It’s been a full year since the beginning of an experience unlike any other in our lifetime. A Global Pandemic. If you would have told me last year as we planned our Spring Break trip that it would be the last time—for a long time— that we could travel freely with little concern for our health and safety, I wouldn’t have believed you.
If you’d told me my children would not return to school and that our entire family would spend the next six months virtually going no where, I would have been anxious.
If I’d known that my mother was going to pass away in the first half of that pandemic, I would have been afraid and sad.
There are so many things that I admit, I’m glad I didn’t know in March of 2020.
However, as I reflect on the last year, I know there are several qualities that have been tested and strengthened as a result of these 12 unusual months. These qualities are ones that, on a good day, I’m thankful for and on a bad day, I need to remember to lean into or develop further. I know, as a coach, that every life experience is here to teach us something. And, as a Believer, I also know that God has designed each and every minute of our lives with plans not to harm us but for us to prosper. With that knowledge and reassurance in hand, I’m using this month’s blog to reflect on 5 qualities that I think have been tested throughout the last year but are also ones we need to continue to develop and practice in the months and years ahead.
Patience. Defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”, you might be thinking that you have already accepted enough trouble and suffering. And you would be right, but have you done so without getting angry or upset? Our country and world has been full of so much anger, injustice and outright violence in the last year, indicating we are not as far along as we need to be in our embodiment of patience. Our society is full of high achieving, hard charging people who make things happen. It’s been hard to be patient and sit by as so much is out of our control. However, I believe that there are always things within our control and perhaps when you’re feeling impatient and that the world is spinning in spite of you, remember both patience with the things you can’t control but tap into your drive and motivation for the things you can.
Self Control. This is about regulating and altering our responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones and achieve our goals. Patience is the quality that we utilize that helps us understand that things that once were done a certain way may need to be done differently now and self control is what prevents us from losing our cool. Self control takes discipline and practice and arguably, this last year has tested our abilities to manage and control our emotions and will likely continue to do so.
Resilience. If nothing else, we can all claim to be very resilient if we’re standing here in March of 2021. Resiliency is about our ability to bounce back from difficult situations. And, we’ve had our share of them in the last year, including many social, political and spiritual tribulations. If you live in Texas, you also survived the worst winter storm with temperatures the lowest they’ve been since the late 1980’s. It’s as if we were standing there in early February saying…ok, it’s been hard, but we’ve got this and then were “whack-a-moled” and told…just wait…there’s more! If that doesn’t build resilience, I don’t know what does.
Adaptability. When (not if!) you don’t succeed, try, try again. Being willing to adapt in order to create a desired outcome has been critical to life continuing with some sense of normalcy. I’ve been involved with groups that have continued to exist, have meetings and advance our goals, despite some of the barriers in the way. How? We’ve adapted to the current conditions. I have so much admiration for school districts, teachers, students and parents who adapted significantly when kids could not go back to school last year. The ways they have had to change almost every aspect of how they interact, much less educate in order to continue to support families and students has been nothing short of miraculous. In addition to the changes in the educational arena, the way we work and live has required major adaptation. I do believe, though, that adaptability in the face of trouble is a key skill. Instead of giving up, where can you give in and adapt so that your goals can still be accomplished and your dreams realized?
Gratitude. Last but not least, maintaining a spirit of gratitude will help us keep things in perspective. It has struck me that as people endure the loss of the familiar, they have still been able to remain grateful. Not everyone, of course, but people who I would understand if they felt no sense of thankfulness have been heard to say, “I’m just so thankful that….”. Next time you’re facing something where your patience, self control, resilience or adaptability is compromised, take a moment and think about something you’re grateful for. It will center you and put you in better position to handle what’s in front of you.
It’s times like the last year that have taught me that I only thought I knew what living out these qualities meant.
And, while I don’t wish for another year like the last, I know that 2020 has prepared me in many positive ways for life ahead–pandemic or not!