Normally, the start of a new year is heralded with renewed verve, new goals and a new drive towards higher levels than those achieved the previous year. The question “where to from here” is posed to people rearing to go and requiring only to be pointed in the direction of what needs slaying.
Whilst we have reported for duty with a New Year veneer on, there is a flicker of uncertainty behind the eyes of many. In the same way as “normal” has developed somewhat over the past two years, so has most people’s offering and approach to 2022. The suggestion that 2022 may be more of the “new normal” is met with courageous laughter that tapers off into nervous chuckles, and questions about how we’ll innovate this year are met with blank, wide-eyed stares. Why is this, and what does it mean for 2022?
Human beings are resilience survivalists who have very literally evolved over centuries – overcoming, inventing and progressing at every turn. This year will be no different. What may be different is the way we go about that resilience, survival and progression because where we find ourselves at the start of this year is markedly different to much of our most recent history. Consequently, our needs have changed.
Human beings are driven and fed by connection and our ability to “see” a future we’re inspired to move towards. It makes sense, therefore, that prolonged periods where those drivers are disrupted would have consequences. When I retrieved my son from school in March 2020 as the first wave of the pandemic was shutting the world down, we discussed whether it was worth lugging his 12.5kg school bag on the international flight home. We decided to hedge our bets and take it with us in case we weren’t back at school 3 weeks later. He would physically return to school only 6 months later by which time the world would have changed significantly.
In September 2020, David Lapan wrote an article about the difference between fatigue and depletion which was forwarded widely. He encouraged cognisance of that difference, and what it took to replenish us not only physically and mentally, but emotionally and spiritually for us not to be deeply tired. His article opened with “We are currently in the toughest phase of our pandemic experience.” As we start 2022, we are looking forward into the third year of our continually undefined new normal.
So, what ARE we going to do with this year that we’re faced with? How ARE we going to address it if we’re to be worthy of our human mantle of “resilient, overcoming survivalist”? In my opinion, acknowledgement is the first key to answering this. In the same way that we’re encouraged to celebrate our wins when we achieve the goals we’ve set before we move on to fill our plate with new ones, acknowledgement of exactly what we’ve navigated so far goes a long way to reminding us what we’re capable of.
We’ve developed new strategies, timetables and coping mechanisms for almost everything we do over the past two years. We’ve navigated great swaths of unknown, not to mention constantly changing goal posts; and we’ve tolerated doors (and borders) that have stayed stubbornly closed for many. We’ve taken on unprecedented levels of change, and we’ve learned to have each other’s backs when one of us has flagged or been lowered to their knee for a while. In this time, we’ve strengthened, learned and grown in ways we would never have been prompted to do had the world kept turning “normally”.
Once we’ve acknowledged exactly what it is we’ve managed to surmount so far, it’s worth asking how our needs have changed and to what. As our world slowed somewhat, and our sense of everything was challenged, we became more discerning about what’s truly important to us. As with any change, there have been choices. There has been a distinct increase in the “me first” attitude around us as those on the lower levels of personal reserves make their choices about how to fight for survival.
Those of us who have the wherewithal to still be evaluating our choices are faced with a simple question which is the premise of this article. How DO we address 2022? How DO we choose to go forward? It would serve that new times require new strategies, and new needs require new evaluation.
So, what is it that people need right now? What is it that WE need right now? What DO we know about this year if we still can’t see the horizon with any certainty?
We know where we’ve come through and what it’s required of us. We know we are made of stronger stuff than we perhaps recognised. We know how we’ve grown, changed and overcome and we can build on that progression to overcome further. It’s easier to answer the questions that require us to look back and evaluate, and perhaps harder to answer those about where we stand now. Questions like “what do we need?”.
When it’s challenging to answer a question from one perspective, the trick is to flip it on its head and see if you can understand the answer better from the flip side. So asking “what do we need?” would become “What don’t we have?”. The clue to what we and the people around us need is in examining our current voids. What spaces have been left by our journey over the past two years? Where are we feeling depleted that’s leading to our reduced capacity to take on this new year?
As previously mentioned, we’re driven by connection and our ability to move towards a future we’re inspired by. Those certainly are two areas we’ve been challenged in with lockdowns, separation, and uncertainty. We’ve watched the rising “me first” attitude as people’s tolerances wane, and we’ve watched people deplete in ways that have been hard to replenish.
All these clues point to what most people’s current needs are and how we can best address 2022. Division requires togetherness. Disconnection requires reconnection. “Me first” leaves a void willingly filled by compassion and prioritisation that makes people feel seen. Depletion requires soul-feeding. I’d be willing to bet that making time for these things will elicit a positive response.
Instead of the opening charge of a first battle, larger than life and intimidating in its ferocity, our current position is one of the battle-hardened and more discerning. We are more respectful of what this year may require from each of us in terms of our input and energy. Consequently, we know how to value that input and energy when it’s contributed. We know that it’s a good guess that most people we deal with are working with lower tolerances and depleted stores. This allows us to go forward with compassion and a gentler approach that invites rather than demands.
We know that replenishing connection and overcoming the “me first” deficit is probably high on people’s list of cravings, which tells us what kind of approach would be most welcomed.
Addressing this year at full charge is likely to see us burning out sooner rather than later. But addressing this year with the discernment, rationale, consideration, compassion and kindness we’d like to feel ourselves will likely draw others in too. We’ve learned to value each other differently. We’ve learned that when people give of themselves despite everything else they’ve needed to navigate, their presence and contribution is truly valuable and worth honouring. Ask for that contribution rather than demanding it. Honour it and voice your thanks for it.
(If this article had a soundtrack, it would be Jackie DeShannon’s 1965 release “What the World Needs Now”)
by Christen Killick
January 10th, 2022