When will we be done with this stay-at-home restriction?
When will the economy recover?
When will we be back to “normal?”
I don’t know the dates for any of those transitions.
I have a suggestion for you.
Don’t set a specific date in your mind. Instead firmly set in your mind that this mess will end, we will get through it, we will survive, and we will thrive at the end.
What is the danger of setting a date in your mind and having faith it will be over on that date?
Let me introduce you to the Stockdale paradox.
Admiral James Stockdale was an American pilot shot down during the Vietnam war. He was a prisoner in North Vietnam for 7 1/2 years, routinely subject to brutal torture, legs broken twice during interrogation, and held in solitary confinement during four of those years with his legs locked in a metal stock each night. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor a few years after his release.
I think we should listen to him. His physical courage and moral courage are a role model for all of us.
For one explanation of the phenomenon he described check out article titled The Stockdale Paradox.
Who did not come home from captivity?
Admiral Stockdale explains it was the “optimists” who did not return. Those were the guys who were certain they would be home by Christmas.
Well Christmas arrived and they weren’t home. They then decided they would be released and back home with families by Easter.
Well, at Easter they were still in prison, still being tortured, and still getting minimal amount of food. Then they determined they would all be home by Thanksgiving.
Of course the day after Thanksgiving they were still POWs.
Those guys were dead by the next Christmas.
Who did come home?
The guys who didn’t expect to be home by Christmas, or next Easter, or even the following Christmas made it home.
They didn’t know when they would be released. What they did know for an absolute certainty is they would get through it and they would go home.
Those guys came home.
The difference is some guys had faith that they were going to survive and eventually go home. Other guys had faith they would be home by a certain date.
The guys who made it back were willing to confront the brutal reality of the situation, yet still have the faith that they would survive. They knew they would prevail in the end.
How does that apply to COVID-19?
May I suggest we adopt Adm. Stockdale’s attitude in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic?
Don’t count on it being over by April 6th, which is the announced end date of many restrictions.
Don’t count on being back to normal by Easter, which is April 12.
Don’t have faith that it will all be fine by the end of April.
Don’t live knowing with the certainty this mess will be history in the May sunshine.
Instead count on it being over.
Confront the brutal reality that this is going to be messy. We are in a painful time. There is substantial financial disruption which will get worse. There will be bad health outcomes apart from those caused directly by the virus. It will get ugly and stay ugly.
However we are going to make it through this mess.
It will end.
In the meantime, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay home.
Move forward knowing that we will make it through. Count on knowing we will survive and we will thrive at the end.