The path breaking movie, Star Wars left us many learnings. My favourite? Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s advice to Anakin Skywalker, “Always remember: Your focus determines your reality.” In our hyper distracted world of today, we would do well to remember this seminal thought!
The volume of communication bombarding us from all sides, and our unfettered access to information & other people, fuelled by the ubiquitous social media & our smartphones, have made it more difficult than ever to focus. Despite this reality, there are opportunities to focus all around us. But we must recognize & seize them. The faith that focus will benefit, both yourself and the people around you, makes this a priority. In other words, before you can help & lead others, the first person you must help & lead is yourself.
The Global pandemic of CONVID19 and the consequent lockdown has forced us to remain in our houses. Analysts say this crisis is larger than what humanity has seen even in the 2 World Wars, or any other health scares we have experienced in the past eg The Black Death (The Great London plague) in 1665; or the Spanish Flu of 1918; or the Asian Flu of 1957, in which an estimated 1 million plus people died. CONVID19 pandemic has the potential to overtake the estimated 65 Million infections worldwide & 25 Million deaths due to HIV/AIDS. The worldwide lockdowns & the desperate efforts afoot to find an inoculation to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, or to treat & cure patients afflicted, are well documented and within public knowledge.
When everything around us is breaking up, social networks becoming purely virtual & digital, work from home is the new reality, manufacturing & supply chain are compromised, and questions face us wherever we turn, it is easy to fall into despondency or worse, fatalism. Still, I believe tough times are an opportunity to ponder. To revalue everything in your life. Nature and Industry is conniving to give you time, they have pressed the “Pause” button! You are getting a lot of time to reflect, and decide the next steps, or new turns, that you will take. Transmutation, Transformation, Change is rapidly intruding in our daily humdrum. “Business as usual” is clearly a matter of the foregone past.
I take heart in the words of Richard Bach: ” What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly”. A new world, a new reality beckons us; and am sure it will be better than our past!
So it is in this context I sit to write something positive, though the entire doomsday scenario has plunged us into negativity! Many may call me foolhardy. But I do believe this crisis has thrown up some interesting learnings which we should take to heart, and blend into the way we will live, in the future.
I do believe our lives will be the better, in case we survive!! So here I go counting my chickens before they are hatched….imagining the great Indian Chicken Tikka Masala we have in store for us, just around the corner.
So specifically what are the positives in this lockdown scenario?
- We have learnt to do with less: unnecessary shopping, reckless eating out, entertainment till we drop, is gone. Less is More! Simple things give pleasure : the sheer availability of milk and veggies feels great.
- Count your blessings: you enjoy a roof over your head, you are not worried where the next meal is coming from, essentials supplies are being maintained (hitherto). Life’s needle has moved just marginally for you, if you face the facts.
- Families, teams & couples have come closer: you have only one another to look up to, celebrate, complain. Conversations have started on lunch/dinner tables, whereas earlier all were in a hurry to gobble food, and head in different directions, with no common agenda.
- Time: the great leveller, has shown his benevolent side. Earlier a hard taskmaster, seemingly driving you relentlessly on a rollercoaster of tasks & activities, suddenly Father Time has shown his softer side. I see more time hanging on my hands now. It gives me the joy of planning & executing at my volition. I feel more in command & can do more of what my heart desires.
- Analyse your time spend. Think whether your short & long term goals are best served with your “time spent analysis”. Develop a good understanding on where you want to reach, what you want to get done. Use the time-data to act on what needs change, to get better alignment to your goals. Define priorities & focus on them.
- In present times, we have learnt greater level of accomodation and adjustment. Our demands and desires have got tempered; we are less strident about our needs & wants. “Marie nahi hai, KrackJack chalega; KrackJack nahi hai, Monaco ya Gluco is OK.” We are different now. I take joy in small tasks.
- Starve your distractions. Social media, YouTube, NetFlix, and the limitless possibilities of the internet hang over our heads. They tempt us to click links that take us to another video or article. Understand & accept that the internet lures you in, & then take decisive action by logging out of your social media accounts and blocking websites during certain hours of the day. Recognize this is often a bottomless well. This is beneficial “Social Distancing”!
- This “quiet time” you have been gifted is a great time for you to take stock of your capabilities & competencies. Identify gaps in yourself and use this time to do online certifications, learning, webinars and training. Do not let the tempo of work get in the way of good development opportunities. Come out with a better version of You!
- There are only so many hours in a day. Reflect on where your time is best spent, which provides you with the clarity to decide which calls to take, which meetings to stop attending, and which invitations you should politely decline. This is something that Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, has been advising people to do for many years. Create a “stop doing” list.
- There is no silver bullet for solving the complex problems of today. But there are some good places to start, and one of them is: solitude. Having the discipline to step back from the noise of the world is essential to staying focused. Know that whatever incites our emotions, causes the cognitive effects of distractions to linger. In their book, Lead Yourself First, Ray Kethledge & Mike Erwin define solitude as a state of mind, a space in which to focus one’s own thoughts without distraction — and where the mind can work through a problem on its own. Leverage this to come up with sustainable & effective solutions to life’s challenges.
If you see it in the right perspective, the present crisis has gift wrapped and brought all this to you, while you are sitting at home!! Sad will be the day, if we go back to our past ways as soon as this crisis blows over, & leave all these learnings by the wayside.
Now it is up to us to make use of this crisis time, and the power of our imagination, our faith & our trust in the ingenuity of our fellow human beings, our willingness to experiment and our ability to learn, our inner alchemy, if you will, to transmute the challenges & the mounds of coal that surround us today into streets of Gold, paved with our desires and dreams to move ahead and beyond.
Believe, indeed it is possible, and it will come to pass!
In a Distracted World, Solitude is a Competitive Advantage; Enjoy yours, while it lasts: vikas
Post Script: Gratefully acknowledge my debt of inspiration to Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah; as I believe we all are now.