There are defining moments in our lives that not only are seared into our memories but also shape our behavior moving forward. Significant events – from natural disasters and economic recessions to political turmoil and health pandemics – become a part of the lens through which we see the world, and as a result, life never again feels quite the same.
As states across the country begin to reopen in the wake of COVID-19, I find myself reflecting on the uniqueness and gravity of what we’ve just been through. Never in my life has there been a time where the whole world hit ‘pause’ and the rat-race of business, school and social demands came to a halt. Without question, the consequences of the virus are vast and devastating for many – from infection and death to job loss and financial instability. I recognize that the health, safety and security of my family are privileges that thousands of Americans didn’t experience during this pandemic. I am lucky and grateful.
If there’s a broader silver lining in all of this, however, it might be that many Americans used this time to reflect and evaluate what’s important. My charge to you (and to myself) is to not let that end as shelter-in-place orders do.
Here are the lessons from COVID-19 that I hope shape my life from now on.
We’ll have less ‘stuff’ on our calendars. During the past two decades, many of us became conditioned to accept a frantic pace of life. Our time was filled with to-dos and commitments but at what cost? I’m grateful to have experienced a slower pace of life recently, and the pandemic has taught me to carefully consider the purpose and value of what resurfaces on my calendar.
We’ll spend more time outside. With restaurants, malls and other businesses closed during COVID-19, our options for getting out of the house have been limited. For many of us, that meant more time outside. Family walks, picnic lunches and visiting local parks became a part of our routine, and I found my whole family benefited from the fresh air, sunshine and time away from screens.
We’ll prioritize physical and mental health. I believe there’s a powerful connection between mind, body and spirit. When we eat well, exercise and cultivate a positive mindset, our physical bodies often feel better too. When we get busy, it’s not uncommon for these things to suffer, but they’re critical to our health and performance in other areas of life. I’m committed to maintaining a consistent workout routine and cooking healthy meals at home.
We’ll leverage technology for human connection. Obviously, technology has enabled people to work remotely – as much of our country was forced to do over the past six weeks. However, it’s one thing to use technology to keep you productive; it’s another thing to let it enable greater connection. Video conference capabilities such as Zoom helped me deepen discussions with colleagues and loved ones, and it’s something I plan to keep leveraging. When it’s not cost-effective or possible to meet face-to-face, reading facial expressions and body language virtually is significantly better than communicating via email, text or even phone calls.
We’ll notice people more. When our minds are preoccupied and our calendars are full, it’s easy to rush from place to place without stopping to really see the people around us. Whether it’s neighbors and grocery store workers we barely make eye contact with or nurses and truck drivers we take for granted, I’m committed to noticing and building relationships with the people in my everyday life.
We’ll support small businesses. My family loves to eat out. We like to shop and travel and do business with good people. However, we don’t always make thoughtful, intentional choices about where we spend our money. Watching local small businesses innovate and adapt as they struggle to survive COVID-19 has been nothing short of inspiring. It’s reminded me of entrepreneurs’ creativity and Americans’ resilience, so I’m committing to use my time and resources to support small businesses more often than not.
What COVID-19 taught us about ourselves individually might be different, but I believe the pandemic opened our eyes to some universal things that are under-emphasized in modern American society. I hope you’ll join me in carrying forward the lessons you learned, so we can work together to build lives of purpose and meaning.
Blog by Kyle Brownlee, Chief Executive Officer