Remaining resilient amid challenges

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 5, 2022
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The world is experiencing a very challenging period right now – pandemic, inflation, supply-chain disruptions, wars, rising crime, terrorism, climate change – disruptions of all kinds. These developments, in addition to making me sad and rather depressed, lead me to the following reflections.

As Shakespeare's "Hamlet" observed, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!" The battalions facing us at present are causing significant disruptions at a pace and, to a degree impacting all aspects of society and our institutions, including education, government, legal systems, financial systems, and health systems.  

Technology and scientific advances have accelerated both the degree and pace of disruption and change in society. As society becomes more connected, for example, by the Internet of Things and high-speed ubiquitous networking, the world becomes a much smaller and connected space in which events at one level have an effect across much of the globe.

These challenges and events mean that things are unlikely to revert to a "normal" of the past. Instead, as Alvin Toffler popularized decades ago in his book "Future Shock," the pace of change and the need for constant adaptation will only continue, and what is "normal" will have an increasingly shorter shelf-life.

Another factor impacting many countries is the aging and decline in population. As families become more economically prosperous, they tend to have fewer children. As testosterone levels decline and longevity and fertility issues increase, there will be fewer people overall, and a higher percentage of national populations will be elderly. Thus, there are predictions of significant worker and talent shortages, and bargaining power will shift from employers to employees. Income inequality and polarization are also likely to worsen.

Without debating its degree, there is a growing consensus that the climate is changing and that the rise in carbon emissions is harmful to the planet. The world thus needs to transition to a more sustainable environment with new forms of energy as well as innovations in the efficient use of available energy.  

Building resilience

So, what are some strategies that may be deployed to meet the challenges during these trying times? On a national and social level, consider the following:

We should consider new and improved forms of governance that utilize modern technology to engage more effectively with citizens, make use of large data sets, and engage in deeper analysis of complex problems. 

We need to work on rebooting institutions that have their roots and processes developed centuries ago. Perhaps the oldest institution, the family, needs urgent attention. Unfortunately, one negative aspect of modern technology is that it so easily captures the eyeballs and attention of our young people. It also distracts parents and the adults in the family network who are too busy checking their emails and participating in online activities rather than engaging with the younger generation.

Individually and institutionally, we need to remain calm and focus on the most important matters. This requires stillness and focused attention. As British novelist and essayist Pico Iyer writes in "The Art of Stillness," "As I came down from the mountain, I recalled how, not many years ago, it was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury; nowadays, it's often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize. Stillness is not just an indulgence for those with enough resources – it's a necessity for anyone who wishes to gather less visible resources."

In these times of rapid change, disruption, and high risk, there needs to be much more focus on risk identification and management in everything we do.

We should not take progress for granted. The last several decades have been among the most prosperous and peaceful in the history of humankind. Life expectancy, food supplies, innovation, and incomes have increased at record rates. Unfortunately, many of us have too often taken these blessings for granted. In the midst of so much summer, many also have failed to "save" for a period when winter and tougher times return, as eventually, they will. 

Take action. Start small. Think big. We also need to realize that while we cannot do everything at once, we can do some things at once. The important thing is to get started. In the case of climate change, for example, in transforming our energy systems, it seems most sensible to focus first on cities.

Replace bad habits with good. People and organizations have both good and bad habits. During tough times, a very useful strategy is to have a "not-to-do" list dedicated to eliminating some of the dysfunctional bad habits. These might include, for example, fear, inconsistency, procrastination, laziness, lack of motivation or discipline, poor communication, dishonesty, and negativity.

We need mental agility and hopefulness, which includes the recognition that change is constant. This means things can go wrong. It also means that we can take action to make changes and bring about a different result no matter how hopeless a situation may appear at the moment. 

Finally, we must resist panic, remain optimistic, and build a sense that our future lies not in the hands of fate, but in our hands. We need to have the confidence that we have the power to directly impact our future by taking appropriate action today.

Eugene Clark is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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