This article was written by Jessica Stillman
“A good question is worth a million good answers,” Wired founder Kevin Kelly has written. Asking the right thing focuses the mind on what’s important, frames problems in new and productive ways, spurs curiosity, and breaks us out of mental ruts.
Which is why a recent post by Brooke Anderson for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center is so valuable for business owners – and anyone else really – who is starting to feel the mental toll of social distancing and the massive disruption to our daily lives wrought by the coronavirus.
In it she outlines a handful of powerful questions to ask each morning to re-frame how you see your day during this crisis, transforming challenges into opportunities and heaviness into light. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few to get you started.
1. Who am I checking in on, or connecting with, today?
Are you going to see anyone besides your immediate family face to face today? Unless you work in a hospital or other key industry, chances are no, you will not. But that doesn’t absolve you of the need to stay socially connected.
“Pick three people each day to check in on. Call your grandma. FaceTime your mom. Text your friends (but not your ex!). Check on the neighbors. If you have more to give, the Disability Justice Culture Club is pairing minimally risk-exposed allies with disabled people of color and elders in the San Francisco East Bay who need extra support. Similar mutual-aid networks exist elsewhere,” notes Anderson.
2. What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
These are not normal times. With all due respect to those advising you to put on your work clothes and keep to your normal routine, I do not think you should try to behave “normally” right now. Neither does Anderson.
“We’re facing down a global pandemic. The nightly news is the stuff of nightmares. Whole states are on lockdown. You’re suddenly either out of work or working from home while simultaneously running a homeschool for rebellious ‘coworkers’ and frantically disinfecting surfaces. It’s OK if you don’t get to inbox zero by the end of the workday. It’s OK if the kids don’t learn anything today, but are still loved and alive by bedtime,” Anderson reminds anxious overachievers. Amen to that.
3. What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
You don’t have to be teaching your kids Mandarin, cooking nutritious gourmet meals, and simultaneously being a super boss. But if you don’t want to despair to start slithering in, you do need to feel like you’re doing something to improve the world each day.
“Beauty is a powerful antidote to despair,” Anderson reminds us. “Recognizing the beauty in the world and bringing it into our lives is an affirmation of the life that still exists and is worth fighting for. Becoming creators, not just consumers, of culture gives us agency and power.”
So don’t worry if your kids are watching too much Netflix, but do make space to paint, draw, garden, bake, or sew. These sorts of hobbies are an excellent idea all the time, but they’re particularly important to your sanity now.