The coronavirus pandemic is transforming our world. It also has the potential to be the greatest learning experience of our lives.
“This is a forced transformation. There will be no going back to the way things were before.”
This is Josh Bersin*, speaking about the powerful momentum for change caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In the world of work, for example, Bersin notes that a process of profound transformation is underway. Globally, many organisations have pivoted to remote working and online communication. In a matter of weeks or even days, they have switched to new ways that might previously have been thought unimaginable. Similar stories of change and adaptation abound in so many aspects of our lives.
Arguably, the hardest part is already over. We have taken the first steps into a changed world. Where the results of this forced change are better than what came before, we should embrace them. If the current momentum can be sustained, profound and positive change is possible in the post-pandemic world.
Bersin says that we find ourselves in the privileged position of being able to choose what we leave behind:
“One of the luxuries we now have in this time of crisis is saying ‘skip that, we’re not doing it’. We have a sense of clarity about what are the few things that are most important. It’s about doing less with less.”
I love this concept of “doing less with less”. We can leave behind things that are no longer needed. We can do things better and more efficiently in future.
It’s all about momentum
Not all transformations are forced. Positive change can be a choice. Taking the first step might be the hardest part. But sticking with it to see the process of transformation through can also be challenging.
“It’s all about momentum.”
This is Brian Koppelman, speaking on the Tim Ferriss podcast in April 2020. Koppelman shares a small story of ongoing personal transformation (which happens partly to have overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic). He tells Ferriss about his prolonged struggle with his weight. Fast approaching 250lb (which he saw as a tipping point in terms of likely impact on his health), Koppelman decided it was time to make a serious commitment to changing his ways. He consulted a food addiction specialist, who insisted that Koppelman make a verbal commitment to a therapeutic practice and weekly check-ins for a year. Koppelman says:
“I made that commitment because I was so stuck, I needed a force of momentum.”
He credits the progress he is now making to the food addiction specialists’ structured approach, which forced a transformation towards positive momentum:
“It’s been steady, it’s been constant, and more than that I feel better about myself. I’m creating this momentum and I’m fighting inertia. I’m moving myself forward toward the goal. It’s really hard at the beginning. But the amazing thing about momentum, the power of momentum is so great that it stops being hard. In fact, it just starts being the way that you live.”
The greatest learning experience of our lives?
Gentle reader: How do you feel about the way you are living now? How much (if any) of the pandemic-induced changes to your everyday life have stopped being hard, and started being the way you live?
We face the choice of what we do with the momentum that has built up. We may already be past the hardest part, with seismic change settling into some degree of normality. Equally, we may try to forget the changes we have made and return to how things were. The lessons of the past are not always remembered, as William Keegan writes in a May 2020 Guardian article:
“I wonder how many people are aware that during the ‘Spanish’ flu epidemic of 1918-21, which followed the first world war, the estimated loss of life in this country was, well, 250,000? In passing, I think it is worth mentioning that, until the onset of the coronavirus plague, the impact of Spanish flu in this country had hardly seemed to dawn on the consciousness of subsequent generations. The first world war itself? Yes. The Great Depression? Of course. Spanish flu? Wasn’t that something that occurred in Latin America – Love in the Time of Cholera?”
Once the pandemic has passed, the biggest choice ahead of us is what lesson we will learn from it. I will close with some more words from Mr Bersin:
“This is the greatest learning experience of our lives. Let’s make sure we maintain it going forward.”
* The quotations from Josh Bersin in this post come from his talk on The Big Reset, from the April 2020 PAFOW conference.