Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Window of Opportunity

This week’s guest blogger, Melanie Polk presents a great case for what’s possible in the midst of a crisis like this. What opportunity lies in the new world. 

Here’s what she had to say…

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”opportunity

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There is no way to discount how real the anxiety is from the COVID-19 pandemic, an anxiety that has affected every citizen in the country, and many others around the world.

It’s anxiety about health risks …anxiety about paying the bills …anxiety about loneliness when not around others …anxiety about whether our leaders understand what is going on in our communities….anxiety about the impact this will have on our children as school and other milestones are paused…and the list goes on.

Yes, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are all too real. But like so much in life, out of chaos comes opportunity.

It’s no secret that we live in a world often described as ‘hyper-speed’, ‘24/7’, ‘connected’ at all times. As I wrote in a well-received blog post several years ago the typical answer to “How are you?” is usually “I’m crazy busy!”

This is typically said with a tone of angst and stress, not enthusiasm and joy.

Years ago, my mom mailed me a simple card during a period of struggle. I had lost my first job out of graduate school and that ‘perfect new job’ did not materialize as quickly as my ‘go-go’ 20-something self-wanted. Not having constant activity was driving me crazy and messing with my selfconfidence. The card she sent me was simple, and simply profound to me. It had a sketch of a turtle on the front, and inside it said, “Enjoy the slow times, for they are a gift.”

While I won’t pretend that this card made everything perfect, I will say that it gave me a bit of perspective at a time that I needed it most. It helped me realize the opportunity at that moment-in-time to focus on networking, fitness, and friends, all while looking for work. And wouldn’t you know it, once that perspective came, so did the ‘almost perfect new job!’

Right now, we have a moment-in-time opportunity to turn a forced ‘pause’ into a ‘pause that refreshes.’

The ‘pause’ comes from working from home, canceled social and sporting events, closed schools, restaurants, and bars. A year from now, when we are hopefully settled back into our busy lives, let’s not lament the opportunity we had, but did not take, to use this time to slow down, reflect, plan, and dream.

So with more time, what area of your life could use more focus? What can you spend more time doing that might give you satisfaction and more balance? How might this lead to a new positive ‘normal’ in your life?

A few thought-starters:

  1. Read! It’s no surprise that time spent reading for pleasure has steadily declined. How about starting (or finishing) that book sitting on your desk, nightstand or kitchen counter? And don’t count out book clubs! A former book club I was in just reunited and are connecting via Zoom videoconference to discuss our book, cocktail in hand. It’s the next best thing to popping the cork with each other in person.
  2. Talk to a friend! By talk, I don’t mean texting or sending a ‘like’ or comment via Instagram or Facebook. Talk. Really find out how they are doing. Enjoy hearing the sound of their voice. Talking to our friends and loved ones allow us to really hear them – beyond their words to the emotions behind the words.
  3. Get moving outdoors! It is likely that many fitness centers and gyms will shut down during this pandemic. Luckily, the weather in many parts of the country allows us to get outside and move. Being outside boosts mood, lowers stress and blood pressure, and helps us feel a part of our community! Take a walk, go for a jog, ride your bike – enjoy the opportunity to move in whatever way suits you.
  4. Try a new recipe. While we have less time to cook, many of us would love the opportunity to cook more. When we cook, we not only know what’s in our food, but it is a creative activity that many of us enjoy – when we have the time. While many shoppers may be hoarding toilet paper, there are still lots of ingredients on store shelves. Take out a favorite cookbook or browse the Internet or find an app for recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.
  5. Catch up on that ‘binge-worthy’ TV show. While I am not suggesting we need to watch more TV (We in North Amerca spend more hours watching TV than ever), there are more great movies and shows via streaming services to watch than ever before. If there is a show sitting on your list to watch ‘when I have time,’ grab that opportunity (and some popcorn) and enjoy getting into a great story now!
  6. Check on neighbors. Take this opportunity to make sure your neighbors are OK, especially if they are elderly or living alone. Consider joining your Nextdoor community, select your country and area to keep apprised of what is going on in your local community.
  7. Connect with family. With many school-aged children facing school closures and college students forced to move out of dorms early, families will have more time together than normal. To ensure this is a good thing, intentionally discuss each family member’s schedule of work and activities to manage expectations. Where is everyone working? What hours will be important for quiet or work calls? Thinking this through now can ward off extra frustration that many families will face. Perhaps most importantly, exercise as much patience with each other as you can muster. No one has experienced anything like this before. Be kind. Give each other space. Listen when they need to vent. Having the unconditional support of each other is critical during this time.

May we find some solace in the pause amidst the uncertainty of the days and weeks ahead. Stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Tell us what you’ve learned from this or can add to the conversation commenting to this blog or by connecting with your colleagues on our Facebook page

Melanie Polk – MBA, ICF-PCC has parlayed her career as an entertainment and consumer products marketing executive and consultant into her work as an executive coach, coach trainer and workshop facilitator.   Melanie’s combination of business experience, consumer research, and leadership coaching has helped companies address a number of leader development initiatives. Click here to reach Melanie by email or her website Bright House Marketing