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The world has changed – for good in many ways – in the past 18 months. COVID has left an indelible mark on our world, our country, our cities, our neighborhoods, and on our families.

COVID has brought not only tragedy and change, unforeseeable changes and challenges and more tension and conflict than I could have imagined possible.

So today, more than 18 months into the pandemic, I’m taking some time to reflect on this historic time and to try to sort through it. I do some of my best thinking while I’m writing all alone, with only my wonderful dog Roscoe to keep me company … to the extent that he can while he is fast asleep.

I’ve always tried to learn from all of life’s experiences, the good, the bad and the multitude of in-between experiences. I’ve been trying to do this through the pandemic, and today I want to pull what I’ve learned together, get it written down and share it with you.

So here are four life lessons I’ve learned from the pandemic:

Value what is important and recognize what really isn’t important

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our busy lives. Work, doctor’s appointments, getting the car inspected, taking care of the house, lunch with business contacts. It’s easy to fill a calendar. It’s easy to be busy.

But as COVID progressed and as lockdowns, shutdowns and so many interruptions pushed into our calendars, it became clear to me that not everything I was doing was really important, and important certainly differs from person to person. For me, it’s family, friends, taking care of my well-being, making sure those I love and those who are in my “inner circle” are ok. Other things matter, but only so much can be important.

Being flexible and adaptable matters

Back in March 2020 every day brought new challenges. Meetings were cancelled. Mediations were postponed indefinitely. Things I never thought about doing suddenly required not just a little thought, but some serious problem-solving skills.

But that was good. I was able to learn new skills (I became a proficient user of Zoom after just a couple of weeks), and I found myself building up my “creativity and resourcefulness muscle” almost from the start of the pandemic. Who doesn’t want to be more creative and resourceful?

Accepting other peoples’ perspectives is important

It seems to me that there have been as many ways to view the pandemic and to live through it as there are people.

Some of my friends and acquaintances have been extremely self-disciplined as far as taking every imaginable safety precaution since the start of the pandemic. They think about it almost constantly. Others take some precautions and while not reckless, are not tightly focused on avoiding every possible risk. And still others just follow the rules and regulations and do little else.

But I know that I don’t know all of their situations. Those highly-disciplined risk averse people may have underlying health concerns they’ve not share with me. The less cautious may have had COVID over a year ago. All I can to is to choose my own path through this.

I don’t know, and that’s alright

Like many young people, I went through a short phase as a teenager when I would say “I know” whenever I was told – most often, by my parents – how to do something, how something worked, or about a situation. Now, just a bit past those teenage years, I almost never say “I know.” Because I don’t always know. If nothing else, over the past year-and-a-half we all have learned the world is filled with uncertainty.

That much I do know. For sure.