In these unprecedented COVID-19 times, more than ever, we are connected by this pandemic. We all face a similar struggle to make sense of each day, weather the crisis and keep sanity. At the same time, two parallel worlds exist – one with people at home in isolation, another one with heroes fighting the pandemic and caring for the sick. Connection and separation co-exist.
We live this paradox of separation and connection at a smaller scale too. As human beings, we crave for connection and belongingness. Maslow’s pyramid of needs includes the need for connection once basic physiological and safety needs are met. However, separation is unavoidable. Our personalities, experiences, backgrounds and roles in life are different: one cannot fully comprehend what another person is feeling, living or doing. Therefore separation, at a smaller or larger degree, is inherent.
So how can we strive in the midst of this paradox of connection and separation, between the yearning to belong and connect, and the unavoidability of separation?
- Embrace your purpose and differences. We all have our paths in life. When we step into our own purpose and potential, the connections among individuals and communities are enriched and more authentic. Anything short of it makes for a suboptimal connection, leading to frustration or separation.
- Surround yourself with like minded people. There is an African proverb that says “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. A community of like minded people is a catalyst for growth and therefore stronger connection.
- Filter out negativity. Negativity can take multiple forms. At times, negativity may come from people we most love. Without an exit strategy in the realm of options in this case, what we can control is how much weight to give to other people’s actions or words.
- Stop making assumptions. Hurt comes when we let fears and past experiences interpret actions and words for us. The text your friend hasn’t responded to yet …it could simply be that your friend is having a long and tiring day.
- Increase empathy but don’t lower your standards. Developing empathy challenges our beliefs by forcing us to see things from another person’s point of view. Building a bridge across two positions however doesn’t mean we should compromise on our values and principles.
- Clarify your beliefs and values. What unites or separates us is ultimately found in our values and beliefs. Used as a compass, they will shape our decisions for connection vs separation and give us the courage to move forward with our choices.
The pitfall of this paradox is two-fold:
- Unhealthy balance towards connection or separation, which might result in unfulfillment (either because we are too busy connecting rather than walking into our purpose, or because we feel disconnected, and therefore unfulfilled).
- Rationalize a behavior, emotion or response, which might ultimately work against us. In his book “How you will measure your life“, Harvard Business School professor, Dr. Clayton Christensen, talks about the concept of marginal cost thinking in life and business: “The marginal cost of doing something ‘just this once’ always seems to be negligible,...but the full cost will typically be much higher. …It suckers you in, and you don’t see where that path is ultimately headed or the full cost that the choice entails.”
What we allow to connect or separate us becomes significant.
Our beliefs shape our actions, our actions shape our characters, and our characters shape our lives.
During these unchartered times, unwillingly to all of us, COVID-19 connects us across nations, social statuses, and generations… Let us also be connected – and not separated -by our positivity, strength and responsibility in response to this crisis.