It’s never too late to reset. To mark the 2020 fourth of July weekend, some reflections on change and the need to learn from past mistakes.
It’s never too late to reset. There will be points in each of our lives when we need to start over with a fresh attitude or perspective.
The best way to judge when you need a reset is often to take time to slow down and listen with intent to what is truly going on. Listen to what your body and mind are trying to tell you. Listen to what those around you are trying to tell you. Listen to what the world is trying to tell you.
I feel like I have just had a minor reset. I returned to the coal face this past week after a week off. I didn’t realise just how badly I had needed to rest, replenish and reset until I logged off and lifted my head from what had preoccupied me for so long. I had no idea how much the pressure of the year so far was starting to tell on me. My work has been busier than ever since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. I started on a roll. For the first month or two, I felt focused, energised and productive. But then I started to feel the strain of an increased workload combined with the stress, anxiety and worry that has been forced on us all with the abrupt halting of our previous ways of life. Mental exhaustion set in. I want to recognise these signs of wear and tear at an earlier stage in future. I don’t want to make the same mistakes again.
The regression phase
It seems that my experience of the pandemic so far might have followed an established pattern, according to a graphic on the three psychological phases of crises tweeted by Andy Knox.*
The text in the graphic states:
“Crises have three psychological phases:
“1) EMERGENCY: Shared clear goals and urgency make us feel energized, focused, and even productive.
“2) REGRESSION (MOST OF US ARE HERE RIGHT NOW): We realize the future is uncertain, lose sense of purpose, get tired, irritable, withdrawn, and less productive.
“3) RECOVERY: We begin to reorient, revise our goals, expectations and roles, and begin to focus on moving beyond vs. getting by.
“ALL OF THIS IS NORMAL REACTION TO ABNORMAL SITUATION.“
The argument that many of us are in the regression phase sounds plausible to me. We can interpret regression as also including a return to old behaviours that might not be in our best interest in a world that has changed. I worry that we are seeing this in the rush to reopen the world and to return to some semblance of life as it was before. As I wrote in Breaking the silence:
“It’s like nothing ever happened. These few words capture my own feeling of apprehension about the rush to reopen. The needs for economic survival and physical survival must be delicately balanced. This is no time for impatience. It’s no time for thinking that this coronavirus thing is getting to be a little old hat, and can safely be ignored. I don’t want hindsight to prove this a premature decision on humanity’s part. I fear that a horrific second wave of the coronavirus pandemic might soon engulf us. I hope that I am entirely wrong on this.”
The confusion stage
I came across a second compelling diagnosis of our current situation the other day: “the confusion stage”. The recent UK heatwave saw violence erupting across the country on what Sky News termed a “day of chaos“. In a Guardian article on the risk that the violence during the heatwave could be a precursor to widespread summer rioting, the LSE’s Tim Newburn suggests that we are in “the confusion stage”:
“You have a lot of young people still occupying the same kind of conditions they did ten years ago, feeling badly treated and unrepresented. Add into that the confusions of covid, and I think we have now reached the confusion stage. From beaches to raves to parties, we’re seeing stuff happening which potentially brings the police into confrontation with young people. If that brings about a situation in which the policing and the public order situation is badly handled, that can lead into something really very dangerous.”
The Jaws stage
A third theory… I wonder if we are entering what we might term the Jaws stage.
As I write, today is the fourth of July 2020.** In a sense, it’s the anniversary of a world-changing reset.
For the first time in my memory, the fourth of July weekend is this year assuming major significance in England. Boris Johnson’s government is using the fourth of July as a symbolic point of reset, going all-in on moves to reopen and revive the economy on what it has dubbed “Super Saturday“.
Uncanny echoes of Jaws abound. In Jaws, Mayor Larry Vaughn opts to reopen Amity’s beaches in time for the fourth of July weekend. Dire consequences follow with the advent of a second wave of shark attacks. Boris Johnson – when he was Mayor of London – once declared his political hero to be Mayor Larry Vaughn from Jaws. Johnson said of Mayor Vaughn:
“He kept the beaches open. I don’t know what happened to his political career thereafter, but he did the right thing.”
This quotation can be found in a 2011 politics.co.uk report by Ian Dunt, who notes of Jaws‘s Mayor Vaughn:
“The film shows almost all of his decisions to be misguided, from opposing the closing of the beach to his conviction that the shark has been killed when hunters caught the wrong specimen.”
This particular decision to reset is a gamble. I want this decision not to prove misguided, and for no one to suffer from any attempt to return to life as it was before. For it to prove to have been the right thing to do.
The best way to judge when you need a reset is to take time to slow down and listen with intent to what the world is trying to tell you. To try not to make the same mistakes again.
It’s never too late to reset.
* Andy Knox has tweeted that the text in this graphic is adapted from an article entitled Phases of Disaster, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
** It would be remiss of me not to conclude a post published on this of all days without Soundgarden’s doom-laden masterwork 4th of July, from their excellent Superunknown album.
- Stars and Stripes photograph by MJCarty, from New Jersey, 1993.
- Universal Studios Hollywood, Amity Island via Wikimedia Commons.
- Amity Island 4th of July Celebration via Wikimedia Commons.
The Jaws analogy is especially pertinent.
I wonder what the “return to normal” will look like and when we’ll look back and say we’re through the crisis?