What is “normal”? It felt pretty easy to understand back in the first week of March. It feels like many years – rather than weeks – have passed since then. “Normal” seems hard to locate.
I hear a lot of people, multiple times throughout the day, speaking of living in a “new normal”.
But is what’s happening right now, in the midst of a global pandemic, truly a “new normal”? Instead, maybe what we are dealing with is the equivalent of a giant “pause button” being pressed.
I spoke with someone recently, someone who is incredibly talented and runs a fantastic business. He’s always been a thoughtful and positive guy. Yet, like anyone else during these tough times, he was having a moment where he just couldn’t get himself out of a downward spiral.
His business has temporarily withered, as so many businesses have. His customers, like so many others, were waiting for the clouds to part a bit before they were ready to sign on the dotted line. It’s just that no one was signing on any dotted lines today, and he was feeling pretty bleak.
This guy’s business is vital, it will restart, and he will recover, and his business will thrive again, once those clouds do part. In the meantime, though, he’s dealing with finding a way to pay himself and his team, and he was reasonably worried. But, as we talked, he began to realize that while we don’t know exactly how long this situation will last – it won’t be forever.
What is happening today is temporary, no matter how long and drawn out it feels. Some of the experiences may be new, like not being able to see your family, or sit in a restaurant with friends – but, that’s not a new normal. It’s new … for now … but it’s sure not forever.
Are you ready for the twist? Two days later I’m on the phone with a friend who is also a very successful entrepreneur. Because of the nature of his business, I thought he might be feeling down, if not completely out, but interestingly, he sounded pretty upbeat. As we talked about our respective businesses, the conversation turned to some of the positive benefits of “sheltering in place”. Fewer meetings and deadlines were just a couple of the highlights. An additional positive is that we both noted an increase in creative idea flow.
The more we talked, the more we realized that this required shutdown has also created a beneficial slowing down of life in general, and that there are certain newly found aspects of this we may not want to give up. Instead, we talked about the potential of using this pause button effect to create ways to go after bigger and better opportunities in the future. We realized that moving through this time of challenge is actually revealing things we didn’t like about how we were running our businesses before. Now we not only have ideas but also the time to re-shape.
Of course, the same concept holds true on a personal front. My wife and I decided to use some of the time that we thought we would be spending in other ways together, to think about the areas in our lives that we’d like to work on. We created categories for parts of our lives we place importance on, like family, each other, our friends, our health, and our work. Some I felt pretty good about; despite not having access to the gym, I’ve found ways to stay reasonably healthy, so I’ll be able to get back to on skis when that opens up again. Some areas I didn’t feel as good about: for example, despite placing a high value on my family relationships, I often miss birthdays!
I decided to take a really simple action and enter every single birthday into my work calendar. I’m in that calendar all the time, making sure I’m getting to my meetings on time and know what I’m responsible for next. I’ve always thought it would make sense to keep personal things in a personal calendar and professional things in a professional calendar. Unfortunately, that personal calendar just never manifested, so using the system I’m already into every single day to increase the likelihood that I can be more present and available to the people who mean so much to me was an easy and small step towards change.
In a challenge like the one we are in now; we are reminded that we are limited as to what we can control. We can’t control the world around us. We can’t control the actions that others take. The only things we can control are the only things we have ever been able to control: our own behavior and activity.
Stay focused on what you can control and make the most of it. When this enormous pause ends, you will have created a true “new normal”, and it may even be one you actually want.
Dan Darchuck | CEO