Turning Challenges into Possibilities: A Process for change

A revolution of thought

Several moons ago, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus discovered something rather disappointing to the 16th Century ego. Up until that point it was believed that the Earth not the Sun, was the centre of the universe. Mr Copernicus disagreed. He asserted that the Earth was one of several planets revolving around the Sun. What is now referred to as the Copernican Shift changed, well, everything.

Fast forward around 450 years and we are faced with the extraordinary possibility of a similarly history-defining shift. The Covid-19 pandemic is asking big questions of us and its only now – some 5 or 6 months in – that we are beginning to hear them.

The “what if” question

The questions are gritty, often intensely personal, not easily answered but whole-hearted and possibility based. As we experiment with asking these mind-bending, Copernican-style questions, the invitation is surely to begin some of our sentences with the almost magical words, “what if…”. As these questions emerge, so does the potential for a very different future. Here are some that I have heard:

  • What if we use this opportunity to rethink education?
  • What if we decide not to fly to meetings ever again?
  • What if we continue to feed the hungry, give to the poor, support local businesses – as we have during the lockdown?
  • What if our families were to remain more important than our work? What would need to change?
  • What if we fully embrace technology knowing that in doing so, we are healing the planet?
  • What if we revamp our healthcare systems to cater for everyone – not just the rich?
  • What if we allow the starkness of inequality – so evident throughout this time – to stir in us a real desire to rectify this injustice?

A process for creating shift:

There are endless C-19-gifted “what if” questions like these just waiting to be discovered and the encouragement is to take some time to unearth a few of these with family, friends, colleagues or members of your community.

When you hit on one or two that excite you, jot down a dozen or so outcomes that would result if that “what if” was to become a reality. This will stir your spirits. Then, pick an outcome you truly want to make happen and jot down a couple of micro-steps that you are going to take in the next 1 – 2 days to make that outcome come to life. Voila – your very own Copernican Shift!

The great losses endured by so many worldwide from this pandemic must not go to waste. In fact, they must be seen by all of us as the wake-up call we so desperately needed. We have been given a chance to once more remove ourselves from the centre of the universe. What we do as an expression of this shift in thinking doesn’t have to be big or impressive; it doesn’t have to solve the whole issue.

But we must do – or continue to do – something.