the route

It is hard to believe that we are well over a year into the pandemic. I remember when it all started. I had no time to empty my office, and no time to prepare for what would lie ahead. I remember my thoughts being in overdrive the first couple of weeks and then expanding to an awareness that the pandemic could be long-term and “my normal“; at least how I knew it, had disappeared.

For most of my life, I have struggled with the idea of having routines. As a child, I would get bored easily, as a teen I was determined not to miss out on anything, and as an adult, and professional, the faster the roller-coaster the more accomplished I feel. Over the years, I have heard many people, and mentors, say, “stick to a routine” because “it is the best way to have success!” I didn’t listen, simply because the idea of actually having a meaningful and daily routine eluded me. Probably deep down, I knew there was sense to it, but my desire for adventure, newness and FOMO (fear of missing out) always won over. I would have short stints of willpower around routine; even trained for a half-marathon once but, once I reached my goal, it was on to something else. “What’s next?” became stronger than any daily mantra.

The first few weeks into the pandemic, was kind of surreal, as I soon realized I was now a remote worker and had to learn how to be an effective coach and trainer online. It was kind of being like a kid in a candy store. New knowledge was being thrown at me daily and I had no choice but to inhale, embrace, and then, move on to the next. My students and clients were depending on me. This kind of worked well for me. However, it also set the stage for my entrance into pandemic life; a first-class pass into not allowing myself to let any of this pandemic time pass me by. I went on a pandemic spree, bigger than any shopping spree I had ever been on, that would include exercise, learning, discovering, and challenging myself. My calendar looked like quite the smorgasbord as I attempted to write a story that would show how I successfully embraced pandemic life and triumphantly lived to talk about it when this unexpected and uncertain time would be over.

At first, it seemed like a mini-vacation; kind of like those special days off just at the right time and when you really need it. I mean, I had to work, but no more commuting, no in-person events to plan, and supper on the table shortly after 5 pm. But, things eventually changed. I found myself not being able to concentrate, sleep, or stop the voice; the most annoying, self-douting, challenging voice that I just could just not get to shut up.

As an extrovert, I started to feel lonely and not like myself at all. My supportive husband was always there, and a Zoom chat was at my fingertips, but I missed my community, networking, wine with friends, coaching face-to-face, creating LinkedIn ah-ha moments from the big stage, and even hugs. I was spending way too much time indoors, too much time on the computer, too much time alone, and too much time trying to ensure that when this was all over, I would be more than enough.

At one point, I thought about Dr. Phil Mcgraw’s words, “How is that working for you?” My answer was, “It’s not!” I decided to start walking around my neighborhood for forty minutes to an hour each day. That annoying voice told me to find at least 5 routes, so I could constantly change things up and never get bored. Within a week, I had 5 routes all picked out that consisted of the train trail route, the park route, the busy Dundas street route, the window-shopping route, and the back-alley route. I was proud of laying out this elaborate walking plan, satisfying that voice, and setting up something that would have me explore, connect with the community, get exercise, and, as an extra bonus, lose some calories along the way.

I realized a month into this plan, I felt better physically but, still felt very disconnected. I didn’t realize that my plan was secretly concocted to seek human connection out. I could see that I was getting quieter and knew that wasn’t a good sign. When I was younger, I was pretty gregarious, funny, and outgoing. When I went quiet, that was normally the sign that I was going through something, upset with someone, or someone was upset with me. I remember there were times when I could go 3 or 4 days without saying much. Once I got older and somewhat wiser, I was able to see that this behavior was not good for me and I worked hard to “open up”. Now as it stands, when I feel myself resorting back to that “quiet” space, I fight it, and most of the time, overpower it. But, I have to admit, there have been times throughout this last year when I felt that Covid-19 had the upper hand. Luckily though, it never lasted too long and I would snap myself out of it and beat Covid-19 down.

One day, I happened to be going through some quotes; hoping to find an uplifting one to add to my LinkedIn newsfeed. I came across this one, from Octavia Butler: “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” Around the same time, I just happened to be listening regularly to the famous hypnotist, Marissa Peer. Marissa speaks a lot about language and the language we use to talk to ourselves.”When you change the words and images you use, you can change your life.

At one moment I had an Oprah “aha” moment and decided to give routine a chance and opted to walk the same park route for one year. Instead of saying to myself, “This is going to be very boring“, I changed it to say, this is going to be an opportunity!

So, on June 1st of 2020, I decided to walk the same route every day for the next year. Now in June 2021, I can first say, “I did it!” and secondly, “this is what I learned“:

  1. Trust is built when you see people (pets included) on a regular basis
  2. Trust leads to support and camaraderie
  3. It takes consistency, and time, to see the beauty in certain things
  4. What I believe is not necessarily what is
  5. There is no one size fits all
  6. We can take control of our mental health
  7. Creativity or learning does not die in routine
  8. Implementing one routine does not make your life routine
  9. A routine is an investment in oneself
  10. If you don’t like the words routine, change it to habit; habits can be changed anytime to help reach your goals

Walking the park route routine, over the course of the last year, has changed my life for the better. Even though there were often strict rules to adhere to, I got to know so many people including all levels of runners, walkers, and outdoor gym enthusiasts, fellow dog owners, bird watchers, board game enthusiasts, an amazingly talented 7 piece drummer band; socially distancing while keeping park goers amused and delighted, people from different cultures and backgrounds, business owners who sell plants, vegetables/fruits, and yummy gelato to help make financial ends meet while also serving up some smiles, two people who also grew up in New Brunswick, dog walkers, sunbathers, yogis experiencing life beyond the physical, picnickers, professionals from all walks of life including a couple of business owners who didn’t know “LinkedIn Training” is really a thing, and now want “IN“.

When I think over the past year, I have grown in ways that I could never have imagined. I realize that in the past, many experiences passed me by simply because my mind was closed and not open to what was so easily available to me. I thought that the only way to explore and grow was to explore the unknown. What evaded me though, was the fact that the unknown is everywhere, and even if I walk the same route, over and over again, it is actually never the same. So, even though the year is up, I am still happily walking the park route.


  • Shelly Elsliger

    President Linked Express and Chief Kindness Officer (CKO)

    Linked Express

    Shelly uses LinkedIn to empower and inspire people to tell their amazing stories, while maximizing their professional branding potential and social influence on LinkedIn, making sure to add some fun, passion, and kindness along the way. She is the President of Linked-Express, a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), recognized as a Woman you Need to Know by the National Women Speakers Association, a Forbes Writer, a Women of Inspiration Winner 2019, and on the list of globally recognized LinkedIn Training Experts.  Shelly is a thought  leader in the field of social reciprocity and the Founder of the #DecidetobeKind movement on LinkedIn; a global movement to stand up against bullying on LinkedIn.   Her MOTTO: "Instead of waiting to be noticed first, be a Leader in your space-Lean-In, Listen-In, and Link-In!"