The world as we knew it came to a screeching stop a few months ago. Some of us were flung into crisis mode, focused on putting out fire after fire. Some of us were left hanging, not quite certain of what to do with our time.
Either way, we were in a state of limbo. Plans were placed on hold. Job searches became even more arduous. Deep uncertainty prevented us from making decisions or even from thinking more than a week or two into the future.
A client of mine recently called these times The Great Pause.
I think she nailed it.
But now, we’re emerging. We’re not quite certain what we’re emerging into, but we know it will be different from what was.
I call these next times The Great Reboot.
In the Great Reboot, we will have to rethink everything we assumed to be true, even just three months ago. Who will work? Where will we work? How will we interact? Will we ever feel safe again?
This wasn't the way our careers were meant to unfold.
Or was it?
One of the most common misconceptions I encounter in my practice is the belief that our careers (and our lives, for that matter) are meant to be a single, continuous climb to some predetermined mountain top. Which mountain we choose is determined by each of us individually, but it's also heavily influenced by the family and culture we were brought up in, as well as the nature of the profession or trade we enter into as adults.
This whole mountain thing is a very damaging notion.
Because life just doesn’t work that way. At least a life well lived doesn’t.
In reality, we don’t reach a metaphorical mountain top, but rather progress through a series of cycles. There are cycles of expansion and cycles of contraction. Both are good.
We’re meant to expand and contract, just as we’re meant to breathe. Just as our hearts are meant to pump. Just as we experience the warmth and growth of summer followed by the cold and hibernation of winter. Expansion and contraction are a part of the natural order of things. The virus is expanding, but one day, it will contract. The economy is contracting, but someday it will expand.
Same goes for you.
When we’re in an expansive state, our needs are being met and we’re grounded in solid values and purpose, yet open to new ideas, people and situations. From this place, we’re are excited by life, our work, and our relationships. There’s more of us to give to the world. We have increased creativity, energy, joy and feel a desire to contribute more to the world around us.
The expansive state is fantastic. And because of that, most of us want to stay there indefinitely. But continued expansion is impossible. If a balloon keeps expanding and expanding, eventually it will pop. So will you, in the form of burn out. And even if we don’t burn out, at some point in our expansion, we will most certainly hit a plateau.
The plateau can be the result of an internal crises such as reaching a new height of skill, experience or knowledge resulting in restlessness and boredom. Or it can be externally imposed upon us such as a job loss, the death of a loved one or a global pandemic resulting in unprecedented economic decline and uncertainty.
Either way, we’re entering a contractive state.
And now we have a choice. Will it be an unhealthy contraction? Or a healthy one?
In an unhealthy contraction, we become fearful. And in that fear, our needs for certainty and significance become louder and more pressing. We begin to prioritize our own personal comfort over the truth of what’s happening around us. Nothing good comes from this. We are essentially betraying our core nature, forcing ourselves into a small identity where we are helpless, bitter and victimized. It’s hard to move forward from this place.
A healthy contraction is a whole other story.
Where an unhealthy contraction is about shrinking and making ourselves small, a healthy contraction is about rejuvenation. It’s about giving ourselves time and space for rest, for introspection, and for contemplation.
It’s about preparing to stretch ourselves - our minds, our spirits, and yes, our careers.
And a great way to do that preparation, is by pondering some tough questions.
Sound good? Let's do this.
Here are 10 Questions to help you have a Great Reboot:
1. What does safety mean for me? Physical safety? Psychological safety?
2. What do I value? Check out this list of potential values here.
3. Why does my work matter?
Or, why does it not matter as much as I would like it to?
4. Who matters to me? At work? Not at work?
5. What do I want more of in my life and work?
6. What do I want less of in my life and work?
7. Was I living up to my full potential before the pandemic?
8. What, if anything, was holding me back?
9. Was I spending my money well before the pandemic?
10. Was I spending my time well before the pandemic?
How will your answers affect your Great Reboot? What will you do differently? How will you prioritize your life? How will you stretch yourself?
Now you’re ready to move forward with clarity and intention.
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