Personal, National and Global Values
Since reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s May 1 online New Yorker Magazine article “The Corona Virus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations,” I’ve been thinking about how the virus is impacting personal, national and global values.
Climate Change and the Virus
It’s abundantly clear that Climate Change has dramatically changed our lives. We’ve known since the 1960s that the planet was in trouble. Now we see the results of humans polluting the air and the oceans, melting the permafrost, and encroaching on animals’ habitats, making the animals sick … and now the animals are making us sick. (One theory is that a sick bat in Africa bit a pangolin – it’s like an aardvark – and the sick pangolin was sent to a wet market in China, where it was eaten.) Now everyone on the planet is impacted.
We Need to Stick Together
This time, we truly are all in this together. In the past, it was a matter of crisis by region. In California, where I live, we’ve lost lives to fires, earthquakes, and power outages. Other parts of the country and the world have faced droughts, floods, hurricanes and worse. Today we’re seeing how everyone in the world is interconnected: all facing the same crisis. We used to talk about saving future generations; now we know it’s our generation that needs saving.
The Economy versus Saving Lives
We have big questions to consider: What are the rights of the individual versus the needs of society; the needs of a region versus the globe? Do we protect “the economy” versus protecting our health and human lives? Do we want to continue with the old “normal” or are we willing to change to save the planet?
How our Values have Changed
My friends and I discuss how our values have changed. We used to enjoy eating out, going shopping, and traveling. Now we value time with friends and family more than ever. We have a higher regard for the people who work in healthcare, grow our food, educate our children, and provide shelter and clothing.
Can You and I Save the Planet?
Personally, I’m focused on saving our planet. How? I can reduce my carbon footprint by driving and flying less. I hope to convince others to do the same. I’ve always tried to be mindful of how much I consume, how much water I use, and how I handle my trash, but I hope to do better.
Will you join me? What will you do to help our planet?
Flexibility and New Perspectives
Some important themes have been appearing in my coaching work lately. One is flexibility and the other is changing your perspective.
We Need to Be Flexible
After I taught a workshop at a local library, I met with several people who are struggling with the high cost of renting in Marin County, CA. One person has decided that if staying in the county means that he needs to do Senior Homesharing – sharing household help in exchange for reduced rent, he’ll do it. A friend who has lived alone for 20 years is looking for a roommate.
However, another person told me a litany of things that “must” stay the same “or else.” This person is angry, depressed, and unwilling to change.
Most of us don’t like change. I know I don’t. However, I’m continually reminded of these lessons: Stay Flexible and Keep an Open Mind. We don’t know what is supposed to happen. Sometimes a change that looks bad, turns out to be good; the change often leads to something positive that we couldn’t predict.
I recently saw the fabulous Broadway musical, “Come From Away.” On 9/11, 2001, 7,000 airplane passengers were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. They were stranded there for two weeks, and, at first, they felt angry and lost. But then the locals took them into their homes, fed them, entertained them, and showed them other remarkable generous qualities that humans are capable of. Some of the passengers, who were strangers at first, got married to each other afterwards, and most struck up life-long friendships with the folks from Gander. Yes, it looked like a disaster, but such beauty came from the experience.
Change your Perspective
I was hiking yesterday with a man who had a motorcycle accident two years ago. He lost vision in one eye and has compromised the use of one arm. I asked him what he learned. He said the accident reinforced what he always thought: “Nothing bad has ever happened to me.”
My girlfriend, who was part of the conversation, added, “There are no mistakes.” She said, “When I say what seems like the wrong thing, I no longer get angry with myself. I wonder if what I said might, ultimately, be helpful for the person who heard it.” Wow! These are interesting and refreshing perspectives.
Speaking of perspectives, last week I taught a class on Positive Thinking and referenced the work of Martin Seligman, the author of “Learned Optimism.” Seligman’s research proved that three attributes make the difference in how optimistic we are. He studied how people view the Permanence of a situation, their view of Pervasiveness, and if they take the situation Personally. It turns out that you will be more successful and happier if you view a situation as:
- temporary (not permanent)
- limited in scope (the situation is not going to impact everything, it’s not pervasive), and
- if you believe the situation is due to outside factors and is not your fault (not personal)
As some of us face hard times – debt, high rent, underemployment, health setbacks – it’s helpful to think about staying flexible and looking at life in new, more optimistic ways. It’s wise to see the situation as temporary, limited in scope, and not your fault.
Feeling that our lives “must” or “should” look a certain way, only leads to depression. It’s more helpful to simply say, I “prefer” this to happen….and “I’m flexible.”
Finally, when life feels hard, try to stay open to hearing what others are telling you. If you say, “But, but,” to others’ recommendations, you will find yourself alone. What sounds crazy at first, might be the seed of something worth looking into. It’s easy to say, and harder to do – we need to trust and “live into” the answers. The answers are coming.