During these challenging times, it occurs to me to ask the following question: When we come out of this time (and we will) how will we be different?
I have had a number of conversations in which people share how they are becoming more focused on what is essential, and the extraneous activities that have emerged in their organizations. As we talk, I’m often picturing a forest floor with dead wood that has fallen off trees in a storm. Often, I think about the natural cycle of plants dying and building upon the forest floor. Our organizations have their own version of dead branches that often clog up our organizational and mental space. This might be something like mission drift, or an old program or process that no longer aligns with our core purpose.
The interesting thing is that people seem to be clearing out these items so they can focus on what they and their organizations are meant to do. Sometimes it is a small habit that is being let go and replaced with something more streamlined. This might be something like the “death of the five-page memo.” It could be the release of a popular program that takes a lot of energy away from the main purpose of the organization. At other times it is the growing clarity of what tradeoffs can be made to maintain some sense of what is important for their relationships and their lives.
On a personal level friends are asking tough questions. “Am I willing to avoid hugging my granddaughter for another year?” “What risks am I willing to tolerate to live with the disruption of COVID-19?” All these questions are being considered eight months into the pandemic. And the longer it takes to have a widely distributed, robust vaccine, the more these questions and others will be active in our minds and hearts.
Considering all of these conversations has invited a point of pause and reflection eight months into this disruption. Below are a few of my musings.
- What will we do differently? Will we think or behave differently as we emerge from this disruption? A disruption is different from an interruption. An interruption eventually brings us back to the old normal, while a disruption changes our relationship to many things. I am envisioning working with organizations to redesign themselves so they can be more regenerative and less consumptive; more sustainable; more aligned with the livingness of nature and the people in our organizations. What are your thoughts about this question?
- What are the lessons learned? What are we individually and collectively learning about ourselves, our organizations, and our society? How we are adapting or resisting the implications of COVID-19?
- How will my days be different? Do you see yourself continuing to work from home or back in the office, or some hybrid? I have learned that I can do consulting online, which I would never have thought was possible. I wonder if I will resume my travel schedule, or will I create a new mix between online and in-person consultation?
- How will my weeks be different? When I look back on the last eight months the time seems to blur. My calendar is filled with Zoom calls, but my car miles and frequent flyer miles are close to zero. I used to be able to mark my weeks on the travel I was doing. Now they seem to flow together with one common theme – Zoom calls. Will this change coming out of the pandemic, or will we learn to see different patterns as this disruption continues?
- How will I be different? I know I am changing. However, it isn’t always clear how. One of my strengths is pattern recognition. I like to go up to the balcony to see the dance floor and look for patterns. I find that part of my life is still on the dance floor, participating in the dance, but I am having a tough time seeing the larger patterns of what is changing in me. I know that I am growing and evolving at this time. My thinking is expanding, and I am accelerating letting go of thought patterns that no longer serve my clients, the world or me. That is the clearest indicator of how I will be different. But what I will become is still a work in progress.
The power of pause
In March and April, I felt my life was more expansive. The world stopped for a time, and space opened in my life. It was a creative time for me. June brought back all the work that had been postponed in March and April. Today, my days are filled up again. I need to remember the power of a pause that is triggered by me rather than the pandemic. It can be a generative time to reflect on the question of who are we (individually and collectively) becoming, and we need a lot of time to answer that right now.