The recurrent waves of Corona bring people to oscillate between hope and despair over and over again. This has a powerful effect on their psychology, emotions, and resilience.
It all comes down to how people perceive the future, and their attitudes towards it.
Entire cultures can even be differentiated from each other by the way they relate to what they perceive lies ahead.
Through my work with thousands of people in more than 50 countries, I came to realize that there are five different approaches towards the future.
Our partners in Romania do not see the future, as our partners in Switzerland or in Central America.
The first most reactive victim-like approach to the future is “I worry about the future”.
This comes from a perception that you are mainly subject to external events and circumstances and that you have no influence on those future events. The unknown awakens fears and concerns of what might go wrong.
This brings up survival psychology, and things to come look threatening and dystopic.
The second approach to the future is “I will flow with whatever comes”.
This is a fatalistic approach, captured nicely by the song lyrics that state: “que sera sera, whatever will be will be. The future is not ours to see”.
This approach also comes from a sense of no control or influence on future events, but it does not lead to concern and worry. It leads to acceptance and surrender.
What is left to do is to flow with the stream of events and accept one’s fate. Many cultures and religions adopt this passive approach. The third approach to the future is “I can be prepared for the future“.
The people who adopt this approach also feel that they have little influence on the future. Instead, they focus on being prepared for whatever may come.
They might stock food for emergency situations. They have the best insurance policies, rescue equipment in their car, a bunker under their house and so on.
These people find their security in these kind of preparations for the future. Some cultures are very prone to this approach. One good example is the Swiss culture.
The fourth approach to the future is more proactive and it has to do with “I can plan my future”.
The people who adopt this approach believe that they can influence the future by planning it well in advance. They use calendars, future projections. They set goals. They develop plans.
They know where they will go on vacation next summer and so on. This gives them a sense of control over future events.
The fifth approach is the most proactive: “I can create my future”. This approach is typical to visionaries, entrepreneurs, creatives, and leaders.
The main faculty that they use is their imagination. As Walt Disney said, “If I can dream it, I can create it”.
The people with this attitude shape the human world that we live in for better or worse. They are the “future making” people.
It is possible to change one’s approach to the future, but this necessitates personal development work and a paradigm shift.
When it comes to the future, there is a deep human need to experience hope.
Hope exists in all these levels but in different ways. In the “worry” level, the hope is that the worst things will not happen. In the “fatalistic” level, the hope is that luck will shine upon you rather than unfortunate events. In the “be prepared” level, the hope is that you will not have to use everything you prepared for a “rainy day”.
In the “plan” level, the hope is that your plans will work out and will not be disrupted. In the “create” level, the hope is that the world will be a better place due to your contribution and creativity.
The recurrent waves of Covid-19 shock most people’s belief system.
Every wave raises a new level of fear and despair. As a wave comes to an end, hope shines again that this time it is over, only to be replaced by a new level of despair with the next onsetting wave. This repetition creates an emotional and psychological burn out for many people.
Fear always lies within future projections and rarely in the now. It is present in workplaces, in families and in entire communities. The sense that you can control your future is losing ground.
Controlling the future has always been an illusion. Influencing the future is a good alternative. However more than anything else it is wise to recognize your own approach to the future and choose the one that will work for you. In this way you can influence your own state of mind and your feelings.
A very good example to this is the “Stockdale paradox”.
Admiral Stockdale was decorated for his seven years leadership of American prisoners of war in the Vietcong camps in Vietnam. Summarizing his grim experience, he said “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality”.
He also realized that the optimists did not prevail. All those that believed that they would be out of prison by Christmas and then by Easter and then by Thanksgiving died of a broken heart.
His experience brought about the concept of “Hope without a deadline”.
To prevail psychologically and emotionally with the recurrent Corona waves we need to adopt the attitude of “We will prevail in the end, however tough the circumstances we have to go through. Humanity always has”.
We need to have hope without a deadline.
As more people accept this approach, the more resilient they will become.
The distressing emotional waves of ups and downs that are so corrosive will be replaced by learning how to live with recurrent adversity, and they will prevail.