If someone told me five months back that I will be spending the larger part of 2020 inside my house, stepping out only if it was essential, I would have stared at them in disbelief. And yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only impacted our present plans, but will also change the way our future will unfold. Everyone’s favourite acronym aka VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) has taken complete new relevance in these turbulent times, when suddenly one third of the human civilization is under some or the other form of restriction.
Two and half months after the ‘stay-at-home order’, I am grateful that this time gave me a chance to take a step back and reflect on different aspects of my life. I have captured some of my learning along the way:
1. Social impact cannot be an afterthought anymore: The lockdown in India and the subsequent plight that the rural migrant workers endured has brought to light the uncomfortable (yet known) truth – the difference between the haves & the have-nots and the fact that as a society we can do a lot more to support & uplift our fellow citizens.
As my spouse says, the path to a more fulfilled life is not just finding the balance between work and life, but striving for a balance between work, life and our social contributions. An individual may not be able to resolve all the complications of our society on their own. It will take teams, organizations and communities to come together as a whole and have deeper conversations on some of the world’s complex problems.
I haven’t figured out my equation yet; what role do I play in the society and how can I effectively team up with the people around me? How much of my time & energy does it involve and how will I manage my priorities and commitment? But the fact remains that we owe it to the larger community to join forces and come up with faster solutions.
2. Technology is the new best friend: Tiny tots are attending pre-school on Zoom calls, children are learning new subjects through Youtube tutorials and teenagers are using Tiktok and Snapchat (and a lot many other apps) not only for entertainment, but for communication, collaboration & learning. One thing is clear – the youth who will join the workforce in the next two decades will not only know how to use technology, but will prefer communication through digital platforms rather than face-to-face conversations.
And it is up to us to catch up with them. My own personal bias was that I thought that learning happens only in a classroom. But as I see my sister signing up for MOOC on Coursera, a friend taking up online art tutorials and colleagues picking up digital courses from reputed B-schools, I know that I am the one who has to step up & leverage what digital platforms have to offer.
3. My hobbies will not wait for me: I used to love reading novels when I was young. However, as I grew up, my hobby took a back-seat because there was always an assignment to finish, an event to attend or a sitcom to binge-watch. I kept assuring myself that I could come back to reading at a later point of time.
The lockdown gave me time to catch up on a few books and what I realized was that there is so much I missed out on because I did not read enough over the last few years. The world of books kept evolving, while I lost out on the deep insights, wit and the time travel that comes when you read a book.
And so,the onus is on me to prioritize my interests over other factors in my life. The world will work just fine even if I choose not to pursue my passion, but I would not be able to go back and do the things I enjoyed doing, but didn’t.
4. Sometimes all it needs is a bit of patience: Cooking has always a very stressful experience for me. Anything that can go wrong always goes wrong when I am in the kitchen. I had almost given up on cookery when the lockdown forced me to make my own meals.
And then something brilliant happened! With the power of muscle memory and small learning along the way from my earlier misses, I was able to prepare food which was actually tasty. I cooked proper meals after three years and with sheer practice, became faster and smarter in the kitchen.
It makes me think that sometimes to build on something you need to be okay with small failures in your journey. On a few things, my learning curve may be slower than others but I can get always there as long as I am willing to bounce back and give it some time before giving up completely.
5. Lifestyle is fickle – it can be easily adapted: From the earlier lifestyle of eating outside almost every week to the now lifestyle that involves recreating my favourite dishes, putting on jazz music and giving a cafe -like vibe to my home itself.
From the earlier lifestyle of making multiple excel sheets to figure out about visa, accommodation, things to do for an international trip to the now lifestyle which lets me soak in my own home, which my spouse and I have spent years in designing and decorating to our likes.
It is funny how easily I was able to adjust to my new realities and how quickly I was able to change my habits when I had no other alternative. It makes me ponder that in the past did I dismiss ideas or notions, because I was too comfortable in my own bubble – I need to adjust my lifestyle to my thoughts and not the other way round!
I would thus like to leave these thoughts from my learning in the five points below –
- Start thinking of social impact that you can create, now
- Get comfortable with the ever-evolving technology
- Invest time towards hobbies close to the heart
- Patience is not a virtue but a practice
- Let your lifestyle not be a road-block for the things you want to achieve
With that said, I still do not know how will my learning evolve or change over the next few months. It is impossible to predict the future – Will we see a global recession? Is there going to be a second wave of Covid-19 cases?
But I am hoping that I am able to leverage some of my experiences in the recent past to the future that lies ahead.