We’re clearly in unprecedented times. It’s uncertain how long “this” will go on. But it won’t go on exactly like “this” forever.
Today’s pandemic crisis came with a sudden jolt, followed by almost-daily new tremors. We’ve had to scramble to adapt our daily routines—whether that entailed setting up to work from home, homeschool kids, adopt new procedures, or accept new boundaries.
Now most of us have, at least to a degree, settled in. Much is uncertain about the future, but, having accepted where we are, we can think more about and begin to work toward what we want for ourselves, individually and collectively, on the other side.
“An Important In-Between” Time
In his book, Transitions:Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges explains the stages we go through during change and the crucial transition periods between them this way: “First there is an ending, then a new beginning, with an important empty or fallow time in between. That is the order of things in nature. Leaf-fall, winter, and then the green emerges again from the dry brown wood. Human affairs flow along similar channels, or they would if we were better able to stay in that current.”
We’re in that “in-between” time now. It’s both an uncomfortable time and one of opportunity for the beginnings of new growth. Just as we can’t count on the precise date spring will arrive or be guaranteed it won’t come without a surprise snowfall, we don’t know how long “this” will last, only that we’ll gradually move forward into a new season. When we come out the other side, we’ll find that some things have never changed, while some things will have changed forever. Moreover, some of the impact of changes we experience will be because of choices we make and how we’ve used “this” time. What will we do when we have a choice to revert to parts of our past “normal”? How will we respond to the permanent changes?
How Can We Make the Best of This Time?
While many are experiencing hardships great and small right now, there is also an opportunity for many types of good to come from our crisis experience. You may be feeling some of this already as you draw closer (virtually, of course) to your loved ones and neighbors, adjust your routines, learn new skills, conquer new challenges, and ponder the meaning of life in new ways.
This time is a reboot of sorts for many of us. My hope is that we all come out the other side with, in some degree:
Stronger Relationships: When the dust settles on the other side, one positive outcome may be stronger relationships. The dependence and cooperation we require from each other during a crisis creates a special bond. We’ll remember who was there for us when times got tough—who provided a listening ear, encouragement, information, or practical help. The immediate crisis will not last, but valued relationships will.
Deeper Sense of Purpose: The time apart is giving us a space in which to reexamine our values, priorities, and actions and to determine what really matters most to us going forward. What’s most important in your life? What can you let go of? What do you want to leave behind for others?
Greater Courage and Character: We’ve all been forced to practice adaptability, which will be useful as we approach other challenges we are likely to face throughout this century. You may also be acquiring more patience, empathy, resourcefulness, or other good character qualities. Once you practice these, they’re yours forever.
New Skills: Almost everyone has had to quickly upgrade their technical capacities in order to participate in online gatherings, conduct business from their homes, or help their kids learn. Our communication, leadership, and parenting skills are being stretched. Many with more time at home have also used it to dabble in life-enhancing skills such as bread-making, foreign language, yoga, or music.
Creative Solutions: Necessity has always been the mother of invention; innovation accelerates in response to urgent needs. We are seeing this in rapid development of new products, solutions, and processes. We’re also finding, improving, or normalizing ways to use already-existing technologies to meet, collaborate, shop, and acquire other services. Some of these will no doubt continue to serve us well on the other side.
Higher Standards of Cleanliness: Here’s hoping for more sanitary public spaces and cleaner and more orderly private ones as well!
How Do You Want To Come Out On The Other Side?
Whether you are feeling overwhelmed by new demands or a little lost without your usual activities, accept that some level of uncertainty and discomfort is probably necessary right now. Stay connected. Find little ways to take care of yourself. To the extent that you can, simultaneously embrace this as a time of self-renewal. As you are moving through these challenging times, keep asking, “How do I want to come out on the other side?”
I hope these ideas will help you create your best future.
© New Century Leadership LLC 2020