Avurudu awakening amidst an awful pandemic

Thursday, 16 April 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


We just witnessed a different Avurudu this year. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we are home-locked and celebrating the Sinhala and Tamil New Year as a confined family has become a discovering experience of family richness.

The television and broadcasting channels kept us vibrantly alive by connecting with artists in family settings, whilst social media features multiple greetings galore. The whole experienced radiated unity in a unique manner facing an unprecedented challenge.  I see the time of Avurudu as an invitation for awakening, individually as well as interactively. Let’s discuss further.

Awakening ourselves  

Avurudu invites us to awaken ourselves. It is the time to rejoice, relax, reflect and reinforce. Celebrating as Sinhalese and Tamils alike is the central key. Collaboration, consensus and connectivity are all coveted concepts associated with Avurudu. A cheerful, optimistic and open mindset can be a good starting point. I know, it has become hugely challenging with COVID-19 home-locked experience. A challenge is in front of us. Are we seeing the good in us as well as in others enough in a truly win-win sense?

We live in a time when meetings are started asking the question, “What went wrong during last month?” We are very good at catching people doing things wrong. An institutionalised negativity is a common phenomenon in Sri Lankan workplaces. This is the time, I think for us to change. We should catch people doing things “right”. We should more often ask the question “What went right?” Positive focus is one vital ingredient for consistent performance.

In order to change for the better, we need to recharge ourselves. There is no better time than this festive season to do so. I am talking of the need to take care of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of our lives. This is an opportune time for renewal, an awakening to the reality with focus on being better. We need an awakening in each of the above facets, in making the coming months a meaningful period of prosperity.   

Awakening physically

Avurudu games traditionally had been an invitation for us to stay physically fit. This time it is different. Human body is the vehicle that takes us through the journey of life. Being healthy and fit are of utmost importance, despite our constant negligence of them. Finding quality time for physical exercises on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity. Perhaps, confining to home front would have given you ample time and space to reignite your exercising routines.  

Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need.  Avoiding tasty yet unhealthy food is not so easy. Wasting food while millions are starving worldwide should be stopped at least in our family front. Now, make the decision to allocate time for it, and to respect the commitment. That is what an awakening is all about.

 Awakening mentally

Avurudu invites us to sharpen ourselves. As Stephen Covey highlighted as one of the seven habits of highly effective people, “sharpening the saw” is essential for growth and success. Ensuring that knowledge and skills are regularly updated and upgraded is what we need to focus on. The wide range of webinars during past few weeks is a sign of a thirst for knowledge in using available time wisely.

Tom Peters gave a challenge to US managers a decade ago. Look back for past six months, and see whether you have acquired any new knowledge or skills. If the answer is “no”, you are stagnating with a blunt saw. As the Digital Journal tells us, the rate at which knowledge is becoming available is doubling every year and, on a curve, predicted to rice even faster. What we discover with regards to COVID-19 day by day is indeed illuminating.

With internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become a part and parcel of our lives. Despite occasional fake and hate news, we can learn something sensibly from social media as well. As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from “the womb to the tomb”.

Awakening emotionally

Avurudu is a time to strengthen positive, constructive emotions. This has become acute amidst Covid19 pandemic where psychologists advocate us to embrace more enthusiasm despite the existing doom and gloom. There are people who have successfully passed their exams, but have miserably failed in their lives. Being aware of constructive emotions as well as destructive emotions, surrounding our lives, is the first step. Laziness and anger are two common examples for destructive emotions. Enthusiasm and determination are common constructive emotions.

As experts on Emotional Intelligence (EI) say, self-awareness should lead to self-regulation. That is when you are in control of your emotions and then channelling them towards achievements. This is especially true if you are at an organisational leadership position. As Daniel Goldman, who popularised the concept of EI advocate, leaders should be 70 % more emotionally intelligent than the others. This is a fitting time to show that in both words and deeds.

Awakening socially

Avurudu unites the nation and socially bonds the country. As we know, no man is an island. Human beings are social animals. Human connectivity is an essential requirement for any community to foster. In a high-tech world, where speed is a key factor, high-touch dimension of relationships should not be neglected. I have seen many achievement-oriented executives who have “married” to their jobs whilst their neighbours taking care of their families.

This could be challenging in a time where social distancing is strictly regulated. I see what is required in tackling COVID-19 is more “physical distancing” and not social distancing in a true sense. Physical distancing should not paved way for personal disconnecting. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke predicted, the world will embrace more communicating than commuting, with the advancements of technology. The term social media is the case in point.

A renewal should ensure the fostering of relationships with team at work, and more importantly with team at home. This is a golden and opportune time for us to do so. Building better relationships, taking quality time off from your work to be with your loved ones, involving in voluntary work are some of the popular activities in this respect.

Awakening spiritually

Avurudu is very much associated with religious traditions. Moving beyond rituals, it is a time where we revisit and reinforce our values. As we are constrained in visiting religious places this year, it gives us the opportunity to be more “inward bound”. That highlights the central connect or the underpinning for the above four awakenings that we discussed. It is what I would prefer to call as spiritual awakening.

There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious. One can visit a temple, kovil, mosque or a church every day, but at constant loggerheads with neighbours. Being spiritual is much deeper in moving beyond rituals in being righteous. It required a set of values that governs your behaviour. Honesty and integrity can be the commonest examples. Harmony between your set of values and the corporate values of your organisation will ensure long term association of you and your organisation. The Covid19 home-locked experience invites us to strengthen our value base in truly living them in the spirit of humanity.

Awakening to awesome results

Awakening of one’s physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions should lead to better understanding of oneself. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their seminal HBR article titled “Making of a Corporate Athlete”, describe vividly the importance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual “capacities”. According to them, organisations cannot afford to utilise their employees’ capacities, while ignoring their physical, emotional and social wellbeing. They offer us further insights in these aspects:

“In a corporate environment that is changing at warp speed, performing consistently at high levels is more difficult and more necessary than ever. Narrow interventions simply aren’t sufficient anymore. Companies can’t afford to address their employees’ cognitive capacities while ignoring their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. On the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expend it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work. When people feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win.”(Loehr and Schwartz, 2001)

The key point here is the need have a balanced approach towards performance. Awakened employees will assure their commitment towards assigned tasks in achieving the expected results. Moreover, they will become better human beings, and not “human doings or un-doings”.

The way forward

The planet will take a considerable time to heal itself. It could be a painful prolonging period. Yet, being positive and productive is the need of the hour. “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow”, so said Robert H. Schuller

We need to go beyond festivities to ensure focused action leading to future revival. It is healthy people who should strive hard to recover ailing economy.  May the different Avurudu this year herald an era of economic revival with engaged and enthusiastic people who have confidently battled COVID-19 pandemic.

(Prof. Ajantha S. Dharmasiri can be reached through [email protected], [email protected] or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info)

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