Moving to the Growth Zone During COVID-19


Growth Zone

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

The following model was forwarded to me by a colleague and it’s an excellent way to visualize our collective responses during COVID-19. The diagram is divided into different zones which represent our response to this terrible pandemic. This includes the fear zone, learning zone, and growth zone with the objective moving towards to the growth zone as best we can. Doing so helps ourselves and others during this time of crisis.
We’ve all likely been in the fear zone at various points of this pandemic. In the fear zone, people are anxious, edgy, and may “transmit” negative emotions to others, including spouses and loved ones. This includes high levels of complaining and negative affect.

The next stage is the learning zone. This includes differentiating between things we can control (washing hands) and things we can’t (escalating fatality numbers in other parts of the world). It also involves being mindful, or emotionally intelligent, about our own thoughts and feelings and recognizing how our own behaviors impact others. This includes an understanding that we’re all coping with this crisis the best we can. People in the learning zone are coming to grips with the negative emotions associated with COVID and taking more personal control over attitudes and behaviors.

In the growth zone, people begin taking active steps to improve their lives and the lives of others. This includes showing gratitude, being more patient with ourselves and others, and finding ways to help each other out. This reflects Maslow’s “self-actualization” and “self-transcendence” referenced in earlier blogs. There’s also more acceptance of a “new normal” reflected in beliefs such as:
- You’re not “working from home.” You are “at your home during a crisis, working the best you can.”
- Your personal physical, mental, and emotional health is more important now than ever.
- Helping others actually helps you.

This simple illustration serves as a reminder that we have control over our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors even when the world around us feels out of control. Taking charge and operating in the growth zone (as much as possible) will help us take better care of ourselves and those around us in this time of need. Benefits of operating in the growth zone may even linger long after COVID has been managed.