One year ago, on March 11th, 2020, The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, and panic reverberated worldwide. Chaos and confusion reigned as mandatory lockdowns, quarantines, panic buying, and a cascade of conspiracy theories soon followed.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity — Sun Tzu
As someone with screenwriting aspirations, I was devastated not only that the first feature-length film set I had worked on was canceled mid-way through; I was devastated that my aspirations were deemed “non-essential.” That hurt.
I spent my first week of lockdown wallowing in self-pity.
I still remember lying in bed, indulging my woe-is-me pity, when it seemed as if the spirit of Kobe Bryant (R.I.P to my G.O.A.T) paid a visit to me. He inquired how I could claim to want to be like him:
“How could you call yourself a leader if this is how you’re responding to struggle? You know I would never capitulate to a challenge. I would rise above and make the most of my situation.”
I wasn’t gonna argue with the spirit of Kobe Bryant.
Especially because I realized times of chaos are when we need leaders most. I didn’t know what I was gonna do, but I knew I needed to employ leadership in some fashion to help my friends, family, and those who were struggling.
What I eventually did served as a foundation for this pandemic’s influence on my growth.
A Template For Leadership
I decided to put together a resource guide for those in need. As I went through this process, I noticed I had gone from wallowing in self-pity to thriving. My energy, confidence, and optimism were sky-high in large part due to this project I had taken up. I wanted others to feel like they were thriving.
A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way — John Maxwell
Upon nearly finishing the resource guide, I was inspired to reconfigure it by incorporating my personal journey in there. The end result was a resource guide that doubled as a self-help ebook that ideally would inspire people into leadership and be proactive in making the best out of their quarantine life.
The ebook, titled How to Thrive in a Pandemic, was split into four sections that mirrored a different stage in my journey to employ leadership in response to the pandemic.
Gather Information: In this section, I shared all the valuable information I came across regarding the pandemic. In terms of the leadership process, this is all about taking initiative. If we want to figure out how to overcome a challenge, we must gather the information we need to figure out what we’re up against and how to navigate it.
Be Empathetic: In my information gathering stage, I became informed and therefore empathetic to the particular struggles facing different people. In this second section, I shared all the resources and categorized them by ones aimed at specific groups affected by the pandemic: students, unemployed, low-income, elderly, etc. As leaders, it’s essential to understand and be empathetic towards the particular struggles facing the people we seek to lead or help.
Harness Your Inner Power: **Disclaimer**: I know this sounds vague and cheesy. BUT, this section was all about providing guidance on how people could make the most out of quarantine life. Concerning leadership, it’s about recognizing and taking advantage of all the abilities, capacity, and tools we have at our disposal to achieve desired outcomes.
Join the Fight: This section highlighted ways people could get involved in helping others during the pandemic. In terms of leadership, I stressed the importance of being an example. When we do things, intent on being an example for others, that intentionality pushes us to be our best selves.
Completing this ebook helped me realize that responding to challenges with the intention of being a leader helps gives us the purpose and meaning we need to push through challenging situations.
You don’t need a title to be a leader — Unknown
Moreover, I realized this ebook wasn’t just for other people; it was a template for me to navigate future challenges. The lessons I learned from my experience writing and sharing that ebook are ones I still pull from today.
The importance of proper self-care in relation to leadership should not be understated. And what I learned is that means caring for not just our physical, but mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Caring for others is important. But COVID-19 taught us that by caring for yourself, you’re caring for others too — Becca Kaye
Ironically, shortly after I released How to Thrive in a Pandemic, my sense of thriving disappeared. I poured a ridiculous amount of time and energy into this, and it didn’t seem like that was being reciprocated through others’ validation.
I nosedived right back into a sense of wallow and pity. I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t exercising, I stopped reaching out to friends, and I didn’t have the energy or willpower to be productive.
I took a solo hike to meditate and figure out what the hell was going on. During my meditation, I realized my nosedive was due to my habit of defining my value extrinsically, from others, as opposed to intrinsically, from myself. Since I couldn’t view my ebook efforts with a sense of self-validation, it hit me that much harder when I felt like others weren’t giving me validation.
This experience — taking place during a global wave of depression caused by the pandemic — helped me understand the importance of and the interconnectivity of all our health areas, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The ability to self-validate comes from a place of spiritual well-being, so my lack of spiritual health led to adverse effects on my mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
For the first time, I began to take an acute awareness of ALL areas of my health (I delve much deeper into the topic in this article). I’ve been able to take this lesson and identify how a certain problem I’m experiencing may emanate from an imbalance in one aspect of my health.
Self care is so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. — Eleanor Brown
The pandemic has made self-care a recurring theme. For example, as a member of Public Allies (a leadership development program I joined last year), encouragement of our self-care has been continual. I assume it’s because the program managers understand that our leadership lacks sustainability unless we intentionally create time and space for self-care. Devolving from thriving to despairing after creating my ebook serves as a perfect reminder of this.
The chaos of the past year has been something none of us would ever want to relive. But, often, it’s the worst of times that provide us the best lessons. I sincerely hope that everyone can identify and appreciate all of the potential for growth from this past year in a pandemic.