Positive Learning From Covid-19?

Posted on May 11, 2020 · Posted in blog, News

Covid-19 has acted as a huge torch, bringing into sharp light both the bad, ugly and stupid as well as the kind, beautiful and smart.

When hit by a crisis, one’s true colours come out. Let’s see what someone who has undergone the worst possible crisis in human history wrote about this:

“Sigmund Freud once asserted, “Let one attempt to expose a number of the most diverse people uniformly to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appear the uniform expression of the one unstilled urge.”

Thank heaven, Sigmund Freud was spared knowing the concentration camps from the inside. His subjects lay on a couch designed in the plush style of Victorian culture, not in the filth of Auschwitz. There, the “individual differences” did not “blur” but, on the contrary, people became more different; people unmasked themselves, both the swine and the saints.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

And this is matched by our own life and work experience: crises accentuate the true nature of a person, a community, and country.

Despite sifting through the mountains of data about the pandemic we still remain in the dark as to when will this virus cease to be a threat: we need to learn to live with it for quite a long time yet.

We do not know what will the implications on the economy (bad, mainly, but how bad and for how long, and with what variations between locations is unknown).

What to believe? How to make choices?

As professional coaches and facilitators – and based on our many years of work focusing on human behaviour and decision making, as well as the feelings which underpin both – here’s our take.
It’s not breaking news but does provide a collection of useful leanings and observations to guide us.

We chose to formulate these as questions – questions bring out our best thinking. Before reading our answers, try to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers.

Ultimately, the vast majority of us can do nothing about the virus except protect ourselves as best we can.

What do I choose to:
Stop doing (or do much less)
Start doing (or do more)
Keep as is

These 3 simple questions can help you formulate what’s the positive, smart, best of you that you can nurture and project starting from now; and what’s the less great, less helpful to your life.

In our next post, we discuss three different elements that we find useful in helping us come out stronger from crises.



Are you reactive or proactive?

Understand and work with the Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Control.

Stephen Covey, in his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes:

“ Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern — things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather”

Without giving ourselves time to make the distinction between what is and what isn’t within our influence – we surrender choice-making to something other than ourselves. We become reactive. To clarify, take a look at the image/diagram.

I get enraged when I read about certain news, or watch a minister advise rules that are nonsensical and arbitrary. My heart rate goes up, and I become short-tempered and frustrated. It doesn’t change one iota of the rules, nor does it affect the minister in question. It affects only me, and my poor husband.

I take a breath and heed my own advice by self-talk, ‘OK, what can you do here? I can start a petition against that decision and try and make my voice heard’. I will do something about it (contact someone who is good at this sort of thing and initiate an action of this nature). Then I take a breath, focus on here and now (writing this piece) and let go. Or, I would – in other cases – take that breath and shrug my shoulders. I cannot do a single thing about some things: I let go.

I have had years of practice with this – and it takes practice! Start now, as it is the best thing you can gift yourself with, Corona or not.

Who am I really? Or: What are my values?

In the face of such a crisis, who are you, as a person – in your professional as well as personal life?

What has this strong light thrown upon you shown you about yourself?

Are you clear on what your basic, innermost, strongest values are? (You can try this exercise to sharpen this answer). Why is that crucial? Values are the principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life. Are you clear on yours?

What’s important to me? What might be less important? How do I prioritise these important elements that I wish to nurture in my life?

What do I want – and can – choose now based what my priorities really are; what’s important and what is less so; what do we want to focus on in our life from now on?

In order to choose to be proactive, you need to be clear about the answers to this question.

An additional question which we find very useful for this time is this:

What about your response to the lockdown surprised you?


One of my colleagues said she always believed that she lived to be out and about. She always engaged in many activities – art and craft projects and classes, excursions, lectures, exhibitions and travel; not to mention shopping and entertainment, especially theatre and music shows. She thought the lockdown will kill her. But surprisingly, she discovered she really liked being at home, slowing down and literally smelling the roses in her garden.

Am I resilient?

Here in South Africa, we expect the peak of the pandemic to only occur later in winter – in August or September. This means we need to brace ourselves for the long term. The current realities of working from home, no travel, social distancing, protective measures – are here to stay.

The key concept here is resilience. Resilience can be seen as one’s ability to bounce back.

The American Psychological Association (APA) outlines these factors as markers of resilience:
The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
Skills in communication and problem-solving.
The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.

If you’d like to take a quiz to check how resilient you are, here’s one.

“Black Swan” events teach us that changes will happen, with or without us, and we better learn how to navigate them.