Taking the lessons from 2020 into the New Year.
As we turn the page to a new calendar year, many of us are looking forward to things getting back to “normal.” We’ve dreamed about outings with friends and returning to what life used to look like before the pandemic, but perhaps the way we used to live and conduct business isn’t necessarily the best way.
Perhaps there are lessons that we learned during the height of the pandemic that we can take with us when things open back up again. Before the pandemic hit, the rat race was very much alive and well. People worked harder to make more money, in order to buy more things, which they would then have to work harder to upkeep, in order to make even more money. I recently watched a TED Talk given by David Brooks about what it means to cultivate a meaningful life.
It spoke to the different kinds of skills that we carry into each interaction we participate in. Brooks distinguishes between the skills that you bring to the marketplace, the external side of your nature, called “Resume virtues,” and one’s internal values, what he calls “Eulogy virtues.”
Brooks came to see the distinction between the two kinds of virtue after reading Rav Soloveitchik’s great essay, The Lonely Man of Faith. Rav Soloveitchik noted that the Torah [Old Testament] contains two accounts of the creation of man, one in Genesis 1, the other in Genesis 2. Genesis 1 is about humans as part of the natural order, Homo sapiens, the biological species. Genesis 2 is about individual people, Adam and Eve, capable of loneliness and love.
While we all seem to be eager to move back to a culture and a pace that values our external selves so highly, it is important also to realize that the external ideologies that we believe define us can be stripped away in an instant, leaving us with only the internal to define who we are.
The last year has seen many ups and downs, and those who have been able to tap in to their internal strength have been able to rise to the challenge. According to Brooks, we live “in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career, but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.” In approaching this year, there is the unique opportunity to merge the inner with the outer.
To take what we have learned during this difficult time, all of the inward reflection, and bring it to the forefront. Each individual always has their own struggle. This year, we were all struggling with the same thing, so it was easier to approach situations with empathy, but this is something that we can take past the pandemic.
The external struggle, the pressure to be successful in the commercial marketplace, is something that we all feel. We have the unique opportunity to practice an unprecedented depth of character within our work, giving meaning to each of our interactions to cultivate meaningful relationships with those whom we work with everyday.
It is explained that the reason for this dual definition is that we ourselves are made up of two distinct parts, those that are our achievements, and those that comprise our inner selves. Bearing that in mind, this past year has brought the notion of helping each other, of thinking of others, to the forefront of my mind.
Outside of the charity initiatives that we are doing, what can be done on a daily basis in order to develop the strength and character not only of ourselves, but of those around us. We should regularly express gratitude for the blessings in our own lives and express our appreciation to both frontline workers and other typically lower-paid workers who kept essential services [such as grocery stores and municipal services and others] moving during these times.
One thing is for certain, throughout the pandemic, we have realized how valuable the people we surround ourselves with are. Our team went above and beyond to make sure that our clients needs were covered, and that our workers were safe on the job, There was an inherent sense of teamwork and trust that we had never experienced before, because each of us had a role in keeping the entirety of our team safe, and each of us was dealing with the same hardships.
Stephen Covey, the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ said that, “Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” Even though the past year has been extremely hard for many businesses, it causes us, as well as many of our cohorts, to rethink the purpose of their businesses, and the effects they want to have on the greater good.
Going forward this year, we will be striving to keep that sense of togetherness at play, and hope that we can continue to look both inwardly and outwardly to manifest a world where how we can help each other is the central focus. Let’s make a real difference to those whose lives we touch this year!