Dark Days and Compassion

We are terrible at living a healthy life with each other

This has been a hard week and a hard start to 2021. The incidents at the US Capitol, surging COVID-19 cases and the proliferation of two new variants that are changing what we know about it, all the lockdown restrictions (including keeping kids at home), and it’s cold where I am. It’s also the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere (you can add metaphorically to this, too).

In the midst of this, I am starting up a couple of projects and reconnecting with clients who took a break over the holidays. I can feel this enormous tension in my calls and through my engagements with others: it’s the tension between the go-go-go productivity culture we’ve infected ourselves with for decades and the new fatigued one that is (literally, to some extent) infecting our lives.

Parents at their wits end with kids and all the other pressures of life are still trying to make deadlines and commitments to project deliverables as if nothing is happening at all. I worry about what is to come.

Compassion and Fatigue

This is a remarkable testament to the power of culture. Our culture of productivity is so powerful that even amid sickness, isolation, death, anxiety, and loneliness people still cling to the idea that we ought to be producing great things, consistently, and regularly.

I read in three different newsletters/blogs this week about one of the secrets to doing great work is ‘showing up’ every day and being consistent. I get it: brand promises and consistency matter. But when people hardly know what day it is anymore does it matter that your newsletter doesn’t get published every second Wednesday as you promised?

We’re asking people to deliver their best when they are being constantly bombarded with news, stories, demands, and proclamations that are either negative or make them feel bad. Most lessons espoused by motivational leaders on how to perform makes sense, but they were designed for a time when consistency is normal. That’s not this time.

This week, I’m reminded of why designing in compassion to change-making is so critical.

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash