Events cancelled. Schools closed. Citizens quarantined.
The impact of coronavirus/COVID-19 is real even if what Dr. Drew Pinsky states is true: That the threat is an “overblown press-created hysteria.”
But the purpose of this post isn’t to cast judgment on people who fear coronavirus, or even organizations that are cancelling events and conferences.
The purpose of this post is to examine our overwhelming desire for the feeling of, and the resulting trade-offs of, security.
So, let’s say that your desire for security has incentivized you and a group of your colleagues to email your conference or event organizer to request the event be cancelled over fear of spreading the coronavirus.
And, as we know is happening, let’s say similar occurrences are multiplied across the United States.
I’m not just talking about massive conferences like SXSW in Austin, TX (which was cancelled last week), but also local or regional networking events and workshops.
The events get cancelled. You feel more secure.
But, wait…what about all the people who are still going to work each day in an office setting?
Or how about the thousands of people who work your local factory?
And all the kids coming together in schools?
How about the 15,000-20,000 people gathering on any given night in a city for an NBA game?
What about your trip to the grocery store? Or the post office? Or the gym?
After all, if the virus is going to spread from your conference or workshop, won’t it spread from these additional small and large gatherings of people?
Should we cancel all of those activities?
And, even if the current World Health Organization (WHO) estimate of a 3.4% mortality rate from the virus is accurate, is the resulting economic and psychological impact of closing all businesses, sporting events, schools, etc. worth it?
Of course, this is not to belittle the experiences of people who are currently dealing with the virus, or those who have died.
Just as considering such trade-offs where the “traditional” influenza is involved would not be belittling the 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths attributed to the flu in 2018-2019.
The economy is about trade-offs.
Public health is about trade-offs.
Your personal health and longevity is about trade-offs.
Life is about trade-offs.
So, enough about coronavirus.
How about your desire for security in other facets of your life?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over your desire to start the business you’ve always wanted to start?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over traveling with your spouse or significant other?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over leaving your toxic job?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over letting your kids go outside and play in the neighborhood?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over giving yourself permission to define and start living the lifestyle you’ve always desired?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security over moving from the town you hate to someplace you’ve always wanted to live?
What are the trade-offs when you prioritize your desire for security so that your obsession with saving for a “rainy day” outweighs experiencing life with your family and loved ones?
The examples could go on and on — but the fact is, so many of us are programmed to value security over our freedom. We’ve been raised to believe that’s the only responsible way to live; even when the trade-off is living, as Henry David Thoreau calls it, a “life of quiet desperation.”
All of the examples above exhibit the fact that our intense desire for security makes us resistant to change in our lives.
What are the trade-offs of that resistance in a world that is changing faster than ever?
After all, as bestselling author Eric Butterworth asserts, humanity never would’ve survived if it’s desire for security had kept it from venturing out from our caves.
“If we had not risen above the human inclination to be safe at all costs, we would still be living in caves, if indeed the human race would still be living at all,” he writes. “Homo sapiens were surrounded by great beasts with superb built-in defenses. The human creatures, seemingly so inadequate, so helpless, survived because their defense was in their creative ability, in the intuitive flow of ideas, in their spiritual dimension — no matter how primitive was its showing.”
Is your overwhelming desire for security causing you to build a wall that prevents your growth and prosperity?
If so, the “freedom” you find might be akin to, as Thoreau stated, the “freedom of a prison-yard.”