I vibrate with frustration when I hear the reference to the adjective unprecedented regarding the covid-19 pandemic.
The implication is that because it is the first time we have experienced the pandemic, we have nothing to learn from history. How wrong we are. How much we dishonour the lives of those lost to this pandemic.
We know better. We know there have been pandemics in the past, just not in our lifetimes. Since the Greek hieroglyphics, the Gutenburg print press, and our digital age, we have learned from our global history.
A more recent, not unprecedented, event is the Spanish Flu of 1918. Things have changed over 100 years. But not to the extent we can’t learn a lot without having to live it over again.
Currently, the second and third waves were predicted to likely happen but not be inevitable. It was also likely to be worse than the first wave. Here we are today, in the third wave, just as history foretold.
I want to reduce my frustration and improve my mental health. I am not powerless. I have an “auto-correct” function in my brain. (a helpful concept for many situations, I might add.) When I hear unprecedented, I auto-correct to “what can I learn from similar events in the past.”
I remember my grandfather telling me about his long walks to and from work to avoid the streetcar in 1918. That stuck with me over the years. I learned from history, taking precautions well before a government recommended restrictions.
Please give this a bit of a think. When leaders in any field of expertise or function refer to something that is happening to you as unprecedented, use your own auto-correct. Is it really exceptional? Is there nothing in the last 1500 years of recorded history that could give you a helpful starting point?
Set about finding the aspects of history that are similar to today. These will be the most productive areas. Jot down some key points so they don’t slip away on you. Then, most importantly, how can your thinking and/or your behaviour change for the better?
My thanks to history for whoever claims the expression: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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