Growing Our Human Potential

With 2020 Vision What Do You See?

Here we are, on the doorstep of a global wake-up call to all of humanity (see prior post on this topic). The year 2020 is perfectly numbered, since it represents the desire we have to see things clearly, 20/20 vision. For a long time humanity has had on its rose-colored glasses, allowing many to see only what they wanted to see and to filter what they saw. And now, the persistent pandemic along with continual events of major proportion (protests, fires, hurricanes, floods), has captured humanity’s attention. The rose colored glasses are being forced off.

But even with this 2020 vision and the ability to see more clearly the underlying issues we need to address, the question is what do we each choose to do about it? Will this all be a pivotal point in our history, or just another terrible series of events to put into the past? This I believe, is largely influenced by the lasting impact of these changes, and specifically how we as humans work through change.

There appears to be consensus that lasting change will come from these events including how we work, do business, interact, and treat each other. But typical of growth is the premise of “no pain, no gain.” Most characterize these times as painful, depressing, scary and more. What is most apparent is that people are angry, real angry and voicing a multitude of opinions on the news waves and social media.

What seems as chaos and unnerving, is actually characteristic of the early stages of major change. As a person who strives to view situations as half-glass full, I see the science of chaos playing out with the possibility of numerous opportunities ahead. But it will be painful, as these types of changes are. Change actually begins with an ending, which is the stage of change we are currently in. With endings, comes losses. Consider all of the losses related to the pandemic. How we work, how we shop, restrictions, our health and even our life.

With losses, comes the emotions of change. Let’s examine what this looks like using the model of Grief and Loss from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as shown below.

The Emotions of Change

For many we were experiencing a great ride, surfing on top of a booming economy. There were disruptions here and there that affected some, but overall many were enjoying the times. There was talk of global issues such as climate change, but these topics mostly remained as just talk. We had a rhythm. We woke up and went to work, our kids to school, we went out on Fridays with no concern about our health. As we realize now, we had it good.

Immobilisation (Shock)
Where were you when the twin towers fell, when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up? We stood still and in disbelief. We were protected by our psyche due to the overwhelming nature of the situation. Many of us watched the replay of the towers coming down over and over. We were mesmerized and still.

How about when we first heard of the pandemic? What was different was that this was something that we could not see, taste, smell, touch or hear. We had not experienced anything like this before. We woke up the next day being told to stay home, but everything appeared outside just as it was the day before. There was contradiction between political leaders and medical professionals. It was surreal.

The images of George Floyd appeared nationwide and protests began everywhere. Unrest and violence occurred in some places and was heavily noted on the evening news. Once again it was surreal and our initial reaction was to sit and observe. Political leaders did not know how to react. However, it was real for the Black race who had lived with this. It was easy to jump right to anger. The rest of us largely remained numb, chalking this up as this evening’s “Breaking News”.

Denial is characterized by feelings that this is not really happening or that it won’t affect me.

For the pandemic many still remain in denial in large part due to the lack of evidence we experience with our own five senses. There was talk of escalation of cases, but few knew anyone who had it. Others were told that they were largely exempt from the impact of the virus, and therefore did not really care about it. Quickly the debate heated up on the political stages giving fodder to whatever you wanted to believe. Conspiracy theories grew which took center stage. Yet we were confronted with immediate lockdown, which would break through our denial.

For the protests, many were trying to make sense of what happened. We had not known this type of injustice, which kept us in disbelief or accepting that there had to be rational reasons for this. As the details and attention to this continued, this would break through our denial.

Once we break through our denial, the true impact of what happened begins to surface. Our first reaction is outward as anger emerges. Anger does not wish to lie dormant within us, but like a volcano, it wants to erupt. Anger seeks to find blame and recognizes ourselves as a victim. We come out fighting with our words or actions.

With respect to the pandemic, this is the stage that most people are in today. People are angry. I see it in the neighborhood, on TV, on YouTube, on Social Medial. The public is sharply divided with those who refuse to have their liberties and freedom impacted by wearing a mask, social distancing or limiting their daily and weekend activities. Others are scared and realize that they may be impacted which could result in their death. Their motivation is to not contract the virus. Each group is angry at the other. All groups are angry at the politicians who are largely afraid to admit that they do not know what to do, or act is if they do, but do nothing.

