Yesterday, I bought a magazine called Finding Balance; it’s a Special Time Edition and I’ve been reading all about remapping our futures, and forging new paths when faced with uncertainty.
I have to say, that just about 18 months into this pandemic, we are still facing uncertainty. Omicron has brought another wrinkle into a world we thought we were starting to navigate with a bit more confidence. But that is not necessarily so. New measures are being taken around the world to try and control the spread of the variant and, once again, we wait for the world to get back to an even keel.
I hope you find the excerpt below interesting and useful.
The article says that every time we enter a new place, we are, for a nanosecond, lost. Our brains orient us in space with astounding logic as we look around making a mental map of the room like an Etch-a-Sketch drawing that we subconsciously reference when we walk around. Without this, every place we went would feel terrifying and strange.
The onset of Covid-19 shook our Etch-A-Sketches, wiped clean our societal mental maps and reset our collective grid cells. Everything about how we live, work, interact and take care of ourselves is different, unpredictable, uncertain and confusing. But being momentarily lost is an opportunity to recenter a map that many have realized was taking them in the wrong direction.
It’s an overwhelming task. How do we dare safely? The one thing that’s become clear to many is the vitality of relationships, with ourselves and with others. There’s also a collectivism that came out of the pandemic, the sense that we are all in this together; a compassionate new inclination to prioritize self and family time.
Take a moment to assess
This remapping leads to a lot of introspection. To get there, experts suggest taking a moment to assess. A Fallow period, writes author Joanne Lipman, is often necessary before reinvention. Daydreaming to explore possible new goals. This may sound New Agey to some, but to those who lost loved ones, the remapping might feel more essential. Rebalancing life priorities is common in grief and we as a society – in this terrifying and strange place – are grieving. But if we stop for a moment and look around, we’ll find comfort. We won’t be lost for long.
Joanne Lipman goes on to say that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and be unproductive. When the Washington Post asked readers to describe 2020 in a word, the top suggestions were fallow, limbo and lost. Lipman spoke to neuroscientists who study creativity, psychologists who work with trauma survivors, cognitive scientist who study “aha” moments and business professors focused on innovation and career reinvention. She was struck by the one step that every type of reinvention has in common: a period of in-between time, a seemingly fallow period much like the one we’ve found ourselves in.
These scientists are not suggesting that there is a silver lining to a year and a half that’s brought an unimaginable death toll and raging unemployment. But they offer a glimpse of how this “lost year” fits into the journey we are attempting to navigate toward a post-pandemic world and the hope that, whether we experienced devastating loss or an uneasy feeling of stagnation, we will find better days ahead.
The prolonged shutdown, by throwing us off-kilter, may help us re-imagine our futures, says psychologist Richard Tedeschi (professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte). When he and a colleague studied survivors of trauma – hurricanes, war, domestic violence, the loss of a loved one – they found that after a time, a significant portion of them report feeling renewed; with a sense of fresh possibilities and an openness to following new paths. They coined a phrase: Posttraumatic growth. It can affect societies as a whole – like after a pandemic. But to achieve it, you first must go through a period of struggle when you throw out assumptions of how life was supposed to play out. “It takes time to right yourself and figure out which direction you’re going to go”.
It’s too soon to know the long term impact of Covid-19’s lost year (or longer), but there’s evidence that people are reevaluating their lives. An in-between time when you feel unproductive is critical for people who want to switch careers. Herminia Ibarra – London Business School professor – calls it a “liminal period” when you are existing betwixt and between a past that is clearly gone and a future that is still uncertain,
Scientists who study creativity have similarly pinpointed that fallow period as the key to break-throughs. In their labs, it is called the “incubation period”. It’s what happens when you are stumped by a problem and give up in frustration, then wake up in the middle of the night knowing the solution. Break-throughs often come about after you’re blocked and then are distracted by exercise, or sleep, or taking a shower; when your subconscious brain can weave together disparate thoughts that then may pop up into your consciousness as an aha moment. What the pandemic has given us, is the space for thinking and dreaming, which allow new ideas to flourish.
In a sense, we are all in that middle space of struggle right now and it’s important to recognize that we won’t be in this limbo forever. But if you do want to give yourself a nudge, the experts have a few suggestions. Among them:
Take a break
A shower, a run, a nap. Distracting yourself when you are stuck is often the best way to solve a problem or come up with a new idea.
We spend 25% to 50% of our time daydreaming (I know I do); a figure that mental health experts believe has increased for some people during the pandemic. The good news is that a study shows that 20% of most original ideas arose while daydreaming. Mind wandering helps people explore possible new goals. (Phew! what a relief … )
Talk to an “expert companion”
Tedeschi and his colleagues found that to achieve posttraumatic growth, it helps to talk to a person who knows you well, often a relative of friend. These conversations can be revelatory, even without trauma.
Try on “possible selves”
Psychologists believe we can imagine different variations of who we might become. “The path to your next career will be circuitous. To cover all the ground you’ll need to cover, it’s vital to let yourself imagine a divergent set of possible selves and futures. Embrace that process and explore as many of them as you can”, writes Ibarra, the business professor who specializes in career reinvention.
And last but not least …
Don’t be too hard on yourself
We’ve all felt like we are spinning our wheels. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of despair, even as we feel we should be doing something. But the experts believe this period of fallow does serve a purpose. “When society gets too comfortable, it gets too rigid. It’s when you are forced to think and act differently that it liberates the mind to be creative.” It’s OK to get help to become your best self.
I found the article very interesting because if I look back at my 2020, I can see the posttraumatic growth I went through. Yes, it took time – it seems sometimes that it’s taken a long time, but I can say with confidence that everything that went before has brought me to this place I find myself in today. A new year with exciting new possibilities.
I hope 2022 allows you to reframe your future, find clarity, daydream and become your best self.
Thanks for reading. Keep creating,