First came “The Great War (1914-1918). Then came “The Great Depression (1929-1934)” and “The Great Recession (2008- 2012).” 2021 marks the start of what I refer to as “The Great Recalibration.” Like other ‘Greats’ before it, it will easily stretch across many months and impact us all in the future.
Big global events that go on for some time naturally prompt a reappraisal of one’s hopes and dreams. However, three things make “The Great Recalibration” different than its predecessors: The span of things causing it is broader. So the affect is bigger. And the outcome? It’s likely to be more good (literally) than you expect.
A BROADER SPAN:
First came the pandemic. Then commerce, cultural and sporting events shut down. Supply chain challenges and shortages ensued along with joblessness and an economic recession. Fear and panic for one’s personal health and finances were widespread. As if these were not enough to bear, other events wracked us at the same time: George Floyd died. Protests, demonstrations, destruction followed. We were confronted with news of other untimely deaths and unfortunate arrests of our brothers and sisters; debates on the ‘mattering’ of lives ensued. Highly empathetic individuals were beyond distraught. Even those conditioned to hard times felt raw. The state of U.S. political affairs / debates / misinformation / disinformation only served to elevate uncertainty and emotions.
We dare not forget the backdrop for “all of the above” either: Cyberattacks that breached private and precious data. Hurricanes, floods, fast moving forest fires. Deep sorrow from our inability to give succor to loved ones.
We’ve all suffered a kaleidoscope of emotions. There wasn’t a one of us that didn’t feel – doesn’t still feel somewhat splayed and “out of sorts.”
A BIGGER AFFECT:
When facing any sizable distress, it’s an innate human trait to search for a way to resolve it. We turn things over and over in our minds in search of some remedy, meaning, hope. Some of this is deliberate, conscious processing. Far more is below our level of awareness. But there is no avoiding it: As humans we are always compelled to move toward homeostasis: a state of psychological equilibrium where a tension has been reduced or eliminated. We try to find a path forward that could make us feel better. And when that which distresses us is really big, our resolution comes from changing long-held beliefs; our attitudes, our behaviors, ourselves.
The broad span of crises and their emotional spectrum give us each a lot to process. This is part of what differentiates our current age from other “Greats.” A sampling of questions people are trying to reconcile can be seen below in bold. Some are asking themselves all of these questions plus others. Others are examining their lives in only a handful of ways. But any one of the questions born of 2020 is big enough for a lifetime. That there are so many big questions is also what differentiates our current experience from other “Greats.” So many being considered at the same time. So many shaded with moral judgement.
Then, whatever the answer to any one question, there is always a nagging follow up: So what? Now what?
But what really makes all this so remarkable, and truly great right now?
- It’s that in many cases, people are assessing parts of themselves never before examined.
- More people are asking more big questions of themselves than from prior “great” events.
- It’s especially that millions and millions are asking the same big, broad set of questions at the same time; a critical mass like no other time.
If ever there were to be a set of circumstances that could lead to a better trajectory for the future of humankind, this is it.
No doubt this transformation for the better has already begun, too. Given the degree of pain, suffering and our innate drive for homeostasis, people’s recalibrations are already impacting their attitudes and behaviors across a broad swath of commerce, culture, health, politics, family, work, and life. And with 2020 still in the rearview mirror, each of us is just getting started with our respective recalibrations. Certainly there’s a lot more change to come in our thinking, attitudes, behaviors; our self-concept; the moves we make to live the kind of life that 2020 made us realize is the kind we really want and value.
- What does the future hold for myself and my kids? My employer? My health?
- What do I need to change going forward to ease the pain and uncertainty I feel?
- Do I like my job? Do I need a new one? Do I want to work from home?
- What kind of school experience is best for my kids?
- What do I want out of life for myself and my family?
- And how, now, can I cast a plan to achieve it knowing what I know now, about how life can change in a minute for me and those I love?
- Am I vulnerable to dying young because of COVID? Are my affairs in order? If I died next week what would I regret? If I don’t die, but have to live, physically distanced for people and work and geographies and experiences I love, is life worth living?
- What’s a minimum acceptable standard for public health and safety?
- Am I a racist? Am I a racist subconsciously and don’t even realize it?
- How can I be more open and kinder to others?
- What am I willing to sacrifice in service to abetting global warming?
- To what degree do I believe in capitalism? How do I define shareholder value?
- What do I expect of my citizenship, my elected officials? Elections?
- What does the constitution actually say? Mean? Guarantee?
- What is justice?
- What is fair?
- What is truth?
- What is my purpose?
- What’s my legacy?
- What do I stand for?
Even though the questions we’re asking ourselves are tough, we can expect millions and millions of people to answer them with a depth of understanding and generosity they’ve not had before: Despite decades of experiencing the magnitude of global warming, a teeny virus has made people the world over truly grasp what a small planet we share; how interconnected are our lives; the degree to which – in a mobile and global marketplace – the future you cast for yourself is my future. And mine, yours.
This can’t help but prompt us each to answer – at least some of the big questions before us- in a way more sensitive to the lives of each other. And if enough of us answer with compassion, then the outcome of all we’ve been dealt will turn out to be the greatest recalibration of all. That’s because “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” is the ultimate in homeostasis; significantly reducing fear and tension in ourselves and others. It would create equilibrium for the planet and psychological equilibrium for all its people.
Hmmm. What are the odds of this ever happening?
Well, you tell me: Your odds of a better future depend on how I answer the questions born of 2020. My future depends on your answers. So what do you say: Shall we recalibrate with each other in mind?