Intentional Choices: Honoring What Defines Your Best Self
Like many of you, I’m yearning for the day we can go back to restaurants, get a little rowdy at entertainment and sports venues, and most of all, for those long-awaited gatherings with family and friends. Despite this itch, admittedly, there’s a part of this recent life that’s resonated with me. Let’s unpack where you find yourself with a few simple questions:
What have you learned about yourself during these past weeks about what you most need?
What’s something you’ve found or rediscovered about yourself that you’re not willing to give up?
What if you had a simple way to create a new path of intention in moving forward?
During this stretch, we’ve all been through a gamut of emotions. Early on during our transitional state of staying at home, one of the boldest threads in coaching conversations was tied to the range of emotions as part of the grief over what we’d lost. The top vote getters included:
The loss of face-to-face contact with loved ones and close co-workers – many have missed cherished time with family, friends and those in our work circle,
The change of a daily routine that was so familiar - adjusting to working from home and many left with juggling work, kids and homeschooling to boot, and,
The peace of mind robbed from us based on the fear of a disease we've known relatively little about.
For all these reasons and many more, there’s been a depth of dissonance that has been stirring, unfamiliar and boldly unimaginable.
Fast forward several weeks later. As we begin to look at the possibility and hope of regaining much of the freedom we lost in the past couple of months, many of us now find ourselves oddly, once again grief-stricken.
Yet this time the grief is different.
While we want more flexible restrictions of what feels anything close to “normal” again - the re-opening of our most beloved businesses, enjoying entertainment first hand, going out to dinner, and with any luck, the eminent visit to our hair stylist - some of us are experiencing grief in another way.
Many of our current feelings, even sadness, are about losing the things we’ve ironically learned to love about our new way of being during this upheaval.
Here are just a few of the sentiments being echoed in many conversations:
“I’m enjoying having more control over my schedule and want to keep it that way after we go back.”
“My fear is that six months from now, everything in my life will be exactly where it was before. I don’t want that.”
“So many parts of my new routine are working great for me. I don’t want to lose them – I’m sleeping and exercising more, thinking more and spending more time with my family.”
Hang on. There’s good news - you don’t have to give up all the parts of this new life you’d like to keep. With the right approach and intention, you can continue many of the things that are serving you.
Here’s a simple formula we’ve developed for this purpose. It allows you to identify and commit to intentionally choosing what’s most important to honor in this next season of work and life.
1. First, create a list of all the things you’ve been doing in recent weeks that have given you the most enjoyment and energy. There should be no limits here to what you list, as long as it meets the two conditions of creating both enjoyment and energy for you.
2. Out of these, what are the things you have control over? Conversely, what are those things you don’t have control over or can’t change? It may surprise you to see all the areas that you can control AND that give you energy.
3. From this new list of things that both give you energy and that you have control over, choose what you will claim as non-negotiable as you move into your new normal. Pick at least 3-5 things you are willing to not only prioritize, but “fight for” in establishing your new schedule and life.
4. Next, write a declarative statement you’ll use as a covenant with yourself. You’ll also share this with the stakeholders who are interdependent with you in this new way of being. It might sound something like, “Our recent changes have taught me that I’m at my best for myself and others when I…”:
...Work from home at least two days per week. This allows me to work on a more controlled and less distracted basis, increasing my productivity.
...Take my normal commute or drive time and use it for activities that elevate my performance, such as reading a leadership article, ideating and journaling or engaging in proactive planning vs. being in reactive mode.
...Block time for exercise on my schedule at least four times per week.
...End meetings by 5:00 at least three days per week so I can eat dinner with my family, partner or friends.
5. Communicate this declarative statement to others early on as the proverbial water hose starts to drip back to where we ultimately land over these next few weeks and months. This is your way of putting your stake in the ground now to set expectations.
Remember, these aren’t demands. Rather, these are simply reasonable requests you’re now aware of and what you need to perform at your best as a leader. To stay on course, put your declaration in a prominent and visible location for yourself as an ongoing reminder of your intention.
At a minimum, the past weeks have likely taught us more about who we are. Here are a couple of surefire take-aways: 1- Many of us have been less busy these past weeks, yet more productive than ever, and, 2- Some of us have experienced more joy and happiness with a simpler life. Whatever has happened for you personally, we all owe it to ourselves to dig in to explore what’s made us most fulfilled and what we want to do with what we’ve learned moving forward.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we may have unknowingly lost sight of what was innately important to us. As a result, we’ve unnecessarily given up much of what was already within our control. Now that we have a renewed sense of what best serves us, it’s imperative for self-preservation, that we don’t go back to what wasn’t working. We were feeding on the all too familiar stress, exhaustion or constant triggering – because we forgot we have a choice. We kept serving ourselves what felt familiar and had forgotten to partake in what makes us thrive.
It’s absolutely within your power and control to set up reasonable requests of yourself and others based on what you’ve discovered. Maybe that was the key “pointe” we were all meant to carry out of this season.
As Glinda the good witch from The Wizard of Oz reminded Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”