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As with many people, I’ve found myself wondering, when we come out on the other side of this pandemic, what will the new normal look like? Too much hardship and heartache has been released into the world to be a Pollyanna about this. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for good wherever we can find it. And here’s what I’m seeing — there’s a humanizing influence that the shared hardship is having on people who never took time to realize how fortunate they are. And how connected we are.
Empathy is up.
Our news feeds are becoming more flooded with stories of people just stepping it up and trying to help where they can. We’re counting our blessings and learning and practicing empathy. I see and hear about people offering to help strangers distribute food, make masks for healthcare workers, stream free educational programs for all ages, and the list goes on.
Our connectivity bonds.
My friends and colleagues continue to express genuine concern for our company, our industry, and the economy. From this, I realized that I am craving those connections, and I am grateful to receive a virtual version of that online through those who respond to my blog, send me notes, and ask how I am doing. Six weeks ago, I took for granted that I could see people whenever I wanted to; now I’m really looking forward to making the next industry event a special occasion — a reunion celebration, if you will.
Air pollution is down.
In China, experts estimate that emissions over the past month have been about 25% lower than normal. Similar things are happening in Italy. Possibly in the U.S. Yes, we could offset this by other homebound carbon-consumption behavior. And while the idled factories and cars will no doubt return to their carbon-emitting ways, it’s also possible that some good habits could become permanent. After enjoying a few smog-free days, people might feel motivated to collaborate on sustainable solutions. Those who started using bicycles instead of Ubers or cabs for social distancing could stick with the habit. Harried office workers who are now telecommuting might discover the joy of just going for a walk at lunch, maybe even make it part of their routine. Companies realizing that not every business meeting has to happen face-to-face could be more lenient about work-at-home situations and teleconferencing.
Healthful habits are up.
Every flu season we are reminded by medical professionals to wash our hands scrupulously. We’ve never taken it seriously — until now. If we have finally developed a lifetime habit of hand washing — and are raising a new generation for whom this is standard operating procedure — think of how many flu bugs and cold viruses will be thwarted going forward.
In the “old normal,” most people I talked to were feeling sleep deprived. Operating without sleep is dangerous, and there are so many studies linking sleep deprivation to impaired learning and memory. Today, while our work life is shifted to work-at-home life, it’s a chance to reboot our weary brains. This means we can be more intentional about how we use our brains in the new normal. People whose calendars are usually filled with work, travel, school functions, and general socializing are finding time learn something new, play games with their kids, practice a musical instrument, rediscover abandoned hobbies, write actual snail-mail, and even re-read a favorite novel.
The pandemic is awful. The new normal doesn’t have to be.
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