Maintaining Optimism in Adversity
“Pakistan is desperately short of managers, people who manage other people and get work done….In the past decades there has been little or no effort in increasing management education,” wrote Syed Babar Ali, Founding Pro Chancellor, LUMS in a letter dated April 6, 1983, to a group of businessmen. With hope and determination, he set out to establish what was to become one of the greatest universities in South Asia. He wanted a business school to be set up modelled “somewhat on the lines of Harvard Business School, tailor-made to the needs of Pakistan.”
To live a fulfilling life, each of us needs hope. In the current background of COVID-19, many of us are becoming pessimists. Our workplaces have changed, the economy is struggling and so are several families. People have lost their jobs and students cannot go to their respective educational institutions. All said and done, we must keep hoping; hoping for better days to come – days when we can freely walk out of our homes without fear. As employees, we need to stay motivated. As students, we need to believe that we will go back to school and meet our friends and teachers in person instead of through computer screens.
Hope demands that we be responsible to turn our thoughts towards a more positive mind-set. We must believe in ourselves and the power to change things around us. Human nature is such that it can turn around things if it wants to. So if you are a feeling a bit down, first of all, sit back, relax, and thank God for your blessings. Now see what you can do to be more constructive while at home. What about picking up a hobby that you had wanted to take up but never had time for? What about spending time with your family in a manner that they benefit? Think about the numerous things that you can do that seemed impossible due to a shortage of time.
Meanwhile, history records that the former President of the USA, Barack Obama’s election campaign convinced people that the only way they could survive, renew and reinvent the economy was that they needed to believe in themselves and each other – and they must do it together. He put forward a vibrant energy of endless possibilities throughout America that made people believe that their lives would change in a positive direction. He sold hope to the American people and won.
Lesson learnt: When you feel lost, uncertain and troubled in your life as you might be doing now – simply gather a dose of hope for yourself.
At LUMS, the current situation has not deterred faculty and students from learning. To keep intellectual discourse ongoing, LUMS Live, a platform was launched on March 29, 2020. It gives viewers an opportunity to tune in and connect with eminent individuals across the globe as they discuss topics that range from COVID-19 to literature to science and technology to the economy and more. Its third session, ‘Optimism in Adversity’, held a much needed conversation that focused on major changes in our usual routines, challenges of social isolation and the sense of fear at the back of everyone’s mind. Ways to tackle and adjust to the new normal were discussed and lots of tips on staying positive and making the most of the stay-at-home routine were shared.
Mr. Yasser Hashmi, Assistant Professor, Psychology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS and former Dean, Office of Student Affairs explained the students’ situation at the LUMS Live session in these words, “The motivational element is very different in a digital classroom as compared to one in which a student is physically present. The focused attention becomes difficult to maintain. The non-academic challenge is that the freedom he/she feels at a university is curbed in a home environment.”
So what should students do to keep themselves on track? Organise, work towards a goal and above all stay positive. Easier said than done, but worth a try. Waking up late or staying up all night isn’t going to work because you will feel sleepy during your class. So a routine helps keep you focused.
LUMS also has a dedicated Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) department to support students in these challenging times. Dr. Tahira Haider, Head of Department, CAPS, explains that the recent COVID-19 outbreak makes the role of the Counselling and Psychological Services particularly important. She comments, “As we navigate this difficult time in which so many individuals and communities are being impacted, CAPS is extending support to our student community through online therapy. Students may have a variety of reactions including, but not limited to, fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, isolation, uncertainty, and depression and we remain committed to supporting students through our virtual services and resources.”
We need to remember that out of this adversity comes opportunity as well. Innovative teaching and communication is one. Many of us have learned programmes we would never have if we kept working in the office. Our technical skills have improved and the flexibility of working online is great too. We have discovered more ways of communicating as well. For faculty, innovative teaching has become a necessity. They have been forced to move out of their comfort zone and try innovative techniques to conduct their classes and keep the students engaged.
A few other things you can do to keep the hope alive, is to find a safe spot for yourself at your home. Also protect your mental space keep away from negativity. Negative opinions and information on the media about the pandemic will only make you tense and offer no solution.
In conclusion, we all know that in life, one is either solving a problem, coming out of a problem or heading into a new problem, but hope alleviates the tension points throughout life’s journey. Continue to invest in a powerful dose of optimism and a belief for a better tomorrow. COVID-19 is not here to stay forever anyway!