In my work, I help organizations reimagine their role in serving markets to innovate forward in everything from employee experience to customer experience to product and service innovation to digital and organizational transformation. More and more however, I’m also being asked to help our customers start with helping their employees, as human beings, prioritize their wellness and to focus on building new mindsets and skill sets in this work from anywhere world.
As we were all thrust into a digital-first world, where everything was suddenly defined by working, learning, shopping, and leisure from home, it’s more important than ever that we make time to recenter ourselves in this new normal and for the next normal. We cannot be our best selves to our loved ones, our colleagues, or ourselves, if we are not mindful about who we were before the pandemic, who we’ve become in the last year-and-a-half, and who we’re becoming. Once we can appreciate our journey to where we are today, we can then be intentional about who we’d like to become in this new and evolving world. And it’s something of which we must be mindful.
It would be unwise to move into this next stage, as the world reopens, without taking pause, reflecting, and visualizing the next stages of our journey.
The Future isn’t What It Used to Be
The challenge and the opportunity in our lives is that the future isn’t what it used to be.
We all came into this pandemic equally, but that doesn’t mean that we have to all emerge the same way. This is a time to take stock, to appreciate that the world isn’t going back to what it was before, and to also cherish our resilience for adapting in these times of uncertainty and turmoil.
It’s important to remember, that you were not “working from home” over the last year, but instead, you were at home, during a global pandemic crisis, trying to work and live. Moving forward, you must be kinder to yourself and at the same time, be more understanding of others. We’re all still trying to find our footing.
Now’s the time…
Charting a New Path Forward
With every disruption, there is an opportunity for growth. And with that growth, there is also an opportunity for invention and innovation.
Ask yourself, who have you become during the pandemic and who would you like to become in the great reopening?
It’s time to start preparing for a new and better normal. It’s time to rewrite the future of you…and the future of your role in it.
Before we officially usher in the great reopening as a society, let’s take the time to consider our role in the future and who it is we are and will become. Start by asking yourself three questions:
- Who was I, really, before the pandemic?
- Who have I now become during the pandemic? Observe the differences.
- Who do I truly want to become post-pandemic? Even if you’re not on track toward that goal currently, that’s ok. That’s the point of this exercise.
Then, create a 2-by-2 categorized by “dislike” and “like” across the bottom and “pandemic” and “pre-pandemic” down the left side. Take some time to reflect on what was working and not working before and during the pandemic.
Come to know who you’ve become. Be honest and specific. Take some time to explore what aspects of your pre-pandemic and lockdown life you feel like you could or should leave behind. Also, ask yourself, what aspects of your pre- and pandemic life do you enjoy and would really miss if you had to leave them behind in the great reopening?
Consider multiple dimensions of life, such as relationships, behaviors, diets, hobbies, and work. Again, be honest with yourself. It’s not meant to be easy. It’s also not meant to be solved in one sitting.
For the next step, create a second 2-by-2. On the left, place the “next normal” at the top and “great reopening” in the lower left corner. Then across the bottom, place “embody” in the lower left and “aspire” in the lower right.
Now it’s time to carry forward those personal and professional attributes now and in the near-term. This is your foundation for the new you in the great reopening. Then consider all the possibilities and aspirations you imagined for yourself and who you can be for loved ones and colleagues. Maybe those thoughts started with, “I really love…,” “I wonder…,” “what if…,” or “someday…”
The goal here is to create a variety of scenarios for ourselves in what we choose to embody now and in the future, personally and professionally. It’s a simple but important visualization of the traits we intentionally decide to leave behind, those we embrace going forward, and those characteristics we aspire to personify.
This is Our Ctrl-Alt-Del Moment
If we simply return to ‘normal,’ we will have missed the lesson, and the opportunity in all of this. These times are anything but a ‘new normal.’ This isn’t a race toward normalcy. It’s a moment of transition, and reflection, to build the future we really want.
Use these guides to begin with the short-term, but plan for the long-term.
What should you start to leave behind?
What should you start to practice more every day?
What do you need to make room for in your life now and over time?
How will you document progress, and reward yourself, in each front?
How can those around you help you? Are you surrounded by the right people?
Remember, even though you can’t change the people around you, you can change the people around you.
Following this exercise, know who it is you are and who you are becoming. Surround yourself with people who support you and challenge you to be your best along the way. Think of it as a “personal board of advisors” for the new “You, Inc.”
This is the beginning of scaling your life in a more positive, productive, and happier direction. And with a growth mindset, you can continue to unlearn, learn, and grow, all while finding happiness in your journey.