I don’t know what the future will hold.
We can have years of personal development and other goals setting exercises behind us, yet when a crisis hits, our foundations become shaky, and we seem to revert back to our basic survival instincts of panic and fight or flight.
Recessions, depressions, pauses come and go by cycles. There is nothing new here.
More often than not, economists and other experts see them coming. At some point, whatever was an expansion becomes a bubble; which by definition gets deflated and, much like the mythical Sisyphus, we are back to starting over again.
Old ways become obsolete, new ideas get created, and we enter a new cycle of rebuilding our economies, cities, and countries.
And the political animals that we are will follow the same type of patterns. We start projects, a new chapter in life, a new job, we feel the discomfort of the growing pains, we learn, we become experts and … we get bored, we get stuck.
We then do what we know so well as humans; we over-think, overanalyze, numb the fear of change, and unknown with all kinds of distractions.
What if this time we decided to do things differently?
Ok to recognize the panic, the discomfort, the feeling of unsafety.
OK also to pause for a second and use that time for some much-needed reset and forward planning, but this time, centered around our own needs and wants?
What day of the month is it again? – recognize your own forms of ‘mehs’ and ‘blahs’
Brain fog, numbing, distractions, over-activities-ism…
Each of us has our own ways of coping when our days evolve between too little time to do the pile of work, or too much time on our hands not knowing how to deal with boredom.
Let’s add the cherry on the current cake, isolation, and the uninterrupted flow of gloom and doom (yes, social media on speed dial).
The perfect storm has us now in a heightened state of fight and flight mode.
Plowing through is for some a way to feel better about themselves; others try to survive the day when wearing way too many hats, and ignoring feeling deflated and depleted because it’s not the time to think about that; and then, the endless time spent on TikTok and other debates on social media.
Fight or flight indeed.
An article in the Harvard Business Review (referenced below) nailed it. We are all grieving a form of loss. And like for any form of loss, we will go through the various stages, of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; our own way.
No two people will react the same way to the same challenge. You can, however, make this time a learning experience for you by:
1/ observing where you are as of the present moment, and
2/ deciding what next course of action to take; which also includes not doing anything.
And as always, be kind to yourself!
Get me outta here, pronto! – find your own way out of ‘mehs’ and ‘blahs’
Let me tell you this, coming from someone who is an expert at it: forcing doesn’t do you any good.
First, it messes with your body and your brain as you are putting undue stress with zero results to make it worthwhile.
Second, because by focusing obsessively on what is not working, you are missing out on opportunities and sources of inspiration that could lead to a better outcome.
So here is my ‘been there, done that’ advice to you.
Stop the madness of forcing, cultivate the energy of allowing.
Allowing is not complacency.
It is taking a step back, becoming an observer of the situation, going through your own process of figuring out, and then devising a plan of action.
Here are some personal examples of ‘hows’.
Find what works best for you, experiment and customize:
‘I really don’t feel like getting out of bed’:
- The forcing way: ‘Get up now, you are lazy, there is a ton of things to do, you’ll slack later’.
- The allowing way: ‘I accept that these are unusual times, and it frankly s*cks out there. But still I want to do something with my day. What would make me feel happy right now?
There, from the comfort of your bed, imagine the smell of a freshly brewed coffee; or the refreshing sensations when taking a shower.
Then read your goals again and take the first action towards them.
‘What is the point of doing anything, my job is meaningless and dull, it’s not motivating that they are laying off people left and right’:
- The forcing way: Ignoring the emails, the issues, becoming cynical, criticizing your management, your colleague; becoming the ‘no can do’ person.
You can see how this will end up…not well.
- The allowing way: ‘What is my long-term career vision? How is this job aligned with it? What does it allow me to do?’
If for you it’s only a paycheck at this stage, ask yourself: ‘what does this money provide? Paying expenses, emergency funds, planning for the future?’.
Be appreciative of what it’s providing you at this moment, even if you don’t like it right now.
‘I am one inch close to burnout, I am multitasking, working, home-schooling and so much more’:
- The forcing way: all of the above
- The allowing way: listen to your bodies, people! Leading yourselves to exhaustion is not a strategy, and is not a tactic either.
Basic self-care is non-negotiable. This is not only about grooming and pampering. It’s also about creating boundaries in times when everything is happening at the same time in the same location.
When commuting is no longer an option for a buffer between life at home and the job, you need to find ways to create one. Negotiating no-interrupt times, creating new rules, asking for help when it’s an option; create pockets of me-time when you can.
And make a commitment not to let work spill over at the end of the workday.
Setting goals in times of ‘I have no idea what tomorrow will look like’
‘Is there really a point projecting into the future when I don’t even know where I will get my groceries from tomorrow?’
The answer is YES.
Let’s go back to simple basics. What do you want in your life? By when? How?.
You just set goals. These are not meant to be another excuse for more rat racing and competition. Rather, see them as signposts and milestones that you give yourself so that 1/ you are keeping your eyes on your own prizes, 2/ while still continuing living your everyday life.
By now you know that your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
But in these unusual times, how can you do goals when the A.R.T. can change every other day?
Make different goals….alongside the other big ones!
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say that your 5-year goal is to become an entrepreneur. In 3 years, your goal is to have enough experience in marketing and business management; which means for you changing jobs in the next 6 months so that in a year, you have diversified your skills.
But today, with the uncertainty of the economy and of the job market, there is no way to know whether your 6-month target job will be available for you, or even if similar positions would still exist.
Does it mean you give up on your dream of becoming an entrepreneur?
Your long-term goals are still valid. Your short-term actions need to adapt. Instead of a precise job in a specific industry, you can broaden your search to larger areas and start exploring.
Another way around adapting these goals is to make them about you, rather than job/career specific.
Who and how do you want to be in a year, 3 years, etc? What skills do you want to acquire? What qualities do you want to develop, or master?
The idea is to go back to why you are doing what you are doing. And in essence, it’s all about creating new opportunities for you to grow, despite uncertain circumstances.
So next time you are feeling stuck, ask yourself: ‘What gift can I give myself right now, that is kind and helpful to me?’.
Then when you are feeling in a place of safety and security, when you have reached a place of more neutrality, ask this question:’ what can I do today to become a better person tomorrow?
A little note here, there is no pressure about being a better version of yourself.
This is a personal choice that you can make when the time is right for you.
Remember! no forcing, only allowing!