Former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain this week encouraged players to retrain their minds as they adopt and adapt to Covid-19 measures. In comments carried by Sky News, Hussain reflected on matches that may be played in empty stadiums. He said that while sports without fans are not ideal, a bigger challenge for players during England’s proposed home series against West Indies in July is the extent to which they will adjust their play.
“Some of the stuff they have trained for ten years to do, shining a cricket ball, celebrating a wicket, will be the difficult thing for them. They are used to putting saliva on a cricket ball and can’t do that anymore, so they will have to retrain the brain.” Reporter Greg Glassner meanwhile wrote about his fear of a new wave of Covid-19 infections that continues to torment him. He lamented that “cherished traditions” will now be “streamlined or sanitised.” Hussain and Glassner’s thoughts simultaneously capture the conflicting worlds of mortality salience and its opposite, resilience. Where mortality salience alludes to events, which expose the fragility of life, the latter capacity points us to the ability to absorb shock and change. Resilience encourages the determination to hold on and bounce back. Jacqueline Brassey and Michael Kruyt write in McKinsey Insights that, “finding hope in a crisis is difficult since humans are biologically wired to have stress responses (fight, flight, or freeze) when confronted with volatile environments, unpredictable events, and constant stress.”
The Covid-19 public health and economic setback challenges us to either stay in survival mode or alternatively seek ways to navigate beyond and transcend the current health situation. This challenge grows in importance given its impact on mental health. The University of Michigan recently introduced an online course on “ Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life: Living for What Matters Most.” The institution argues that to find meaning is to find solutions that are not bound to time and circumstances. Writer Lachlan Brown says that, “striving for meaning causes you to look beyond the current situation of your life and connect with the bigger picture. Feeling a little low at times (which is natural), no longer creates the same feeling of despair as it may have in the past.”
The quest to find meaning and purpose is indeed a pressing aspiration. With social engagements proscribed, and in many cases, job security on the line, finding meaning in life is an urgent cause. After all, its implications for society in such areas as personal development, team building, community health, and organisational success, are vast.
Courtney Ackerman celebrates this quest by noting that, “humans flourish when they have it and suffer when they don’t have meaning and purpose.” Meaning revolves around finding and owning a sense of purpose, and the belief that one’s life has significance beyond the present environment. Accordingly, scholar David Chan writes that, “research has consistently shown that people, regardless of socio-economic status, cultural worldviews, and religious or secular beliefs, develop sustained and sustainable positive attitudes and experiences when they seek and find meaning in their lives.” I conclude by reflecting on medical doctor Srini Pillay who says that to get hold of meaning and the sense of possibility helps us to avoid falling into traps which would leave us individualistic and “insular, and with increased social anxiety, a brain that’s more sensitive to differences, and can make you less inclusive and more racist.”