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Henley Leadership Group Blog

Reframe Quarantine: Making Sense Of This Collective Ordeal

Reframe Quarantine - 600x300

Previously published on Forbes

You are a hero. As I say that, I am thinking of one of my heroes, Joseph Campbell, who wrote a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. You are one of those faces.

You are a hero, and right now, you are on an adventure, whether you have thought of this pandemic as an adventure or not. None of us chose this particular adventure, of course. But like it or not, we are all on this journey together.

My husband loves adventure. Annoyingly so. He’s actually been a little bit enthusiastic about facing down the challenges of the coronavirus, like we’re on some kind of extended backpacking trip: Plan simple meals. Be self-contained. Find our way, day by day, often without a good map. Rely on our wits and sensibility to get out alive.

Yep. It’s an adventure.

When I first heard of The Hero’s Journey years ago, it helped me make sense out of the difficulties I had traversed in my life to that point. Through Joseph Campbell’s lens, I was an everyday hero. I had faced adversity and had returned to my family and community with a gift. I had turned something bad into something good and even useful.

So, now we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. A once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) adventure. The terrain is at times difficult and the way forward is only known as we take each step. We lookout for the helpers — our frontline doctors, nurses and emergency personnel, grocery clerks and delivery people — and we keep walking into the wilderness. We don’t know our way out of the forest. And yet, we have a map of what our global neighbors before us have done. The path they followed. We have something.

The Hero’s main task is to continue on through adversity, looking for the gift, the contribution that he or she can bring back to the community. On our team call last Friday, we asked each person to share their answer to the question, “What do you hope changes permanently from all of this?” We were asking them to name the gifts they are seeing and experiencing. Our team shared so generously and, at times, tearfully.

Yes, there are gifts.

To find the gift, we borrow from our colleague Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U. He has a similar model for entering the unknown future as it emerges. He challenges us to keep an open mind, open heart and open will. And to avoid the voices of judgment, cynicism and fear. I don’t know about you, but these voices are sometimes all I can hear. But I know that it is only with an open mind, heart, and will that I — and you — will find the gift, in the generous present moment.

What is the gift you can see right now?

This way of thinking might be a stretch for us. But that’s also what I like about it. I want to be stretched and challenged and made to think.

What if you could reframe what we are experiencing as an adventure? What if you could see yourself and others as everyday heroes?