A time when hope may be a necessary strategy

When it comes to business or money, I generally hold the view that hope is not a strategy. We need to plan, and we need to execute.

But for many business owners and people who have lost their jobs in the COVID-19 crisis, hope may well be the best strategy in the short term.

Nobody knows how long it will take for things to get back to “normal”, or even what the new “normal” will be. Governments are aware that the present situation will affect the mental health of many, and that may be a more long-term crisis than the economic crisis. If we’ve lost our job or business or have suffered severe investment loss, how we handle our mental state now will impact our recovery when the crisis is over.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl chronicles his three years as a prisoner in four different Nazi concentration camps. He describes how between Christmas 1944 and New Year’s 1945, the death rate in one concentration camp increased beyond all previous experience.

From mid-1944, expectations amongst the prisoners grew. They believed the Allies would soon arrive and free everyone in the camp, and they would be home by Christmas. But as time went on, the Allies didn’t come. The chief doctor of the camp gave the opinion that the increase in deaths was not due to “harder working conditions or the deterioration of food supplies or a change of weather or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a great number of them died.”

Eminent psychologist Martin Seligman, author of FlourishLearned Optimism and several other books, says learned helplessness contributes to clinical depression and other mental and even physical illnesses. Learned helplessness arises when we believe there’s nothing we can do to change the pain and suffering we are experiencing.

During this time of social isolation, we must not give up hope by accepting that the end may be far away. We must concentrate on the fact that it will end, and we will recover.

Many social media posts and emails are circulating about how we can boost our mental and physical health during the COVID-19 crisis. These cover exercise, developing new interests and hobbies, maintaining social connections through technology, and reading, to name a few.

The important thing for me when considering a loss is to ask myself the question, “Is it an irrecoverable loss?”

We can always get more money, but we cannot get more time. We do not want to come out of this period with regret and ask ourselves, “Why did I waste that time?”

So, what can you do during this situation to help your mental health, the future of your business and your ability to recover post-crisis? Email me at bryan@bryanworn.com.

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