When New Zealand suddenly crashed into lockdown three weeks ago (after 6 months virus-free), the nation was in freefall. The immediate impact was personal. How will this lockdown affect my plans? What will I lose? How will I miss out? Those thrown into survival mode dashed to the supermarket to stock up, while conspiracy theorists jumped onto social media to speculate.

Before long, outlooks splintered and created a divide. Those in freefall continued bemoaning their fate, spreading fear and hosting regular pity parties. Meanwhile, freethinkers surfaced. Freethinkers consider the resurgence just another temporary hitch and seek ways round the challenges it brings. Lockdown commentary across the world echoes the same refrain. Each time the pendulum swings from freefall to freethinking, the central issue is control.

Freefall comes from the mistaken idea that others are controlling your world, to your disadvantage. It’s hardly surprising this sets you in a tailspin. Research into human behaviour shows that control over your own destiny (aka. autonomy) is a key component in motivation. Believing you have no say makes everything seems pointless and can even push you completely over the edge.

Freethinkers understand liberty is always a choice. In his bestselling book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Viktor Frankl states “the last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” Frankl had ample opportunity to practice what he preaches. He wrote his book following release from a Nazi concentration camp where he was detained for three years during the second world war. Frankl’s pregnant wife and both his parents perished in the camp.

Freethinking means forming your own beliefs and determining your own opinions. It’s about listening to input from a variety of sources, before making up your mind. And there’s no obligation to share whatever conclusions you reach! Freethinking is NOT convincing others they must think like you. Rather, the true purpose of knowing your own mind is to fortify and mobilise you, enabling you to move forward no matter what is happening around you.

In freefall, there is massive uncertainty…where will you end up, how long before it bottoms out, what fallout must you manage? Getting caught up with these global difficulties makes you forget there are things you can do right now to feel better about what you’re stuck with. Freethinking lets you grapple with immediate questions that are worth asking, ones to which you can find speedy personal answers. You get to direct your attention to what really matters and focus on what you can actually control.

In the rousing words of William Wallace from the movie Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” Kiwis could certainly use a little “braveheart blue” facepaint. Now, more than ever, we must embrace connection, acceptance and inclusion. As tribal beings, humans desire autonomy but they also dread exclusion. I strongly urge you to avoid the black and white (or judgemental) mindset of widespread freefall, where anyone stepping out of line receives a backlash.

Freethinking emphasises possibility over control. Here’s a few favourite freethinking techniques:

  • Vent creatively with a daily journaling practice
  • Replace “I can’t” with “How can I?” (ie. “Lockdown means I can’t exercise because my gym is closed” becomes “How can I exercise while my gym is closed?”)
  • Brainstorm options using the box method

The happy news? Anyone can change their mind and adopt a new approach at any time. Check our website for more details if you need help realigning yourself or your team for post-lockdown success. In the meantime, encourage more joy into your world with possibility thinking and right now choices!