This article includes stories about princes and kings, caterpillars, toy engines and logotherapy. These may seem a very strange combination. But please continue reading as these elements add depth to the meaning of our first tip mentioned in the previous article. There I outlined twelve tips for leading through lockdown. In this current article more detail is added to the first tip, ‘change your mindset’
The question we ask is: why is it that some of us in similar situations are coping better than others during various degrees of lockdown? There are a host of possible factors to be considered. For example, some of us may feel that our personal freedom has been violated and dwell on that aspect. Others may have an innate ability to manage the present while leading to the future. And which people do you recognise as being able to persist until they have struggled to get over the next hill? Or maybe having ‘future mindedness’ as one of our top five character strengths enables us to use that strength in managing the present while leading to the future? Our propensity for coping with change is also a huge factor.
These are some of the possibilities and questions we may wish to ponder as we travel through this tough and uncertain period in our lives. Many factors may underpin our ability to deal with the current situation and accept that life will never be the same as before the current pandemic. We have to re-create our future. During this time of transition, we can improve our ability to cope through consciously working on our mindsets. In other words, we have to turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones. This reminds me of one of my favourite poems.
Isn't it Strange?
Isn't it strange, that princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common-folk like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
To each is given a bag of tools,
a shapeless mass and a Book of Rules;
and each must make 'ere time has flown,
a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
R.L. Sharpe, "A bag of tools," circa 1809
In the previous article I mentioned that a metaphor for our ‘way of being’ prior to the current disaster state could be the metaphor of us as caterpillars crawling around on branches. The caterpillar has freedom. It can bask in the sunlight or hide in the shade. He or she feasts on luscious green leaves. There is motion. However, when the time is right, that caterpillar finds itself trapped in a cocoon. Isn’t that just how some of us have felt at times during various stages of lockdown? We cannot move around, we have little freedom and we feel trapped.
In looking at the cocoon from the outside it seems as though nothing is happening. Only the cocoon is visible. Yet, inside that cocoon a great metamorphosis is taking place. These unseen activities enable the butterfly suddenly to emerge.
My question to you is: ‘What are you doing during lockdown to make sure that you’ll emerge as that butterfly’? How are you feeding your mind, nourishing your soul and developing your physical abilities? This is not a time of stagnation. You can make it a time of great growth. Your attitude is important in coping with the current situation and at the same time creating your future reality.
When I think of caterpillars I think of climbing trees during childhood. When I was young one of my favourite stories was ‘the Little Engine that could’. The most well-known version was written by Watty Piper and first published in 1930. This followed a variety of versions since 1902 all with the same theme, namely to believe in ourselves even when we are faced with huge challenges.
The story is simple: a train was taking carriages of toys and good things to the children over the hill. The engine broke down. Trains passed without offering to help. And then it wasn’t the most beautiful, nor the most powerful, nor the one adhering to the correct protocol that offered to help. It was a little engine that stopped and helped. She tried so hard to take the carriages over the hill to its destination saying ‘I think I can, I think I can….. I think I can’. She knew she could and achieved her goal. Thus there was a happy ending.
Another story involving mindset is the true example set by Viktor E Frankl. He was able to physically and mentally not only survive the horrors of the Holocaust, but inspire millions through his example. As a neurologist and psychiatrist he founded the Logotherapy School of psychology and a philosophy based on the idea that we are strongly motivated to live purposefully and meaningfully. He was the author of many books, including ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ which was published in 24 languages.
‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’
Viktor E Frankl
In conclusion, the princes and kings are confined (successfully) within the accepted framework of that poem and like all of us, have choices. The caterpillar, unseen and cocooned, appears to be stagnating but it is going through a natural metamorphosis. The broken-down train, stuck on the hill achieved its destination through the persistence of the most unlikely little engine. Viktor E Frankl was trapped within the horrors of 4 concentration camps yet managed to escape and constructively make the world a better place for himself and for others.
Are you stuck in your present mindset? We may feel trapped right now and know we have to leave behind much of what we took for granted prior to the current pandemic. But we need to think of this as a transition to a brave new world. Change your mindset, change your world. The right attitude counts a great deal. And you can seek help. There are so many of us offering complimentary assistance at present.
If you’d like to participate in a complimentary one-hour Zoom workshop based on the twelve random tips to help with our coping mechanisms, please send a request via e-mail to email@example.com And I’ll then send you an invitation.
The next two one-hour complimentary workshops will be held on:
* Monday May 25: 5pm SAST
* Tuesday May 26: 8am SAST
The content of both these workshops will be the same.
For further information on Executive Coaching and Leadership Development please contact Brenda Eckstein on +27 82 4993311 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.strategy-leadership.com