The holiday period is approaching fast; everyone will be wishing for happiness, joy, and health. Today, everyone feels that these wishes will be more necessary and concrete than they were in previous years, when these wishes often had an automatic and mechanical connotation, emptied of any concrete meaning.
For my part, I had always greeted these wishes from global spectators with perplexity. In particular, the expectation from others, whether by chance or heavenly grace, that the best will somehow happen. In reality, we are the principal actors of our own lives; and instead of “wishing” others happiness, joy, and health, I have always thought that what we should say is, “can you do everything in your power to be happy and healthy; and to help others be happy and healthy too.”
For 2021, I would like to add an additional wish to these much-needed wishes. This wish may appear to be more modest. In my opinion, however, this wish is particularly essential at the dawn of this very special year—do not give up.
And indeed, in the coming year, there will be even more objective reasons for discouragement than in previous years:
On a personal level, we could be discouraged by the following events—universities not resuming classes, restaurants and cultural establishments remaining closed, and if we are infected by the virus after having made many efforts to protect ourselves from the pandemic; if we lose a relative or a friend, or our job after having done everything possible to keep it and without any prospect of finding one again; if we are no longer able to pay our bills as they come due, or reimburse our student loans or mortgage; if we fall into misery overnight; or if we become homeless.
Collectively, our discouragement could be caused by the lockdown potentially lasting longer than expected; if the distribution of the vaccine is delayed; if the vaccine proves to be less effective than expected; if the economy does not recover; if there is a feeling that this crisis is not temporary; if there is a feeling that the powerful are not up to the task required by the responsibilities they hold; if, once this pandemic is defeated, another pandemic, a climate disaster, or new forms of terror and violence emerge…
More generally, discouragement can arise if our efforts do not pay off; if an expected good news does not materialise; if misfortune, sorrow, or a catastrophe that is so enormous appears to be insurmountable; if the straight course of life is derailed by surprise; and above all, if one has to face these unexpected events alone, without the support of a family, community, or nation. This is the case for most human beings today. And no one, apart from a very few privileged people, (and still), is immune from such tragedies.
When such situation threatens us, when resignation is on the horizon, other risks may also arise: those of depression, psychiatric disorders, suicide, and all other forms of escape from reality.
Then comes the worst strategy in the face of these disasters: resignation; it manifests itself in abandonment, renunciation, and complacency. It can be visible, spectacular, and communicative. It can also be hidden, when the resigned person succeeds in pulling the wool over their eyes and others, in making people believe that they are continuing to live normally and fighting, while in reality, they have already, in their inner core, let go of the ramp.
Many people have died. Many companies are failing. Many countries also dying.
Why do some people give up and others react? How can we understand the different attitudes of people in the face of the most extreme adversity?
Confronted once with a situation of this kind, I was told by François Mitterrand, “you are entitled to twenty-four hours of discouragement.” It was probably the most important piece of advice that he ever gave me.
To face this terrible threat, you must possess within you, a vital refusal to give up, self-confidence, and motivation. In a very real sense, these are the same qualities that are needed to live life to the fullest and find yourself—becoming yourself.
Where can you find such motivation? How do you create it when you do not have it naturally in you?
The key is in a simple sentence: “live it up the day after tomorrow.” In other words, we must try to visualise, even in the midst of dark times, disappointments, bad surprises, disasters, descent into hell, that another future is perhaps possible. That we can still be happy, that we can find our way back to smiles and freedom; that people, who depend on us, deserve that we do not let ourselves go.
Such happy future is not certain. But it is possible. And the only thing that is certain is that this other and positive future can only come true if we do not resign ourselves to the worst; if we understand that resignation is the factory of self-fulfilling pessimistic prophecies, a machine for producing misfortune.
The first among the emergencies in 2021 will therefore be to do everything possible to escape the thousands of reasons that we will all have, at one time or another, for one reason or another, to be discouraged.
Therefore, on the evening of December 31, we must not be satisfied with “wishing for the best.” Instead, we must find within ourselves the courage, will, motivation, and grit to create the conditions for the best to happen, for ourselves and for others.