Choosing Joy in the Face of Disruption and Loss

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We can choose to dwell on the loss and change COVID-19 has brought to our lives, or we can shift our focus and choose joy. American University’s Bryan Champion says during this time of isolation we have received the precious gift of time to spend with those most dear to us, advance goals, and improve our own leadership.


I know that with all the shifts and changes COVID-19 has caused in our lives, it can easily cause us to focus on all the things we believe have been taken away from us. The loss of social interaction, loss of mobility, loss of work and revenue, loss of freedom of choice are all things that can overtake our minds, cloud our thoughts, and become our main focus in this time of unforeseen change. I remember only two and a half months ago starting the new year with vision and hope.

Like many of you, I made New Year’s Resolutions, goals, and an action plan for how I imagined the year would go. Then before I made it through the first quarter of the year, the new coronavirus began to cause changes that affected my goals and my plans. Because I wrote down my 2020 goals and review them frequently, I was able to begin to assess the impact that isolation from others was going to make on my goals. But then I was reminded of something I read in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders about paradigm shifts and how we can shift our current conditions with a mind shift and a shift focus.

The gift of time

COVID-19 is having a negative impact on many of us, and there are things each of us can identify that have been taken away from us. The paradigm shift I offer you to consider is the gift that has been given to so many of us. This is the gift of time. Our common defense (excuse) for why we do not accomplish specific goals, participate in hobbies, or spend time with people that are important to us is our lack of time. While we are blaming our lack of accomplishments and goals on COVID-19, our reality is that its largest impact is due to our lack of focus.

During this time of isolation, we receive the gift of time. I pray that you will shift your focus from what you are missing to how to take advantage of the extra time you have to build and renew relationships, to read and study the Bible, to practice spiritual mindfulness spending time in prayer and meditation with God, to write that book you have been wanting to write, to read the books in your library that have been collecting dust, and to address those New Year Resolutions, goals, and actions you committed to earlier this year.

Choose joy

Focusing on what we are losing gets us nowhere other than a state of unhappiness. But focusing on the most important things in our life brings us joy. I choose joy. God gives me joy, and what I have learned is that the joy that God has given to me cannot be taken away from me by any person or earthly circumstance. Life’s interruptions of my plans cannot take away my joy. Isolation cannot take away my joy. The uncertainty of what’s next cannot take away my joy. Rosell L. Jenkins (Cultivating Joy) encourages us to maintain joy in the face of devastation and loss and to shelter within to find strength during life’s storms. Marshall Goldsmith (Investing in Servant Leadership) tells us that the blood type that strengthens us to focus during times like these is “Be Positive.” Focus on the positives in order to project positive outcomes.

Maintaining focus

Willie Jolley released a new song, We Will Get Through This, in response to the state of affairs concerning this epidemic racing through our community. I believe the words of his song, and I readily await the day that the epidemic has passed and we can say we made it through. However, how well we get through this time centers around our focus while we are going through it. I choose joy and I choose to focus on the blessings God has given me to focus on self-improvement. Covey also talks about being proactive (Habit 1), sharpening the saw (Habit 7), and beginning with the end in mind (Habit 2). This is my time to be proactive by using my time wisely, to sharpen my saw by focusing on developing myself, and to begin with the end in mind to keep myself relevant and fresh so that I am growing through these times and not becoming stale.

I thank God for the blessings to maintain joy in the face of devastation and loss, to be positive, to know that we will get through this, and to focus during troubling times. Where is your focus? I pray that it is on your blessings.


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About Author

Bryan L. Champion is professor of public sector leadership at American University.


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