Finding Peace and Serenity

I’m about to share some advice from Grit Guru Dr. Angela Dcukworth. It feels a little bit like I’m telling you “SERENITY NOW!” from one of the greatest shows of the ‘90s, Seinfeld. Some of you may recall that Jerry Stiller, Frank Costanza of Seinfeld, explained that all you need to do is shout “SERENITY NOW!” and serenity will be yours. Jerry Stiller passed away earlier this week after a long and seemingly fulfilling life. Learning of his passing reminded me of this bit and that trying to find peace and serenity amid a pandemic can seem more than a little forced, but we need to keep trying nonetheless.

Harvard Business Review recently hosted a webinar with Dr. Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, about how we can stay positive and productive as we cope with COVID-19. Dr. Duckworth states in the interview, "if we aren’t experiencing stress right now, we’re not alive." She noted that we are collectively experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event that will impact, and even shape, a generation. She also talked about looking back at this and telling your grandchildren about what it was like to live through the pandemic. 

Recently, I have been drawing comparisons to life for Canadians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic from my grandparents’ generation and thinking a lot about my grandmother’s experience in WWII. While my grandfather was overseas in the Canadian army, she was raising my dad on her own, uncertain if her husband -- her boy’s dad -- would return from the war. Happy ending: my dad did meet his father when he was three, apparently asking “who dat man?”

Hard to imagine, but someday this pandemic will be behind us and may even be summarized to our grandchildren in a few short sentences. The anxiety and worry of the virus, the impact on our economy and our children, will someday be a page in the (no doubt electronic) history book.

Angela Duckworth draws attention to things that we all may be experiencing. Your sleep might be affected. You may have muscular tension and an elevated heart rate, and you may be missing the physical activities that you enjoy. As Duckworth explained, what is important is how we manage our stress and ensure that we are learning something from what we are experiencing. She describes grit as an “I’ll show you” response, a reflexive reaction to being told that you can’t do something. But, she also talks about the reality of burnout and the importance of not punishing yourself. 

Duckworth encourages everyone to have purpose and direction. She explains the importance of having clarity about the abstract mission statement for your life and to keep coming back to the higher-level goal that brings meaning to everything you do. I suspect that many people are revisiting their personal mission statements in light of everything that is happening with consideration to what the future will bring. Greenwood students are my gritty role models. They are determined and they keep showing up and doing their best -- and that’s all that we can ask of them, and ourselves, right now.

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