A few days ago, I taped my final weekly episode of Purposeful Empathy with Dr. Mirella De Civita, a Clinical Psychologist and a Master Corporate Executive Coach.
In this final blog of the year, I offer a couple of takeaways from our conversation, as they relate to my life in 2020, and as I look ahead to next year. I hope my introspection inspires some soul-searching for you, too.
Mirella told me thanks to COVID, we’re all living in a heightened and chronic state of stress. I know that may not land as news, but instead of taking that truth seriously, most of us are just shrugging it off – to our personal and social detriment.
Humans have an important fight-or-flight response system that gets triggered when we feel threatened. Cortisol and other stress hormones course through our bodies as part of a self-defence mechanism. By and large that system keeps us alert and alive during moments of peak stress, but since March, we’ve been living with that system activated in full force.
Layer onto the pandemic, systemic racism, the US election, the wildfires in Australia and California, an explosion of tent cities, etc. and no wonder we’re seeing epic spikes in substance abuse, anxiety, depression, domestic violence and suicide.
This is what barely keeping our heads above water looks like.
In my own life, I’ve had days that feel almost normal. Others, I’ve woken up cranky for no reason, with a clenched jaw and pit of nerves in my stomach. I’ve watched my body get softer since I haven’t made time for exercise. And I’ve spent too much time doomscrolling and watching late night comics roast Trump.
What I haven’t done is given enough time or energy to self-care. The kind of self-care needed to transcend a year like we’ve had. I haven’t reached out to enough friends. I haven’t taken enough walks through nature. I haven’t listened to enough music. I haven’t eaten enough leafy greens. I haven’t slow-danced often enough with my husband. And worst of all, I haven’t played enough pretend games of Rapunzel with my daughter.
At the same time, I am a woman with resources. I don’t own a home or even a car, so of course, that’s a relative statement. But I do have a good support system. My husband is an all-hands-on-deck kinda guy. I have a flexible work schedule. I can count on a monthly income. My daughter is thriving at a publicly funded daycare. I can reach out for professional help. And I live in a country with universal healthcare and a solid safety net whereby some of the biggest economic COVID shocks are being mitigated for those less privileged.
This means, despite the stress, burdens and uncertainties that 2020 has brought me, I must also keep things in perspective. This year has shone a bright light on systemic inequalities. In our cities, countries and across the globe. Something’s gotta give.
Taking all that into account: Next year, I am committed to more self-compassion AND to being braver about my Purposeful Empathy work.
I intend to drink more water, do more macaroni art, light more candles at the dinner table and reach out to my girlfriends for some soul-food chitchats. Hopefully that will let me show up in the world with more patience, generosity and kindness.
I also promise to work like hell to get my book out into the world. Every fibre of my being knows we all need more empathy in our lives. And the world at large needs more empathy, too. This is my life’s work and the timing could not be more pressing. (Pre-order it here!)
If you agree, I invite you to join the Purposeful Empathy community and bring some friends along with you. Please share my blogs, YouTube videos, and podcasts, and follow me on all my socials (Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter). I’m excited for everyone to experience the tangible benefits of an elevated empathic consciousness. I’m also determined to see purposeful empathy gain social capital in the world.
With that, I wish you and yours a peaceful holiday season and a wonderful year ahead!
PS At the end of my interview with Mirella, I asked if she had a final message to share with our audience. Boy, did she deliver a philosophical zinger. She said: “I discovered recently, the odds of being born, is one in four hundred trillion. That’s incredible. If you could just rest for a moment in that recognition, why would any of us limit ourselves?” In other words, why don’t we step into our potential and be truly expansive with our dreams? I believe that’s a good question to ruminate over as we enter a New Year.
For more than a decade, I have been singularly focused on leveraging empathy for personal and social transformation. I teach Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation at McGill University and co-founder of PVM-Studio, a global advisory firm that supports purpose-driven people and organizations. Learn more about my work here.