By Casper Oelofsen

What a year this week has been. If a pandemic and looming climate change weren't bad enough, now we have the trauma and the socioeconomic ripple effects of war (and possibly a looming world war). It is becoming harder to answer what used to be a simple question: how are you doing? One of the best answers I've heard came from one of our clients who responded with a telling analogy: it's like popping corn in a pot with the lid missing.

It feels never-ending … COVID, floods, fires, unrest. And now a war. Here in South Africa, we have the prospect of our fuel prices doubling with knock-on effects on basic costs of living; already crippling rolling electricity blackouts, affectionately (NOT!!) known as"load shedding", and an economy teetering on the brink. Pop …Pop … Pop … and there is no way to predict what will pop next.

For a large part of the world population, this is nothing new - life without privilege and a continual fight for survival have always been tenuous. They may frown when we talk of the VUCA world, for them, it is just their world. But for those who have lived more sheltered and privileged lives, a new anxiety-provoking dawn has arrived. In the large organisations we work with, people on all levels are anxious, stressed, and fed up. For them, on top of all of this, people need to navigate the complexities of hybrid work, returning to the office, retaining talent, innovating, receiving feedback … Pop … Pop … Pop …

Covid, while traumatic and challenging, came in semi-predictable waves. The war, on the other hand, seemed to happen literally overnight. I, for one, am experiencing not only profound fatigue in the present but also "future fatigue." Suddenly thinking about the future is simply depressing and exhausting - it is tough to imagine a better future than the present.

So what can we do? While I have no answers to specific dilemmas, one thing I do know: we need to shift from fatigue to fitness. Like an athlete who practices in preparation for a marathon, we need to prepare for the uncertainty and disruption we face in an unknown future. We need to become Future Fit, Change Fit, and Complexity Fit. It starts with practicing COOL:

  • Courage - to face the unknown, let go of the familiar, stand up for what we believe is right, set boundaries, and practice self-care.
  • Openness - to engage with difference without judgment, bridge divides rather than widen them, face reality, learn and unlearn, and find space in ourselves that is open to hope even in these dark times.
  • Observing - noticing and becoming more aware of our external context and internal responses. To pro-actively look for and notice ambiguity and multiple perspectives; to zoom in to the detail and out to the systemic whole. Observing reality from multiple perspectives, in order to be "response-able" not simply reactive. 
  • Lightness - last but not least. When darkness feels overwhelming, we cannot afford to lose sight of beauty and what makes us human. To laugh, play, imagine, make music, connect, this is where we can reconnect with being human, trust our hope, replenish and recalibrate.

If you and your team need to reset, reconnect and replenish, get in touch to learn more about our COOL Team Re:Set workshops.

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