I wrote this before last April and now it’s already November, with another crisis that struck our nation. 2020 seemed to be a year full of obstacles: natural calamities, pandemic, political issues, and a lot more. Thus, I am reposting this and adding some of my insights on the seven months that have passed. Read further and you will see my take on the last part of the article.
Updated: November 2020
Last time, I posted my thoughts on the things you can do during the quarantine. Some find it insightful to learn new ways on how to make their time productive at home. Again, let’s be grateful that we can actually have the option to do those things that I’ve mentioned because there are a lot of people out there who are struggling to make ends meet, and that’s where we can actually help. I do believe the power of helping others is stronger when we, ourselves, are stronger in body and mind. Thus, during a crisis, it is also important to cultivate a growth mindset and still strive for self-improvement even if things are getting out of hand.
The quarantine is a way for me to learn and browse through online courses. One instructor told me that being a good listener is actually raising your own personal standards because it is a normal tendency for people to speak out things about them. It’s definitely simple to listen, however, it is not common practice. Being a good listener enables you to have an open-mind especially in this crisis wherein there are lots of opinions flying everywhere from social media sites, news articles, and from your peers. Here are some pointers that I’d like to share with you to maintain your openness in this times of crisis:
- We have preconceived ideas, expectations or bias. Accept it. Not everyone can agree with you. You might think that you have the best opinion out there, but have you put yourself in the shoes of others? Ponder on why they think this way. It can be cultural, parental upbringing, experiences in life, and the like. If we fail to accept that individuals have differences then we’ll be disappointed why they are not agreeing with us.
- Most people are more interested in being right than learning. Again, this is a natural tendency for people. Think of instances wherein you feel like you’re being this. In fact, there are no inflexible people, there are just some rigid thinkers. Instead of pushing yourself to be always right, ask yourself, could you learn things instead of arguing all the time? Avoid the habit of listening to reply but instead listen to learn.
- We cannot do anything to someone who had a closed mind. You might be open-minded, but what about others? The key in knowing if people are really closed-minded goes back to the second point, which is to listen. By listening attentively and hearing them out, we can definitely ascertain if someone is a rigid thinker.
Being Proactive than Reactive
I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.
– John Maxwell
Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.
– Stephen Covey
Imagine this. You’re studying for an exam and you have a few time left to do it. Suddenly, you saw a cockroach crawl on the side, on the floor. There are two actions that you can take at this moment, and people would do:
- Scream and freak out. Then you’ll get something to fight with the cockroach.
- Ignore the cockroach or just put it away.
Normally, people do the first one, right? Now, there are certain consequences for such actions. For the first one, of course you spent some time freaking out and fighting with the cockroach. Moreover, you also spent some energy. We’re not saying that this is a bad way to act when you have a cockroach encounter, but think of all the possible exhaustion you will face if you act like this. Meanwhile, the second one is more of facing the challenge in such a calm manner.
Why are we talking about cockroaches anyway?
We can actually relate the cockroaches to the challenges and crisis that we are facing in life. Most people have the reactive behavior, which is the first one, and there are others who can manage it well and that is called the proactive behavior. Now let’s look at the difference between the two.
Going back, a crisis is something that is out of our control. Ask yourself, why do you have to stress over things that you can’t control? Things might be really stressful at first, but we don’t have to stress about it for a long time. Think of ways to improve yourself with the things you can control. Be realistic and at the same time, accept the fact that crisis, problems, and challenges are constantly present, and the reason why we are feeling them is because we are existing, too.
Adaptation and Flexibility
Connecting it with the previous point, we need to develop the habit of being flexible. I’d like to share my point #1 in one post I made on my Facebook Page.
What does that have to do with being flexible? Being on a constant flight-or-fight mode doesn’t encourage flexibility. What happens is, it uses up the resources in our brain instead of regenerating more to enable us to think creatively and critically. The best decisions and actions are made when we are calmly looking at things with a balance of emotion and logic. You might ask, “How can you even stay calm at this period?”
