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How To Handle Fear And Angst During A Pandemic Part 1: Applying The Tools Of A Master Trainer

By Way of Explanation:  This is the first in a series of blogs about managing personal and professional challenges brought to us by the COVID pandemic.  It’s about applying tools traditionally used in a typical work setting in a different way.  These are tools I’ve come to use as a facilitator and Master Trainer and I’ve come to believe they are imminently useful in the current “There is no ‘Normal’…” environment. I know that those who may read this have brains that are wired very differently than mine (as no two minds are the same), so let me give you the layout of what follows, and depending on how you prefer to think, let you jump to the bit(s) that appeal to you:

  1. Me and the Data, a brief background story on how I got here, and some of the data associated with the pandemic,
  2. A little bit of Philosophy and Psychology,
  3. Tools and Their Uses I’ll be discussing in more detail in future blogs for application to pandemic challenges, and
  4. A brief Conclusion.

Me and the Data

 As I write this, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, greater than 600,00 people worldwide are reported to have died from complications associated with the Coronavirus and the disease Covid-19, with 144,050 (or 23%) of those deaths occurring in the United States.  And these deaths are ‘excess deaths’, over and above the statistical norm for what we have seen for daily deaths in this country.   With infections increasing, and no vaccine available, we see restrictions being imposed on all aspects of our lives, via legal mandate, corporate requirements and personal choice. People I know personally have lost loved ones to the virus.  Other friends and acquaintances are unemployed, and still others fear returning to past work practices and workplaces out of concern for contracting a disease that has killed 7% of those who contracted it in the United States (and for whom an outcome is known).2  Certainly what were “normal” routines in our lives previously, are no longer possible, let alone “normal”. 

Being in a slightly higher risk category, I’ve developed a weird sort of paranoia about coming in contact with people if I feel compelled to go out for necessities as I truly have no desire to get sick and die.  Even if it’s only a 7% chance, that’s waaayyy too high for a low risk-taker like me.  But I CAN safely say my current interactions with the world are dramatically different than before the Covid Pandemic. This has often-times (until recently) left me confused, uncertain and less productive than I was prior to the Covid Pandemic.  I needed to do SOMETHING to break my cycle of negative thinking.

Philosophy and Psychology

Until the Covid Pandemic hit, my wife and I both traveled extensively for work, but we’ve been effectively homebound teleworking as best we can since March 6, 2020.  The work we do with teams and individuals has always been face to face, as we both believe that is the most effective modality for efficient team development. That being said, we have had to come up with innovative ways to deliver contracted work to clients we cannot currently visit in-person, or work in direct contact with their teams.  We’ve worked to “virtualize” a huge percentage of what we do, with moderate success and in the process learned some extraordinary things about what is possible when we no longer live “normal” (aka “Pre-Pandemic”) lives.  The first is that a lot of what we do working with people and teams CAN be done remotely and virtually.  The second of these extraordinary things is that the very tools we used to bring to people to learn and apply to help their organizations in Pre-Pandemic times are also exceptionally powerful in helping us deal with our personal challenges in the absence of any new “normal”.

This idea really isn’t that new. Any good facilitator knows that if they fully internalize the tools they use and teach- making those tools a part of their personal DNA, then they become far more effective at delivering those tools and techniques to others, regardless of the venue.  What my “Ah ha!” moment has been recently is that in my pandemic induced fear and angst, I had sort of reverted to the lower 3 levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy, looking to satisfy physiological, safety and belonging needs as a response to dealing with right here and now, instead of employing the higher order parts of my brain to self-actualize and DO something about it.  I know my family and I are not alone, and that many others have responded in a similar fashion. I also know we are extremely fortunate, as unlike for some folks, our physiological needs ARE being satisfied, we ARE safe, we CAN communicate and share our lives with the ones we care about…it just looks really different.  So, what can we do to help others?  We can show how to use proven professional tools and techniques to assist individuals and teams in moving forward.  We can help them redefine a new normal.

Tools and Their Uses

This is actually the title of a movie shown to me in an Industrial Arts class when I was in the 8th grade in rural Vermont.  Tools are generally designed for a specific use, and it pays to know what that designed-for use in order to maximize the efficacy of the tool.  But humans are amazing creatures, we have opposable thumbs, we can modify our tools.  If a tool doesn’t work, then we might be able to modify it, making use of it in a different context while still adhering to the foundational intent and design.  After all, if I have a tool I can’t use, then effectively it’s a useless tool.  So I’ve looked at the tools in my “Master Trainer Tool Box”, selected just a few that I’ve found most useful in applying to relieving my fear and angst.  Future blogs will discuss the following helpful tools;

  1. A variety of de Bono Thinking Systems® Tools including Parallel Thinking (known most commonly as the Six Thinking Hats®). Lateral Thinking and The Power of Perception TM,
  2. Emergenetics®, and
  3. A variety of Franklin Covey Tools including the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People© and the Speed of Trust©

Conclusion: Organizing our thinking can help us stabilize our emotional response and deal rationally and constructively with the pandemic.  All we need are tools to do so… Therefore, my next blog will be about using the Six Thinking Hats® of Dr. Edward de Bono to help us think in parallel about the challenges we face and help formulate positive action in this time of pandemic.

(For more on the Six Thinking Hats® and other de Bono Thinking Systems® tools, please visit www.recourcesunlimited.com.  To learn about Emergenetics®, please visit www.emergenetics.com .)

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