Over the past few weeks, along with the rest of the world, I have been dealing with a new reality. It’s a reality with a lot less interaction with others than I’m accustomed to. One of the many unfortunate parts of COVID-19 is the isolation we’re all going through, regardless of our health. I recently realized that this social distancing has been an agent for opening up the space to a number of sobering realities. An unintended consequence of COVID-19 is this PAUSE, allowing for true feelings to emerge about many things, some of which are happy feelings, and others which are most definitely not happy.
The essential questions emerging for many of us right now are: What type of person have you been up to this point? And what type of person will you be in the new future we are headed toward?
If you are a FOMO type of person, then this may actually be a really peaceful time, because you don’t have to think about what others are doing. The answer is nothing! But you may want to ask, why is the feeling of not being included so unnerving to you?
If you’re a busybody (and this is what I am; I can make a big project out of anything), and you eventually run out of projects, you may ask yourself, what have I been trying to avoid?
If you are always planning vacations and fun and exciting weekend trips, then now you have nowhere to go. What were you running from or trying to find?
If you are an optimist and always put a positive spin on everything, you may now be done with that. Can you face the grim reality and be okay with it being fairly negative right now?
If you are constantly busy, and thrive on keeping a full calendar in order to feel more important, you must have run out of things to do by now. You can’t occupy yourself with all that busyness anymore, so are you feeling less significant? Why do you think that is?
If you are a loner and like to withdraw, you may have structured your life to withdraw from others. Well, I guess this has been really great for you. But after more than a month of being totally alone, do you still like yourself?
If you get your self esteem out of doing a good job at work, guess what? Most jobs today are in a bit of limbo, or hanging in suspense. So how are you going to get your validation now?
If you are a sports fan, you must be going crazy. The question is, if you can’t talk about sports, then what will you talk about? And as a follow up: Why are you so compulsive about sports?
What if you are a sports parent, and you’re usually spending your whole weekend shuttling your kids around to travel leagues, and now there is no drive to win, win, win? Are you finding more fulfilling ways to spend a weekend?
If you always need a companion, and you’re single … this can be really stressing you out. Will you ever date again? Why are you so afraid of being alone?
These are some of the questions many of us have been thinking through. Based on our tendencies during the old normal, how are we coping today with our newfound reality and what our future could look like? (And let’s be honest, no one knows what that will look like.)
It seems like all of this has created a forced pause to many of our behavioral cycles that frankly needed to be disrupted. A disruption to our emotional/behavioral cycles (a pause) can provide a view to a new horizon, and ultimately lead us to a new future of choices and a higher level of fulfilment.
How can we engage our newfound realities in a healthy way, not a destructive way? As we’re isolated and dealing with our own sobering realities during the current pause, here are some strategies that could help us realize better outcomes:
Identify the emotion. The first thing that comes to mind is to identify the way we are feeling. So what’s the emotion that drove us to act a certain way during the “old normal”? For example, if I’m restless with nothing to do, what is the emotion underneath this compulsion to do something?
Identify the compulsion that accompanies that emotion. Sometimes we eat when we are actually thirsty. But when we drink we feel satisfied. You may feel a compulsion to eat, because you associate eating with stress relief. It’s learning how to connect feelings and compulsions that can lead you to destroying that cycle and making different choices.
Become aware of a new horizon. When the dust settles, or the pollution subsides, a new clarity emerges, and the air quality improves. All of a sudden, you may be aware of what you did not see before, in a new fresh way. Relationships are like that sometimes. You don’t realize the negative impact some have on you until you are not with them anymore, and with space from a person, or group of people, you may feel so much better about yourself.
Identify a new set of choices. Because we aren’t able to follow our compulsion now in the “new normal,” we are forced to face the emotions behind it. These are emotions we may have never had to face in the “old normal.” If you can become mindful and aware of your emotions now, and identify the unhelpful compulsions, become aware of the new horizon, then figure out how to break that cycle, the new you in the new world can be much more free.
What do you want the new future to look like for you? As you identify with one of the personality types listed above, how can you emerge with new insights that create an altogether better future for you and others around you? The opportunities for change abound, and during this pause, there is time to dig deep and answer tough questions about ourselves and make the changes we need most.
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country, a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.