Hand on heart: Which one of you was aware of how much our day was strangely determined and foreign structured? How much meetings and appointments were used as an excuse not to think about their necessity and your own wishes?
For some, as in the case of the corona virus crisis, the abrupt stop of all normal activities leads to a crisis of meaning. For the first few days, people try desperately to maintain the old routines and daily structure by holding meetings via video conference, but after a few days they realize that this is not the way it works. Going shopping as a distraction, taking children to and from school, going to the coffee house and working out in the gym were all part of it, and you saved yourself the thinking. Not anymore.
Whether you are a clerk or the dynamic start-up founder, you have never questioned your own routine. And many notice how lost they are in the process. We realize how much others actually dictate our daily structure. We just never noticed it. From kindergarten to school to university or military service, to working hours as an employee and even as a manager, the sovereignty over one’s own calendar lies with others.
Now that nobody is forcing us to have a fixed structure, we struggle to organize our day. We can’t get out of bed in the morning, our clothing style and personal hygiene leave more and more to be desired, we rot on the couch consuming Netflix shows, on social media and we frantically search for any distraction we can think of without really pursuing it. For the first few days, it feels like a deep abyss, like instability, as if we feel threatened by the prospect of preoccupation with ourselves.
When I set up my own business in 2013, I faced exactly the same challenge. How do I organize my day so that I stay productive and yet don’t drown in stress? It took me some time to find my own routine and to feel less guilty if I missed a day’s routine or felt productive. Today I have more or less found my own routine and my way of motivating myself, writing books and articles, preparing lectures and planning delegation trips, often in a coffee house. The lockdown did not bring the big change for me in this respect, as it did for many people.
Uncertainty about what the unfamiliar situation brings leads to increased feelings of insecurity and depression, sleep problems and more intense dreams. Routines and structures offer support. However, we do not seem to really learn this in any phase of our lives, unless a crisis like this forces us to do so.
In order to learn the art of living, we will increasingly consult professions that can help us in this. Current professions of this kind include psychotherapists, executive coaches, tutors, consultants, companions and those who care for children and the elderly. The term “care professions” is often used in this context, but it is misleading: it has a positive connotation of dependence and helplessness for the “people in need of care”. The economist John Maynard Keynes has already written about this:
It will be those people, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.John Maynard Keynes
We will all have to learn the “art of life itself”, and this is not a question of dependence, but of personal growth.