Retirement Redesigned

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Monday, July 15, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeCoronavirus / Covid-19Look for the light beams in the darkness. There are lessons to...

Look for the light beams in the darkness. There are lessons to be learnt.

It’s easy to get trapped in a negative spiral when looking at a situation that seems dire. There are silver linings that serve as lessons if we make a habit of looking for them instead of staying trapped in despair. Here are four lessons to help you stay positive in difficult times.

We are not alone.

As the world has come to a screeching stop, the most critical new light is one that signals a dramatic change in our values. We used to live for everything to be bigger and better and faster with more profit and ever greater satisfaction. We used to be careless with our resources and unmindful of our fellow citizens. Suddenly we are all facing the same onslaught. We are becoming aware of who is in the trenches with us and we are taking notice of our neighbours.

Unlike the experiences of wars or localised catastrophes, this is a global event with a common cause, and we are all in it together. Our collective response will ensure a collective outcome.

Kindness is on the increase.

Linked to the first lesson, it is evident that we are becoming kinder and more generous. Forget about all the panic-buying and people fighting each other in supermarkets for perceived dwindling supplies. There is now a more gentle awareness of how those with fewer resources will suffer. Younger people are becoming more conscious of the older ones and those who may not be able to do their shopping or other errands. They are offering to assist and be helpful to seniors that cannot move as easily. All kinds of people are volunteering to help wherever they see a need. More and more people are preparing food parcels and delivering aid to less fortunate communities.

Here is a great example. When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put out a call for retired healthcare workers to volunteer he was hoping for 250 000 willing citizens to step forward. To his surprise, over 500 000 volunteers raised their hands to assist doctors and nurses in the health care system!

We are resilient.

We are more resilient than we think, and we have much of the innate toughness to overcome great challenges. Resilience is the process of positive adaptation to adversity. It is what helps us to bounce back when challenged. It emerges when we feel seriously threatened. With all the painful news, focusing on the scary statistics describing the world-wide contamination and the increasing death rate, our senses are on high alert. It is like a boxer subconsciously making a fist when he feels threatened. We can summon immediate readiness to defend ourselves and to fight if necessary.

Of the people still alive and remembering the Second World War, there is the memory of surviving the Blitz in London, and the dire circumstances in the countries of the Allies. But many survived, having relied on their inner resources and sheer emotional stamina. There is also a particular pride in having overcome the danger. Some old Londoners, still say, like Churchill did, “this was our finest hour”. Perhaps now will be the hour for this generation.

A boost in creativity

There is an increase in creativity and deeper thought. When times are good, and we have fewer challenges, there is less to motivate us to test our ability or resourcefulness. In the present circumstances we are threatened and feel unsure and we are tapping into our creative resources. As an example, we’ve seen a sudden surge of activity in social media. Postings of satire, jokes, cartoons, and humorous accounts of ill-informed politicians are found on all platforms. There is also a wealth of more serious writing and thoughtful dialogue entering the public realm. People are thinking less superficially about goals and strategies for the time ahead and we are seeing people re-examining values and lifestyle.

It will not be surprising that anyone with the inclination would probably pick up on latent artistic skills. Staying at home, we are likely to start creative hobbies and craft activities. Many are also applying their ingenuity to practical solutions such as 3D printing of face shields and sewing face masks.

Look out for more beams of light. Look out for those that need help and do what you can to provide it. Keep your own mood upbeat and see this time as a great opportunity to grow and to become even stronger.

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.