I flew home late on Wednesday, March 11 from the east coast surrounded by growing concerns about a global pandemic. The next day, the world changed.

By Thursday, March 12, sporting events and full seasons had been cancelled. Huge events all over the country were postponing to some indefinite date. By Thursday, I had realized I shouldn’t have been flying at all, and wouldn’t again for a while.

By Friday, March 13, our schools were announced closed along with a statewide “Safer at Home” order. The world had moved so fast, our understanding of reality took a moment to catch up.

I had gone from jet-setting breakout keynote speaker to at-home preschool teacher in a matter of 24 hours. While I am incredibly grateful for my privileges that allows me to do this at all, it has admittedly been an ongoing and seismic identity shift.

As “normal” life came to a halt, I couldn’t help but appreciate the moment of pause. It has helped me come to terms with the fact that “normal” life wasn’t normal at all. It was some frenetic, fast-spinning, no-way-off hamster wheel that had all of us stuffing our feelings, worried about the past or the future, working too many hours in useless meetings and acting like we were being really “productive.”

 

Please, for the love of all that is holy, we cannot go back to “normal.”

 

The pause is the gift. The fact that your world likely got a little smaller could be the exact rescue line you needed to kick your asleep-at-the-wheel ass awake.

Although, not everyone is experiencing the pause. While some people enjoy reading extra books and finally finding time to organize the basement storage, so many others are putting their bodies and spirits into overdrive. They are working tons of hours to keep up, make up and survive their work. Not just all of the front-line workers and healthcare professionals that are finally getting a sliver of the respect that they deserve (thank you for what you are doing for us), but every industry that is exploding and pivoting, or scraping at the walls to find their way. I see you too. Oh, and you probably have some shit to teach your kids in the middle of your 12-hour work day. It is a position no one asked to be in.

Neither of these scenarios, the old way or the frenetic survival mode, are a sustainable way forward.

Whether you have been forced into pause or overdrive, you have likely been forced to strip some of your life down to the essentials. When everything extra is gone, what do you see?

I feel compelled to see this moment of brokenness as the supreme opportunity for us to decide who and how we want to be now. What if we consciously consider how we want to build our lives by choosing every single thing we put back into it?

 

Here are some of the things I have loved about quarantine life. I hope we keep them.

 

There is so much good happening. Here are a few that I see.

  • Calling friends and family and beginning by asking, “Are you safe? Are you well?”
  • Asking people how they are doing in smaller increments, and truly listening for the answer. “How are you feeling today?
  • Expressing creativity. We have had to get creative to create new solutions to new problems, to fill space, to express how we are feeling. Expressing ourselves creativity is always a good thing, and it let’s some real emotions out of our bodies.
  • Being truly present with the people in our households. I have really watched. I have really looked in to the eyes. I have observed my kids as they learned, tried their best, got frustrated, and shared love with me. I was present to it all, and that is a gift we’ve given each other.
  • Learning whole new levels of patience, understanding, releasing expectations, and letting go attachment to the outcome. I have learned these lessons many times before, but they always circle back around with new intensity, like a video game that gets harder as you get stronger and wiser.
  • Knowing that we are all capable of so much more than we imagine. And when we strip away all the extra, unnecessary stuff we add to our lives, it turns out that we can do humanity pretty well.

 

Here are some of my pleas to the future.

 

I hope we are all quarantined just long enough that we break old habits of work. That there is no old school of thinking to return to because it shattered weeks ago, so there is nowhere to go but onward.

I hope that when we settle down, we start to question meetings that don’t matter, projects that don’t make sense, and other stuff we keep doing that do nothing to enhance our lives.

I hope we walk into the future with hope, optimism, and a sense of opportunity to find a new way. The old way wasn’t working. What better time to question it.

I hope we rebuild our lives remembering what was most important to us when shit got scary. Our health. Our families. Our safety. And that we felt seen, understood, and loved by someone.

 

More than ever, I hope leaders and organizations recognize that we have this same opportunity to show who we are in this moment. That this is a defining moment in our organizational cultures, and the actions we take will be remembered for a very long time.

I believe that we go to work in search of belonging. And it is more important than ever that leaders and organizations own their responsibilities to create workplaces that enhance our lives. This means workplaces that recognize the importance of and give support to mental health. Leaders that are concerned first if their people are safe and well. That it will always be normal and okay that people have families and dogs, and once in a while one of them shows up on a Zoom call.

 

For Reflection

If you are wondering how to contemplate your own experience, and what your “going forward normal” might be, here are a few questions for your own self-reflection:

  • What has emerged as most important to you during this time of upheaval?
  • How will you honor that lesson, and protect its importance going forward?
  • What have you found doesn’t enhance your life in some way?
  • How will you give yourself the permission to set it free, and remove the distraction?
  • What have you learned about yourself in this process that you cannot “unsee?”
  • What will you do to live a more real and meaningful life now, and in the not-so-distant future?

For leaders:

  • How will I honor my team’s humanity now, and in the not-so-distant future?
  • What changes will I advocate for in my business unit or company that support the future I want to see?

 

Do not waste this moment. Hopefully we won’t have the opportunity to do this again for another hundred years or more, so take this gift of shakeup and pause. Post-traumatic growth is how we make meaning and purpose out of such a jarring time.

It is ours. Never forget what we have learned.

 

About the author: Katie Rasoul is a keynote speaker, author, coach and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

To learn more about Katie’s signature keynote talk, “Beyond Diversity & Inclusion to Belonging,” visit www.katierasoul.com.

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