My father used to talk about the 1960s as a 'watershed'; where a whole bunch of social trends coalesced to create a profound and permanent shift. I used to argue the point but it a worthy prism to look at what's going on right now...
What's going on right now??
Firstly, we're tired. I'm tired. Many of my clients are tired. We're learning to pace and take better care of ourselves and others, but many of us are also looking for the source. Is it just the lock-down? I reckon there might be a bit more going on.
2020 is a bit year. A watershed perhaps. Why? Really!
I like Nick Mehta's take on the experience of 2020 so far (CEO of Gainsight). He recently deemed 2020 to be a new adjective that describes “a combination of sad, happy, depressed, hopeful, lonely, reconnected, anxious, grateful, frustrated, and cautiously optimistic." He dispensed with “Fine,” as his standard response to “How are you doing?” and replaced it with, “I’m feeling 2020” instead.
Can you relate?
So that's the surface, but that's going on underneath? I reckon there's a visceral recognition that we've crossed a threshold into the future we've all been scared of/fighting to avert/avoiding or just expecting.
I hear it in the way people talk about the future.
Twenty-five years ago I used to don a koala suit and stand on the main drag in Canberra soliciting people for 50 cent contributions to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) environmental campaigns.
People would give me the coins and say, “for my grandchildren”. Sometimes they’d say “for your grandchildren”.
But it's not for our grandchildren anymore.
It's not even for our children.
It's for us.
It's not (just) lockdown
“I hate my job. I’ve never hated my job before. I just can’t seem to find it that important at the moment”
A client said that to me the other day, and I had to agree with her. I have a wonderful job but my success (like your) ultimately depends on my ability to care about what is important to you. Sometimes at the moment I feel my bandwidth for that is low.
It's not because of the things we have to do, they’re not substantially different from we had to do three weeks ago.
As my friend above put it in a seminar, it's not because her job has changed in three weeks.
“I feel like there’s a hole in the bottom of my bucket…it’s just hard getting things done”
It's hard to care about the work. Not because the work is not important but because something else is going on.
The fact is, we've done lockdown before. It's not the number of things we're dealing with because of lockdown that's causing the fatigue. It's something else.
Have we crossed our Event Horizon
In physics, an Event Horizon is that the point where neither time nor light can escape the immense gravitational pull of a black hole. Nothing get outs so nothing can be known of what happens beyond that line.
All trajectories are consistent up to that boundary, then things continue but we have not idea where or how. None of the rules the regulate ‘reality’ on our side of the Event Horizon necessarily have any relevance on the other side. The basic rules of existence may not even apply on the other side of an Event Horizon.
Futurists like to use this idea to describe the point where all trends and trajectories coalesce and the future suddenly becomes unknowable, where the 'normal' rules that seemed to determine how things evolve may no longer apply.
Unprecedented Bushfires and other Natural Disasters (or just strange weather), Economic Uncertainty, Political Polarisation and Creaking Institutions, Geo-political uncertainty, the impact of technology and many other trends are no longer academic concepts ‘out-there’ in the future. They are here already … maybe we're starting to cotton on to the idea that THIS IS the new normal. This... all the time!
I think we may be feeling that, with the second lock-down, we’ve somehow crossed an Event Horizon. In our hearts, I suspect many of us feel that the trends and trajectories that have been worrying us for years may have all coalesced to generate a completely unknowable future... and human beings are wired for certainty!
This second lock-down has brought it home and the back of our brains can’t stop thinking about it.
The Event Horizon has been getting closer for years
When I was wearing my Koala suit in the 1990’s we thought the point of critical systems change was at least 50 years away. Ten years later when I helped set up the Australian Initiative of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) we thought it was at least 20 years away. Even last year when I helped Melbourne Water figure out how to implement their massive, cross-sectoral Healthy Waterways Strategy to we thought it was five years away.
As we move forward through time, the Event Horizon we’ve been fearing has been steadily moving closer.
The Role of Fear
So, what’s the point of saying all this? It’s not to scare you.
The point I’m making is that we are already scared and that it’s only by naming what we’re really afraid that we can start to deal effectively with it.
This is important because we need our critical faculties more now (and forever) than ever. We are afraid of COVID but I assert that it is not really (or only) fear of COVID that is sucking the wind from our sails.
We’re scared because the future we all thought would impact someone else, even our most precious someone else’s (our kids), is actually affecting us.
Fear, however, is not a good foundation for quality decision-making. Fear tends to produce outcomes that are the direct inverse of what we are actually committed to. There is a great deal of evidence for this. In 2013, Researchers found that “poor individuals, working through a difficult financial problem produces a cognitive strain that’s equivalent to a 13-point deficit in IQ or a full night’s sleep lost.”
I'm going to leave the last word to Osho when he answered a question about the AIDS epidemic in the 1990's:
There no virus in this world is more dangerous than fear. Understand this fear, otherwise you will become an alive dead body before your body will die.
Stop enjoying the juiciness of fear.
Normally you are the owner of your fear,
But in the moment of collective madness your ownership can be touched. Your unconsciousness can take it over completely. You won't even know when you have lost control over your fear and fear others.
Then fear can do anything to you, in such a situation you can also take the life of yourself or that of others.
Hope this helps.
If this interests you, there may be a number of ways I can help: