The Small Change to Endure the Pandemic
With summer vacation off the table this year, I’ve taken to reliving my favorite trips of the past. One gave me a valuable insight about coping in a COVID world, so I wanted to share it with you today.
Three summers ago, my husband and I had the chance to sail the Greek Islands with a few friends. Having grown up in the landlocked state of Colorado, I’m the furthest thing from a “boat person” as anyone could be. So it was with great wonder—and confusion—that I watched our captain, Panos, navigate the open sea.
As we approached each island, there would generally be four or five people waiting on the dock. Panos would throw the ropes across the water, and like a choreographed ballet, the folks at the dock would tug and knot them to bring the boat in. When we disembarked, they would smile, offer a hand, and welcome us to the island.
For days, I assumed that these wonderful people were paid dockhands. But when I asked Panos, he looked perplexed. “No,” he shrugged, “most of them are just other sailors.”
This floored me. Asking nothing in return, these men and women were perpetually springing into action—in the middle of their vacation—to help people they’d never met.
I wondered what would lead someone to make this choice day after day. Here’s my theory: it comes down to one simple but powerful assumption. Because there is good in everyone, everyone deserves help and compassion.
Psychologists call the choice to search for the good in our world an abundance mindset. Research has shown that people who think this way are more creative, alert, healthy, and happy. They even produce more antibodies after vaccines (especially helpful, we hope, in the months ahead).
Unfortunately, at this moment, abundance is a hard sell. Though nearly everyone wants to stop the pandemic and create a more just world, it’s too easy to villainize (or even assault) people with different opinions about how to get there. When we disagree with others about things like school reopenings, mask wearing, or protests, we often jump to the immediate conclusion that they are stupid and/or evil.
As invigorating as our indignation can feel in the moment, I don’t think we realize how harmful it is to think this way. Not only does scarcity thinking make it harder to solve problems, it saps our energy. To paraphrase a famous adage, it’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
Instead, what if we took a cue from the sailors? What if we assumed that most people are mostly good? That we might not disagree about everything? That they could be acting out of fear or scarcity themselves?
By choosing abundance, we give ourselves the gift of peace, resilience, and optimism. These qualities are in such short supply that I’d argue we can’t afford not to adapt our thinking.
And anyway, by focusing on what’s right, we will find the energy to fix what’s wrong.
If abundance still feels impossible, remember this: our mindset is one of the few things completely under our control. Dr. Victor Frankl, legendary Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, said it best. “The last of the human freedoms,” he observed, “[is] to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
No matter what’s going on around us, we can choose scarcity and cynicism, or abundance and compassion.
As Nelson Mandela argued, it’s compassion that binds us to one another, “not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who…turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Call me an optimist, but I don’t think we are too far gone yet. And in seeing the goodness that lies beneath the suffering, we will find our way back to each other.
Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author. She’s built a reputation as a fresh, modern voice in the business world by pairing her scientific grounding in human behavior with a pragmatic approach to overcoming challenges. Over her 15-plus-year career, she’s helped thousands of professionals — from Fortune 500 executives to early stage entrepreneurs — improve their self-awareness and success.
Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]