During this long long period of lockdowns and pandemic waves, it’s been surprising how much we’ve gotten used to our collective stupor, how easy it has been to wonder whether any of this will end. “Positive thinking” has sounded more and more like an empty phrase as time has gone on. However, with vaccinations progressing, there seems to be finally an end in sight. Which means that it might be time to reconsider “positive thinking” in light of what lessons we’ve learned from this whole experience.
Adaptability and the survival instinct
While remote work wasn’t unheard of before the pandemic, it definitely wasn’t typical when it came to the working environment. Working in an office all day was the expected, natural order of things. And there were very few people (in very few professions) who could seriously imagine a world where working online would become normalized.
This was one of the main areas where the world was pushed to change, for better and for worse. At first many people had to deal with the loneliness and alienation that comes from being separated from colleagues and adjusting to a completely new system of work (although many were grateful for having the opportunity to work from home as many in the workforce lost jobs or had to work in dangerous environments).
Furthermore, not everyone had the self-discipline or willpower at first to really organize themselves at home and get their work done when they were suddenly granted so much freedom. Despite all of this though, people adapted to their new environments, with really amazing results.
Before the virus only a few voices had been advocating for reforming working standards to make for better work-life balance, and allowing more people to work remotely. But there was no incentive or pressure to change, and so those ideas never really got anywhere. Why is it that people (and many other organisms too) are so resistant to change despite being able to adapt?
According to neuroscience, organisms use all of their energy to adapt to the environment in which they live. They thus want to maintain their current situation in order to protect their lives (and the lives of their seeds/young) since changing it would require finding a new way to adapt, which is dangerous. So organisms try to avoid change.
Of course, when forced to by circumstances, organisms will adapt to change, and as quickly as they can at that. They do this in order to survive. So despite our survival instinct telling us to avoid change at all cost, we made it through to the other side and adapted to new conditions. We should take pride in this achievement.
New discoveries and developments
Because of our adaptability, a lot of new discoveries were made to meet our new normal. New services and products were developed, and a whole online service industry was raised up to meet the necessities of not being able to touch each other or leave the house. Individually too, people had the time and change of pace to realize new things about themselves–their habits when in isolation, how they feel about their bodies and lives, what they really want to do in the future. This might have brought uncomfortable truths about whether we actually enjoyed our lives to the surface.
Many people were given the chance to rethink their lives, including their work lives–whether the daily commute, the long hours, the business trips, the time away from family and friends–was really worth it. With all this going around in our minds, a lot of us started new hobbies, new interests, and new studies. We re-evaluated our careers and our future goals and started making changes in our lives.
Thinking five, ten years out
From the perspective of life coaching, when we are forced out of comfort zones and into a new environment, we reconfigure goals and objectives unconsciously, allowing us to use new skills and forge new paths on our own.
This is exactly what we have been experiencing. Despite being forced into a new situation due to circumstances and decisions beyond our control, we used our available resources and whatever strength we could find within ourselves to push through. In the process, we have discovered new abilities and skills that maybe we hadn’t been aware of before.
So even while most of our society is focused on the negative, and all the opportunities that we missed out on this past year, we could choose to look at it from a different perspective–as a positive opportunity for change.
I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that we should try to court disasters like this in order to make positive changes, or that there hasn’t been massive suffering that needs to be acknowledged. However, we can acknowledge this while at the same laying the groundwork for our future lives and successes. We don’t have to just look at this past year as “awful” or “a waste”. Instead, we can choose to hold both the pain and the promise.
A new normal is emerging–one in which remote work and hybrid work (working partly in the office and partly remote) are becoming more typical. But in this environment, how will teams make decisions? How will communication be affected, and how will teams effectively collaborate? These are issues that have yet to be resolved, but it’s not too late to start now. And we can use the lessons we’ve learned to guide us.
We at Invite Japan are developing new team building activities and adapting our old ones in order to fit the current needs of teams and the changing situation.
We have online team building for teams that are remote or hybrid, in person programs (Suitcase Mystery) for teams that want a face-to-face activity at the office, outdoor scavenger hunts (Hidden Secrets Journey) for safe social distancing, and fun programs for large parties and events (Puzzle Bazaar) for when teams feel a bit more safe being together.
Invite Japan is here to help you get through this period and lay the groundwork for your team to flourish. Whether it’s through advice, consultation, or developing new activities to fit your needs, we will support you.