted to a new comfort zone. Wearing face masks, socially distancing, and avoiding crowds have become part of my new normal, and I for one have learned to accept and adapt, after some difficulty. I am hopeful that this adaptability mindset will help us in the future, which will likely be even more unpredictable than anything we have experienced so far.
- Connectedness. As social animals, we thrive on our relationships with others – with family of course, but also with friends, colleagues, and with the occasional serendipitous and delightful encounters with strangers. With the pandemic spreading, I have found new and different ways to build those connections (Zoom sessions, more regular check-ins with friends and family, joining a book club, listening to lectures and discussions online), and these have kept my spirits up during the year. I hope you have also managed to nourish your connections, and that you continue to do this.
- Empathy. Many of us have been fortunate that we haven’t been adversely affected by the pandemic, except for some minor inconveniences. However, I’ve been troubled by the number of people who have lost jobs, who have bleak prospects for the future, who continue to face social and racial injustice, and by those who line up for hours just to be able to get free food to feed their families. In a rich and diverse country like the United States, it’s hard to believe that such conditions continue to exist. Understanding the circumstances of the less fortunate and taking small steps to help is something that I hope all of us are doing to make some kind of positive difference.
- Purpose. While I continue my teaching, consulting and research, I find what the columnist David Brooks wrote recently to be profoundly significant; he said that sometimes we need to ask ourselves whether we are pursuing resume virtues or eulogy virtues – whether our priority is to continue to build on our accomplishments and achievements (our resume virtues) or to focus on our character and what others will say about us when we are gone (our eulogy virtues).