I want to shout STOP. STOP it already.
We’re in the midst of an extraordinary shift in how we conduct our lives. After the initial onslaught of Covid many of us thought, well, by summertime I’ll be back to normal. Normal never came. And normal will not ever be back.
Our lives have irrevocably changed.
And yet I hear it all around me. I should be doing more. I’m not doing enough.
If you work in a global corporation, you’re responding at lightning speed to constant external change. And yet you may feel you’re not as productive as you normally are because you’re now full-time at home, tending to your children who are still not back in a classroom, your spouse who is suddenly around as well, all the time. Some of you may have been diagnosed positive for Covid-19. Many of you may worry that you’re next.
Let me be clear. You’re doing enough.
If you’re a self-employed entrepreneur, you feel the pressure to take your business online, communicate better on video, manage revenue shortfalls more effectively. Or worse yet, jump into high action so you’re prepared with the perfect new product once the current pandemic goes away.
Come on, STOP it. Enough is enough.
Couple this with the political theater that bombards us every day and, whew, life can feel overwhelming. I get it. Can we just take a deep breath and exhale? Just for a day or a week?
The action demon is the voice of our insidious cultural conditioning that says whatever we’re doing is not enough.
I did a TEDx talk about this a few years ago. Never enough.
When the pandemic first blew up in Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor suggested the following in a press conference:
It’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to feel angry. It’s Ok to hope.
This as Garcetti was mobilizing his citizens. It is helpful advice and a very fine place to start. More helpful than working faster and harder until we feel nothing.
For the last 20 years, corporations have taught classes for managers about how to navigate change. While programs vary from firm to firm, they all tend to incorporate two frames: The tactics John P. Kotter outlines in his book “Leading Change,” and the 5 stages of grief as outlined by Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross in her classic book “On Death and Dying.”
The emotional lessons of this body of work are profound, and they all apply right now. Please bear the following thoughts in mind as you move forward into more uncertainty:
● It is OK to Underperform
When we’re in shock or mourn the loss of something that matters to us (like life as we know it, yes?), it is normal to underperform. It happens in every loss process. It is to be expected. It is part of the human journey through loss. Resist any temptation to suddenly be superwoman or superman.
Wisdom says we all long to get to hope, at the end. Not the fake peppy “everything-will-be-fine” hope. No, the hope that comes from having navigated the valley. Navigate the valley. Don’t fake the hope.
● Celebrate Little Wins
When life feels out of control, celebrate the small wins or accomplishments you have, every single day. They give us a sense of control in a world that seems to be coming off the rails. If you’re unemployed or underemployed and find yourself restless at home, create small tasks that you can easily accomplish, like organizing a drawer in your closet or trimming a hedge in your garden. Simple tasks, completed without over-exertion, will reward you with a sense of control. Beware – if you start reorganizing your entire house in one day, you’ve likely stepped into never enough mode. STOP.
If you’re working in a corporate role where much of the day is spent putting out fires and minimizing damage, it is harder to feel the small successes because, well, you’re just going, going, going. Choose to find the moments when you do STOP. Ask yourself what were some of my little wins today? You will be startled by how many you actually had. A sense of calm is likely to settle in. And that is a very helpful sensation.
● Ask How They Feel
Other people. Our teams. Colleagues and clients. They are our anchors in these disruptive times. They are the familiar as the unfamiliar looms larger and larger. And just as they are OUR familiar, we are THEIR familiar. They have feelings about what’s happening in the world around us just as we do.
In the midst of highly transactional work, remember to ask how the other person feels. Remember to notice how YOU feel. Don’t judge the feelings, theirs or yours. Take a moment to open the door and inquire. Drop into the human. The time for this inquiry is right now. Go there. You both will feel a sense of relief. Moving forward through the day will feel easier. You will feel less alone. That’s a very fine thing.
Even when your work feels hectic and out of control, even as you sit at home and perhaps do not know what to do with yourself, remember. Enough is enough.
It’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to fell angry. It’s Ok to hope.
Yes, Eric Garcetti. Wise words.
Be kind to yourself. Let it be enough.