If you ask me that, I’ll ask you that question back. We are the only ones who can tell how we can calm ourselves in a storm. No one can tell you or dictate you on how you’re going to do that. Thus, it goes back to the principle that there are things we can control, not other people, and we must learn how to manage that.
If you’re the kind of person who has the skill to manage your emotions, is constantly self-aware, then it must be also easy for you to empathize with others. What does it mean when we say empathy?
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. – Oxford
It is a vital aspect in times of crisis because you would need to know why people are pushing for certain things and actively fighting for their rights. You don’t have to experience what they are feeling in order to empathize with them. You just have to develop the act of listening and hearing others out, and by completely understanding where they are coming from you can definitely help. In times of crisis, there are people who:
- Have no resources
- Cannot eat three times a day
- Are constantly worrying about tomorrow
- Feels hopeless about the world they’re in
- Just doesn’t want to live anymore because they feel everything that happens to them is suffering
- Are not at peace with being alone at home
- Are away with their loved ones
- Have increased risk in whatever the situation might be
- Are constantly battling with their mental health
And the list goes on.
Always take into consideration that these things are incomparable. Having no food to eat does not mean having a bigger problem with those battling with their mental health. Again, this is not similar to pity. Empathy is empowerment, in enables people who feels disabled to continue hoping and to take action. Be the person who will see the goodness in humanity in times of crisis.
Keep on growing, a crisis is not a hindrance to our growth. Instead, it is the same pressure that molds diamonds.
ON CALAMITIES (UPDATE):
The quarantine and the calamities are comparably similar. We faced a crisis as individuals and as a nation. Thus, let me a controversial characteristic that we need to cultivate and personally define.
This particular characteristic has been very controversial in my country as we got struck by the latest typhoon Ulysses, damaging properties and causing fatalities. Some people said that we should stop romanticizing resilience because it does more harm than good. I remembered doing a major research about women resilience and true enough, it is something very praiseworthy but at what threshold should we stop being inspired by it?
Romanticizing it actually reinforces the concept that we should accept our vulnerabilities and suffering as normal, in times of crisis, which leads us to stagnation. It also makes those people of power not to take urgent action because they think that, we are used to this.
We want to cultivate a growth mindset, and too much of thinking about resilience would not actually make us develop. If we keep on thinking about resilience in such a way that it is okay for us to suffer, it gives us the I’m-used-to-it mindset that instead of looking for ways to solve the challenges better, we just accept the fact that we are stuck on the same position always.
For example, when we interviewed some Typhoon Yolanda victims who were relocated in Malabon, their strength in battling crisis is definitely praiseworthy. On the other hand, they already got used to their situation wherein they have not thought of other ways to improve their standard of living. This is what we mean by not allowing ourselves to grow. Moreover, people who have more power give less priority knowing that these people can withstand these kinds of events.
This reminds me of one of the activities we did in one of my organizations, Asean Youth Engagement Summit, about the Lake Conundrum. Watch it here:
My answer is the officials. They have the power. They swore to protect citizens at all costs. Should be the same to all kinds of unwanted events, right? If we let the citizens be resilient from the toxic lake, the worst thing that’s going to happen is they’re going to die.
Now when is resiliency helpful? For me, it becomes beneficial when framed in a different manner, and when we place emphasis on it after the event.
Resilience, after all, is still a helpful characteristic that we need to cultivate, in a good way. Let’s define what resilience is first.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. – American Psychological Association
With the definition presented, resilience becomes beneficial if we create concrete and specific action plans to pass these challenges. We could work hand in hand to grow and help each other to survive. People might not acknowledge it, but this is also being resilient. We envision hope amidst the crisis and we see that after these calamities when can look for ways to be better.
I hope this article made it clear what resilience is and how we can draw two different responses from it. It can either be good, if we take certain steps to grow despite adversities, or it could be detrimental, if it causes us suffering. Use it, cultivate it, responsibly and grow with it.
I will be uploading my next podcast next week since I am one of the people affected by the typhoon, (apologies if you haven’t heard me in a while!) but everything is fine now. We will keep on moving forward so we can have more resources and help those who are in need, including ourselves.