Finding Hope in the Holidays

16th December 2020

At last the holidays are here. For some this brings unusual busyness – one feels for hospital staff bracing for the consequences of our carelessness. For some it will bring sadness and nostalgia for those lost on the way. But most of us will feel relief, after hanging on to the last vestiges of our energy to see us through to the end of this extraordinary year. How should we prepare for 2021? How can those of us with businesses prepare our teams to let go the disappointments and tragedies of the pandemic and lift themselves to new heights of effort next year?

Rabbi David Lapin has drawn a very helpful distinction between fatigue and depletion, and their cures: rest and restoration. Fatigue is tiredness caused by exertion, and a period of rest cures it. Depletion occurs when one is drained of one’s inner emotional, intellectual and spiritual resources. It may or may not be accompanied by fatigue, but it is not cured just by rest. It requires restoration of the inner well of intellect, emotion and spirit.

With the second Covid-19 wave crashing onto the shores of our lives and businesses, we may well be depleted. In a blog Lapin suggests some activities he has found to be restorative: “regular prayer or meditation; walking in nature and pausing to notice all the sounds, sights, and textures around you; reading something beautiful or inspiring rather than useful; physically meeting and spending quality time with loved ones for nothing more than connecting and sharing; listening attentively to music that is harmoniously complex and rich in sounds and themes; applying your mind to a challenge totally unrelated to work; regular journaling.”

What a great agenda for the beach.

One of the tasks of leaders is to feed their own energy until it overflows and infects the rest of their team. This holiday season is an opportunity to connect with our sources of energy and identify what will energise our teams next year.

One of the sources of inner energy is optimism. Psychologist and author Rick Hanson suggests we have “Velcro/Teflon” minds. Negative, pessimistic thoughts tend to stick in our minds as if to Velcro, while positive, optimistic thoughts slide away as if off Teflon. That’s unhelpful! We would be better off if we could attach optimism to the Velcro in our minds and let the pessimism slide off the Teflon.

We can’t always change the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we can change the mental lenses through which we view them, making us happier, more effective and healthier. And indeed sometimes that can help us achieve actual change.

But life is not just about feeling good, nor about denying the obvious. Often life is bad. Realistically, sometimes we can’t be optimistic. Vaccinations are only likely to begin making a noticeable difference to the local business environment in the second half of 2021. Your plan for next year may not be optimistic.

But resilient people have a source of meaning and confidence that goes deeper than optimism. The noted preacher William Sloane Coffin called this attitude “hope”: “Hope is a state of mind independent of the state of the world. If your heart’s full of hope, you can be persistent when you can’t be optimistic. You can keep the faith despite the evidence, knowing that only in so doing has the evidence any chance of changing. So while I’m not optimistic, I’m always very hopeful.”

This is traditionally a season of hope, so what better time to re-connect with the ultimate source of hope in your life. If you lead others this is, actually, a business imperative.

Jonathan Cook is a counselling psychologist and chairman of the African Management Institute. He  is also the host of AMI’s weekly Rise reflection series focused on supporting you in your business and your personal wellness.

This article was originally published on BusinessLive on 14 December, 2020 and is republished with permission.

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