Reaffirming the Value of the Individual
A crisis is the time that comes after death of one era but before the birth of the next one. The coronavirus will surely be remembered as a turning point in how we live.
Ignacio Álvarez de Mon, Professor of Leadership at IE Business School
We do not yet know the extent of the consequences of the coronavirus crisis in the short, medium and long term. We don’t know what its effects will ultimately be in terms of health, nor how many lives will be lost in its wake. Nor do we have a clear idea of what the economic impact will be, although we can assume that it will be severe and long-lasting, causing many businesses to close and unemployment to soar.
Governments, organizations, companies, and society at large will respond however they can, for better or for worse. But who makes up society? Who makes up companies and organizations? Who votes for governments, in places where voting is allowed? At the end of the day, this organizational patchwork, which together constitutes what we know as society, is made up of individual people.
OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE
A crisis is a time of convulsion, suffering, uncertainty, fear, and insecurity. But it is also a time of change, opportunity, awakening, motivation, creativity, and enlightenment. As with all great moments of humanity, crises are ideal situations for drawing the best and the worst out of people. The coronavirus crisis is, among much else, a great invitation to all of us to offer the best version of ourselves. What is the best version of you? What is that best version capable of?
The coronavirus forces us to shut ourselves away in our homes, but it also invites us to withdraw from the mundane noise, to read, to reflect, to experience silence, to connect with what we are, to discover our true identity, to meditate, and to learn to be alone. This epidemic forces us to stop seeing other people, but it also nudges us to get along better with our own families—the people closest to us—to observe them, take care of them, and enjoy their company. In this world of social media and virtual online life, it is appropriate for us to miss the loved ones whom we cannot touch, embrace, see face to face, or meet in public.
REEVALUATING WHAT IS IMPORTANT
Our health is in danger. Our savings are at risk. Our jobs… who knows what will become of them? Now is the time to value and be grateful for what we have had—and for what we still have. Our society’s indiscriminate mass consumption has made us forget that the most important things in life are not subject to the law of supply and demand—or, at least, that they shouldn’t be. Now is a time for collaboration, for generosity, for thinking about other people as much as we think about ourselves. Do I have symptoms? Am I a member of an at-risk group? Are others in worse shape than I am? Is it better for me to stay home or go to the hospital? These times call for true solidarity, for the realization that we are all one, that we depend on one another. Now is the time to provide the best example and take action.
It has been said that if a crisis like this does not kill you, it will make you stronger. Let us find strength in our weakness, look to a more promising future, and yes, learn something from the experience. Learning to be a better person—a daily task that is advisable under any circumstances—is now a pressing need. If you manage to do this, then as an added bonus, this better version of yourself will serve as a permanent invitation for others to do the same.
Life is what it is. We have to accept it as it comes. Many circumstances of our existence—the most important ones, to be sure—are entirely out of our control. The coronavirus is a special occasion to recognize, humbly, that we are vulnerable, that we are essentially all the same, that life sometimes doesn’t give you what you want, but rather what you need. What you need, for what? For learning, growing, evolving, and loving.