Each of us is grappling with the rolling, roiling challenges of this unprecedented time – and mostly without the framework of rules issued by clear authority (‘what are we supposed to DO?’). As a result, each of us can be forgiven for momentary lapses in composure, perhaps lashing out at other consumers in a store to “get away from me -you are too close!”  We are feeling mostly left to our own capacity to protect ourselves and those we love. An extraordinary time.

But as this extraordinary time drags on, the life lessons that have been ingrained can kick in to show us the way. Let it happen:

The Golden Rule

Treat others as you want to be treated. Simple, universal. Variations in this particular time might include asking for permission to approach a person, rather than invading their personal space: ‘I won’t get in your face, please stay out of mine.’

Words matter.

I have long cherished this anonymous little poem:

Words are seeds that do more than blow around.

They land in our hearts and not the ground.

Be careful what you plant, and careful what you say.

You might have to eat what you planted one day.

Act when you know you should.

My childhood version of this was defending another schoolmate from bullying on the playground. I knew what needed to happen, I just had to do it. Now, it is pivoting from a suspended sense of ‘the answers are coming’ to acceptance that we must each do our best in the circumstances. Don’t break the law (unless you are prepared to accept the consequences), but within the law, act on the information you have. Go to work wearing a mask or stay home; send children to school with a mask or keep them remote. Open your business under new rules and creatively make a path forward. Own your actions.

Manage expectations

They have changed for everyone, about everything. If you focus too tightly on what has changed for you, it will be experienced as loss. Take two (or five) steps back and see the bigger picture: it has changed for everyone. Not equally, not fairly.  But we have the opportunity to set new expectations going forward. Don’t give up, instead, reset expectations for yourself and others (including our leaders).

When one door closes, another opens

I’ve always hated this one actually, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important lesson. Endings are not easy (humans are not wired to be good at them), so pushing ahead into new possibilities is where to put your energy. The key, I think, is to think BIG about the next door.

Good things don't come easy

An important follow-up to the previous lesson: thinking big isn’t enough to deliver big. Hard work, luck, synchronicity must all combine. The only one of those things you can control is the hard work…’nuf said?

Be kind

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees,” Amelia Earhart.  I can’t say it better than she did.

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