The quote “life is a great teacher” is so true. Always ready to teach us that unexpected events can happen at any time, in any place and in unpredictable ways.

Contemporary society proposes us a constant becoming of multiple scenarios in continuous metamorphosis, an accomplice also the incessant technological progress.

While mankind of the past was often unable to face changes – as demonstrated by the collapse, over the centuries, of governments, empires and entire civilizations – mankind of the present faces it by trying to predict future events through the study of complex analytical systems, based on probability and statistics. Is this a sufficient approach?

The answer is not so obvious, as we see how the results of actions based on predictions are not always as we hoped they would be. Instead, while everything is “fleeing,” sometimes, it might make sense to stop, instead of trying to outrun events in an endless chase of predictions.

At first glance, it may seem like a counterproductive point, but stopping doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of productivity. On the contrary, it can be a useful opportunity to better understand what is going on around us and to better understand which direction to move in.

The life experience of St. Ignatius of Loyola is one of the most fitting examples of how an unexpected dramatic event and a period of enforced inactivity generated extraordinarily beneficial effects. It was during his convalescence that St. Ignatius, immobilized by a battle wound, was able to devote himself to reading sacred texts. These readings made him reflect on the meaning of his existence, bringing about a profound inner change that led him to abandon his military career and take care of those most in need.

He did not object to the change, but rather reacted to the occurrence of an unexpected event by changing his predisposition towards life.  The time of forced inactivity was useful for him to reflect and develop a true spiritual renewal: his conversion. The productive use of this time activated a virtuous mechanism, later transferred to his life discipline: to use his time available, be it planned or imposed upon him by chance, to obtain an objective judgment detached from human weaknesses. This, he called discernment.

Similarly to what happened at St. Ignatius, the pandemic period caught us unprepared, forcing us into a period of prolonged inactivity full of concern.

At a juncture such as the present, the true leader is required to “make a virtue of necessity.” Not so much in taking refuge in the semblance of activity provided by mathematical models, but by using the time available to understand the change, to confront it in a discerning way, to ensure that the actions resulting from its operation are the most appropriate possible to solve the needs of the case.

Often, the time dilation caused by a long period of crisis offers unexpected insights. Only leaders who, however, practice detached and lucid reflection are able to seize these opportunities, transforming a period of adversity into an opportunity for the future.

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