SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The year 2020 is finally behind us (can I get an amen?). Surely, 2021 will be better than last year, right?
As a quick refresher, some of craziness we experienced in 2020 include:
- COVID-19 ruined plans, forced people into isolation, and has killed over 1.8M people world-wide and 350K in the U.S.
- The killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd followed by widespread unrest
- A heated election year
- Australian bushfires
- Kobe Bryant helicopter crash
- Summer Olympics were postponed
- Countless floods, fires, earthquakes, bombings, and protests
Crazy year, right? In 2020, our world experienced so much grief, pain and tragedy. And honestly, as I write this on the day that violent rioters pushed through an unprepared security force and stormed our Capitol, 2021 hasn’t gotten off to a great start either.
With everything that is happening in the world, you would probably think I’m crazy if I told you that it has never been a better time to be a human.
Contrary to what you might think, compared to anytime in our history, we have less violence, less famine, less poverty, more access to education and healthcare, our children are safer from abduction and harm, and our overall standard of living is much better.
There is much work to be done in all these areas, but still, even with so much progress being made, many of us feel that the world is worse off and every year we say, “I just can’t wait for this year to be over with?”
Why, with our standard of living at an all-time high, do we constantly feel that each year is worse than the previous?
I believe that one of the reasons these feelings manifest is because our resiliency to handle tough situations is at an all-time low. We struggle to appropriately respond to the hurt and pain that the world throws at us. We often don’t have the skills necessary to defend against 24/7 media, social and traditional, that tell us how bad the world is. Sure, we occasionally see the cute family photo posted on Instagram or the heroic tale of a good Samaritan on the six o’clock news, but our media intake is generally filled with cynics, doomsayers, political pundits, and influencers who paint our world in a dark light in order to push their product or ideological thought. Frankly, we get bogged down in the negativity and have a hard time thriving during these rapidly changing and uncertain times.
Resiliency is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things seem dark or don't go as planned and building resiliency is acquiring the tools necessary to handle whatever comes in our path. Resilient people don't dwell on headlines of doom and gloom and they don’t let influencers, media pundits, or politicians give them a false sense of reality. Resilient people acknowledge the situation, understand the context, learn from their mistakes, and move forward.
Resiliency is a journey that has many paths. And while each path may look different, allow me to offer a few tips:
- Reframe your situation. See the upside rather than the downside of a dilemma. For example, if you're unhappy about living away far from family and life-long friends, try instead to be proud of your independence and excited to experience new opportunities.
- Keep things in perspective. When experiencing pain, frustration, or anger, realize that it is only temporary. Try to keep a long-term outlook and remember the phrase “this too shall pass.”
- Take care of yourself first. Just like the airlines instruct “put your own mask on before assisting others.” Listen to your own needs and feelings and take time for yourself. Take part in activities that you genuinely enjoy and find relaxing and don’t be afraid to try new things. Exercise regularly.
- Build diverse relationships. Connections with colleagues, family, and friends are important. A life in the Air Force will provide an ever-changing list of relationships and it will give you the opportunity to connect with people from a diverse array of backgrounds. These connections will give you perspective and provide strength in times of difficulty.
Even with the challenges of 2020 (and honestly, 2021 so far), it is an amazing time in history to be a human. Do not let the noise of naysayers tell you otherwise. Wherever you are on your resilience journey, I challenge you to keep pressing forward and share your experiences with others. Let’s strengthen and support each other instead of tearing others down, always focused on making this world just a little bit better.