When life is as tough as it is now, we tend to immerse ourselves in our ‘current concerns’. We are confused and uncertain as to what is happening right now and often we concentrate on ‘maintaining the present’. We don’t know what might happen in the future and it is difficult to picture or lead ourselves to the future. But we can look back on history and see the reality of what others have gone through. That might deepen understanding of our current context.
Let me give you an example: During Leadership Development or Executive Coaching Programmes, I often invite my clients to do the VIA Strengths Test in order to identify their top five character strengths. During the coaching programme we then work attentively on those strengths to build stronger neural pathways relating to recognising and optimising behaviour around those top strengths.
I am delighted that one of my clients, Noel Thompson, Director of Global Support, Conosco was happy for me to mention his name and share his example. Thank you, Noel. While doing daily self-observations on ‘curiosity’, one of his top strengths, he became fascinated by the content of a Whatsapp he had received and explored further, researching the details and making changes where necessary. Here is his resulting article:
‘We are all wondering what the future will be like and how we will get through this COVID epidemic. But I think it's always good to put perspective into a situation. Someone sent me a message that inspired me to research all the points they raised and make my own variant of it.
John was born in the year 1900. On his 14th birthday World War I started and in that war it is estimated up to 19 million people died. In the year of John's 18th birthday the war ended but the Spanish Flu started. It's estimated to have killed up to 100 million people worldwide, ending in 1920.
In the year of John's 29th birthday the Great Depression started. On the 29th of October 1929 the stock market crashed and became known as Black Tuesday. Between 1929 and 1932, worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15%. By comparison, worldwide GDP fell by less than 1% from 2008 to 2009 during the Great Recession.
In the year of John's 39th birthday World War II started. In this war it is estimated up to 85 million people died, which at the time was 3% of the population at an estimated 2.3 billion. The Holocaust resulted in the murder of an estimated 6 million Jews.
The same year that John turns 50 the Korean War started, with North Korea invading South Korea on the 25th of June 1950. It is estimated that up to 3 million people died during this war, with the majority being civilians. It is also estimated that this was the deadliest conflict of the Cold War. Five years later the Vietnam War started on the 1st of November 1955 and ended with the fall of Saigon on the 30th of April 1975, the same year John turned 75. During the same time, in the year of John's 62nd birthday was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which could very well have kicked off World War III.
So growing up as a kid in the 1980's I sure as hell did not understand the kind of life people like John went through. For me that is probably the ultimate perspective and I am very grateful that I personally did not have to live through any of these times and be involved in any such conflicts.
The world presents new challenges every day. At present, being locked down in varying degrees, waiting with uncertainty, we are in limbo knowing we have to leave behind much of our own the past ‘way of being’. In addition, perhaps we are not ready to create our new reality. We are in transition and life is tough.
Yet, looking back and gaining perspective can enable us to see our situation through a new lens. I encourage you to reflect, be curious and use perspective to your advantage.
Noel Thompson can be contacted on: +27 78 1273785 - firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Leadership Development or Executive Coaching, please contact Brenda Eckstein on +27 82 4993311 or e-mail email@example.com. The website is www.strategy-leadership.com