What have you learned today?

The year 2020 will be marked by most as one nearly everyone will wish they could forget.

The pain surrounding COVID-19, store stock outs, remote learning for those with children, financial stress and challenges to psyche from managing these uncertain times are just a few of the items on most minds.

Whatever the individual case, few will look back at 2020 chanting “encore.”

Yet, in all areas of life we are witness to innovation with amazing medical breakthroughs, technology, day-to-day living, workplace evolution and adapting to a new way of life to combat COVID-19.

Additionally, there are examples all around us of people who have not only adapted to this “new world” but also during the past six to nine months have thrived in this environment.

What factors allow someone to thrive under incredibly challenging conditions while others struggle to keep their heads above water?

The topic has been a passion of mine resulting in considerable graduate research, teaching on the topic and personal dives into the research during the past 20 years. In fact, the very question of what leads some individuals to extraordinary results under intense challenge and pressure is really a part of what defines these individuals.

Their achievement and their commitment to achieve becomes one in the same.

Throughout modern history we have witnessed so many individuals do this on life’s stage (both large and small) that the list would be endless.

Some notable modern examples include Michael Phelps, Capt. Chesley Sully Sullenberger, Capt. Al Haynes, Nelson Mandela and, most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

There are a million reasons that lead to above-average achievement under challenging conditions but I have taken the liberty recently to speak with several individuals who I know have thrived in this COVID-19 environment.

Here are some of the traits I have found with these individuals:

• I have very little control of the situation around me but I have total control over my reaction to it. (i.e.: The locus of control is not given to the situation or another — self-empowerment.)

• I see pain in others and I can help. (i.e.: Empathy)

• This situation and the changes occurring around me give reason to pause and think. (i.e.: Curiosity)

• There is so much happening right now that I really don’t slow down to worry or distract myself from the goal/task at hand. (i.e.: Goal driven)

• I try to find joy every day. There is always something to make me laugh and smile. (i.e.: Finding joy)

So perhaps the small sample size of traits noted above offer some expansive insight into thriving during uncertainty — self-empowerment, empathy, curiosity, task/goal driven and finding joy.

Research suggests that the more we take the focus off self and put into serving others, the better we move through challenging situations in a purpose-driven way.

The irony is that not only is this trait linked to overcoming challenges but also is a component of a satisfied life for many.

Success during this pandemic shouldn’t be defined by how much a person earned or how many awards were won, but perhaps more important goals like peace of heart, helping another laugh, comforting a friend, holding a door or being able to find joy/levity in the moment.

The world is filled with challenges but one thing is certain, continuing to learn, read, grow and challenge ourselves to be our best-self serves us well not only during a pandemic but after as well. Stay well.

And might I ask, “What have you been reading?”