This past year has been a hard one for hope. It seems to me that every time we were about to get back on our feet, something different came along to knock us back down. How do we stay hopeful in situations like this? How do we get excited about the new possibilities and opportunities that will emerge on the other side of all the highs and lows of 2020?
It’s tough to find just the right answers for questions like these. To feel a little bit more hopeful, I like to think about other major historical events the world has gone through and how we emerged different but stronger. One period of history that sticks out in my mind is the polio epidemic that occurred in the United States beginning in 1916. Much like the COVID-19 pandemic we face today, this epidemic caused widespread panic and forced public gatherings to be canceled. Families of those who contracted this disease were required to quarantine in their homes.
Though polio is a far different disease from COVID-19, I can imagine that a lot of the fear was the same. Here was a disease invading our country at a rapid rate that we did not know how to prevent or cure. I bet people asked themselves “How are our country and community ever going to get through this?”
Robert, a business associate, was asking that same question today. In a recent conversation, Robert and I discussed how difficult constant change and tumult can be on people. Our discussion led us to the path of hope and how to stay hopeful. Eventually, we came around to this line of thinking: the polio epidemic was hard to get through, and yet we emerged better and stronger on the other side. Robert and I agreed that we can do the same today and that this process starts with an intentional shift in the way we think.
Here are some take aways we came up with:
- Dream big! It is easy to feel despair, like we will never be able to move past the pandemic we are currently facing, but it is important that we remember the value of dreaming. We have the opportunity to make the world a better place. What’s on your dream list for 2021? Mine includes things like learning how to sail– what about you?
- When you can, choose happiness. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you twice, but oftentimes it’s easy to fall into negative thinking. Instead of this, focus on what is happy. What’s in that bucket for you– spring weather, the sun, Starbucks coffee, flowers?
- Stay connected to your community. We are all spending more time alone these days, but that doesn’t mean we have to feel cut off. Community is more important than ever. I know it’s getting old, but keep calling your friends, video conferencing your family, and going on socially distanced walks.
- Find inspiration in new places. Personally, I have found a lot of inspiration in the books and new podcasts I have picked up since this all started, but you can be inspired by any number of things– people, music, nature, art, food, etc.
- Don’t take anything for granted. It may sound cliche, but we should be grateful for every day that we are given. Have you made a gratitude list lately? That can help you appreciate the smallest of things.
As with the polio epidemic, I am inspired by how our nations and communities are engaging in recovery today. While seemingly slow at times, progress is being made.
For instance, medicine is getting better and safer. Public health and safety are improving. The workforce is adapting and some sectors are thriving as people have moved to working from home. Technology has been created that meets our current needs. Perhaps most importantly, healthcare is changing for the better. The use of PPE has become the new normal. Hospitals and doctors are better equipped to deal with a public health crisis, should it ever happen again. Finally, we have multiple vaccines that are beginning to be administered to the public.
What can you and I do to aid in this process of recovery? We can stay hopeful and search for meaning in this crisis because there is meaning in crisis! If we all do our part, our community can recover faster and better than ever before! Will you join me on the journey of hope today?
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country, a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.