Part two: In it for the long game.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult”. M. Scott Peck.
2021 has not been infused with the usual enthusiasm of a “new year”. Instead, it has been characterised by widespread burnout, mental fog, digital fatigue, loss of mojo and a general malaise around many things that used to excite us. The inclination to climb under the duvet until this is all over is not uncommon!
Thriving in this extended Covid experience requires a new strategy. One different to the short-term, high-energy adrenaline fueled ‘let’s pull together’, ‘make a plan’, and ‘get through this’ mindset of 2020.
Adrenalin is a short-term response, necessary for survival in the face of an imminent threat. It is not a viable long-term strategy. Too much of it, for too long, leads to inevitable stress-related illness and burnout.
What is required now is a shift towards a lower-intensity and sustained endurance mindset; one that closely mirrors the psychology of survival ordeals or grueling endurance events. Whilst the pandemic is a new experience, fortunately the strategies for surviving and thriving through this second wave and beyond is not.
The reality is that 2021 is less about exploding out the starting blocks for a fresh year, and more a continuation of the same marathon we started last year.
Consider the December holiday and its lockdown restrictions: this was less like the usual holiday; it could be likened to a pause at a watering station somewhere mid-marathon. Sure – we had a metaphorical water break and a quick massage, but we still left that watering table in the middle of an endurance event.
The problem is that many people saw Covid as a 2020 phenomenon, and expected 2021 to be a fresh start with renewed energy. Many can’t understand why they have low energy levels and are struggling for enthusiasm.
They think something is wrong with them.
They feel guilty or concerned about not being on full-power.
They find themselves wishing they were having a more exciting and enthusiastic experience than they currently are.
Some find this depressing, however the problem is NOT being a bit flat.
The real problem is not aligning our mindset with the current reality, which leaves us (falsely) thinking our experience should be different to what it is.
What is required is an appropriate response to our current reality. First is to accept that it’s normal to not be on full power and enthusiastic for this new year. Drop that expectation, and the associated judgments. Nothing is wrong with you – we’re busy running a marathon. Or maybe an ultra-marathon, we don’t quite know yet.
Second is to adopt a mindset of endurance, preparing and pacing yourself for the long game. The adrenalin during and immediately after a plane crash, shipwreck or avalanche needs to give way to slowing down, taking stock of the situation and engaging mental stamina in the face of a new reality. We genuinely do not know when this will end or what the end will look like. All we know is that we need to survive and thrive for however long it takes.
Stop wishing for someone, the government or the vaccine to rescue you, and focus on calmly taking control of your situation.
The final (part three) of this blog will suggest some practical strategies for the endurance mindset, some proven ones, and some out-the-box thinking.