For the protests, the anger was and is very evident. The pain and outcome of social injustice began to hit home to other races as well. Typical of this stage is where we see the pendulum swing to extremes, from passiveness to rage. This is one of the most difficult stages since we do not provide many healthy forums for dealing with our anger. Many hold it within, which never works, impacting our health or coming out “sideways” which is visible today everywhere.

The platforms for discussion are largely ineffective since we are acting out on our anger. Public forums begin to provide conversation on the topic, but often prematurely, while not understanding the psychological implications of trying to influence immediate change upon everyone, or pushing others to talk about it. There were cases of individuals terminated from their jobs for stating something on this topic. The news channels had a heyday featuring breaking news all day long, adding fuel to the already strong fire within many.

I have more to share on this stage since this is where I see many people today, angry. My own anger erupted at the absolute poor demonstration of leadership everywhere. This is not a criticism of a particular political party but of all leaders everywhere. Everyone was reactive and quick to state their points, their actions, when what we really needed was to calm the storm first. We were all angry, when what we needed was the emotionally mature leaders who would help to guide us forward.

Nearly all people experience occasional feelings of anger in response to situations encountered in the social environment, whether it is a traffic deadlock or an insensitive remark made by a co-worker. For most people, these negative thoughts and feelings are transient, quickly arousing and then dissipating into neutral or positive emotions. However, for some, the experience of anger is a chronic condition-known by psychologists as “trait” anger. Recent research has uncovered many social experiences that lead to frequent feelings of anger, and possibly the onset of chronic anger.

Here are some of my own thoughts related to dealing with this stage.

  • Understand Anger
    Our view of anger is that it is a bad thing, after all it often results in a negative consequence, and is behind a lot of crime, including murders. However, anger is a normal reaction to change, a part of the human condition. Once we view it this way, our focus is less on preventing it, which does not work; stuffing it, which also does not work, or suppressing it. Instead it is about learning how to manage it by finding healthy alternatives to expressing our anger.
  • Promote healthy ways to deal with anger
    Consider some of the ways mentioned in the article, “Is our Society Getting Increasingly Angry? Learning how to manage our emotions should be taught very early on in our development. Rather than blaming someone for being angry, we can use these times to educate them how to manage it.
  • Avoid sources of negativity
    It was during my divorce that I realized I was in the anger stage and sought the support of a counselor. One of the steps he suggested, which he applied himself, was to stop watching news and avoiding social media. For many of us, we feel a need to stay “connected” when it is my belief that it really meets our need for drama and negativity. Being angry can be a great distraction from our ordinary lives.

    I avoided these sources and quickly felt my attitude begin to change towards the positive. I am reminded of the impact watching these events can have when I do turn on the news, which is largely negative, followed by me becoming more negative and angry.
  • Leaders Must Develop Their People & Social Skills
    Leaders must develop and role model the type of behavior that they want to see in their organization. Three such competencies critical to managing these times include; 1) Unconscious Bias, 2) Emotional Intelligence, and 3) Managing Change.

    Frankly, this is my own personal bias, that our current leaders and leadership model, is no longer suited to today’s complex world and issues. Probably the area demanding the greatest attention is with our political leaders. This is not a critique of a particular political party, but all party leaders! Whether it is their reaction or lack of action, a requirement for our country’s leaders at all levels must change. We must return to the concept that leadership is a responsibility and that must check our ego, and instead focus on our constituents (not just in words).

What’s Next?

The model suggests that we will remain on a roller coaster as we cycle through the stages, feeling highs and lows, and cycling back to anger. We are dealing with the unknown and uncertainty since we have yet to truly understand the virus and the long term potential implications. There will need to be a healing process for the Black communities and changes made to stop the injustice. These are all long term efforts.

In the interim we will depend on effective leaders to emerge which in itself will take time to change, and to regain any trust in our government leaders.

This is a wake-up call and we will most likely continue to experience the pain. The one item I can speak to relates to hope because it is my belief that humanity will evolve from this, and that the current pain will be worth the gains made. It will and must start with you, but it will require a willingness to change yourself. It will be about developing new values that place the greater good over and above ourselves. It will be about placing the focus on optimism and hope vs. adding fuel to the feeding frenzy of negativity today. It is about making reconciliations for those who were harmed and changing the way we operate to focus on equality for all.

Yes, this may be another millennium before this is achieved, but we have the opportunity now and in front of each of us. Here is to each of us making the effort to strive forward for humanity’s sake!

About Me

Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Leadership, Personal Growth, Self-Discovery. Visit my website for more information (

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