As human beings, we believe we should aspire to be independent and in control. These qualities, we are told from a young age, will ensure a successful and happy life. So, when we find ourselves in today’s pandemic world, where our regular lifestyle is being interrupted in fundamental ways, we feel out of control. And, whether we ever realized it before or not, our global interdependence and connectedness is on full display when we realize that our very existence may depend on the choices being made by others. As much as we want to be in control and independent, it is not possible.
The world is different now…or is it? Is it only now that things are outside of your control? Were you truly an independent professional before the pandemic? Or were those beliefs ‘just thoughts’ which may or may not be true at any one moment in time?
Our ability to see clearly what is actually here is a skill we strengthen through our mindful leadership practices. It is very easy to see what we want to see, what we hope to see or what was here to be seen last month. During this pandemic, we saw those in leadership positions struggle with this skill as they found the projections from the scientists to be so far outside the norm that they just couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it. We also saw citizens who refused to believe that anything could happen to them, or that they could be carriers. They didn’t see clearly what was right in front of them perhaps because it would be inconvenient to do so, or perhaps they were afraid of what it would mean.
We also notice the uneasiness we feel as we begin to make the dramatic changes necessary to respond skillfully to what we now clearly see. It takes great courage to see with clarity and act accordingly. Especially when what we see is that we have no control over the impetus for all the changes we need to make to our life.
The good news is that a recognition that we are not in control, and we are interdependent can be both freeing and comforting.
Let’s take a look at the illusion of control. If you take a moment and honestly reflect on what you really control, you might find that the list is virtually non-existent. And, when you believe you control things, and you hold tightly to that belief, you create a great deal of suffering, for yourself and for others. Instead, why not focus on being prepared for whatever arises? You still set a general direction, but you stay flexible enough to allow you to see what is here, and meet it with clarity, flexibility and compassion.
As for the reality of interdependence, not independence, it is just a reminder that there are no real boundaries or walls. We collectively inhabit our communities and our world. And, as the saying goes, there is ‘strength in numbers’. In the midst of the current viral threat in Italy, the people flung open their windows and sang together. They leave open their windows so the people who live alone hear the noises of others and don’t feel so isolated. In Spain, the residents used social media to choose a time when they would all go to their windows and applaud the efforts of the healthcare workers. This is the power of connectedness. The pandemic virus is a big threat whose spread is outside of any individual’s control. We can each do our part to help, to be prepared and flexible. And we need our collective strength, and our collective compassion, to beat it.