The truth is you have been telling yourself for a long time--"When I have the time........" Time free from the outrageous and incessant barrage of work and email that trample our personal and professional priorities every second. We crave a calm respite from the stress of chasing life, attacking the inbox, and just getting through the jungle of choices. Time when we can listen to our hearts, not just our heart beat. To envision and plan for our next horizon of time. To align our values with our actions. To quiet our impulses and transaction oriented mind, to evaluate our current life portfolio-how it reflects what we want and who we want to be.
But John, I am so worried about my health, the well-being of others, my investments, my job, the state of the world....Take a breath. What can you control at this moment? As in every moment--Only your thoughts, your actions. Everything else contributes a new layer of debilitating anxiety to the stack you already have. Right now, a huge avalanche of time and space has been dropped on your head. What are you going to do. Fill it with social media, cable news, binge more shows--wait for things to settle down---really?!!! Say procrastination with me! This is the silver lining gift that beckons your full and undivided attention. How do we take this unique moment that can be consumed by fear and dire predictions and turn it into a defining moment that clarifies who you are and where you are going? How do we use this time to embark on an enjoyable time of self-discovery and self-actualization?
Here's a few ideas for you to integrate into your quarantine gap time:
Schedule time everyday for self-reflection and contemplating the questions that are orbiting your mind. Thinking about and defining your life path is a job. So schedule time everyday to focus on these efforts. Not multi-tasking time, dedicated time that builds a commitment. Resist being busy for this time and think, dream, and let your mind wander.
Write down your thoughts, questions and ambitions/dreams. Try to be non-judgmental. You will have plenty of time to make everything achievable and practical. Just start writing--free form. Write what comes out of you. But write! This is not time for immediate actions such as looking for a new job, researching a degree program...but time to review your resume, to write down life goals, to do a SWOT analysis on yourself. Write your story--what drives you, where you have been and where you are headed. Not the space to make new year's resolutions about diet and exercise. Use precise words to express what you mean and want--delicious words. This is time to breathe, write, think, breathe, write, plan, and write.
- The essence of this is to wrestle with the questions: What do you want? What's missing from your current life portfolio? How will you change it for the better?
- Use my SWiVEL doc of questions to get your engines going. Write what's on your mind. Stuff that you think about all of the time, that you want to do, from start-ups, to creative urges, new careers, new avocations, to doing good.
- Make a list of these un-pursued priorities and what initial steps you might take to explore them. This may include a bundle of new existential and pragmatic questions.
Research, explore, and learn about your new priorities. This is the time to fire up Google and follow your questions and ideas that emerge from your reflection and writing. What are the resources available to aid your quest? Make a list of people, authors, podcasts, books, websites that resonate with you--for future exploration. Take notes to refine your priorities. Sample questions:
- How can I succinctly describe my new career interest and the jobs I want within it? What companies are the leaders in this field?
- What are the next steps to advance your start-up idea? And what is the state of that sector/industry?
- How can you re-engage in your love of the arts? Or take that piano lesson.? Online.
- What organizations are doing the good that you want to affiliate with? Are you ready to volunteer?
Connect and re-connect with sources, mentors, and networks. More than any time, you can reach out and connect. You have more time and flexibility. People are available and anxious to talk. Catch up with people you value. Get introduced to people, the orgs, ideas, and interests you have identified through the above steps. The reason this section is last, is you need to be prepared to answer the questions people will inevitably ask. "How is your job?" "How long will you stay there?" "What's new?" perhaps even "How can I help you?" With your initial reflections, questions and writings, you have some things to trot out and put into the universe. And to strengthen the interdependent network of humanity--listen to the needs of others and offer your assistance.
To offset the stress and uncertainty of these times, invest in the most interesting project---YOU! Take the controls of the plane instead of sitting in the back with your seat belt fastened hoping for the best.
Don't waste this time. It is a gift. Instead of generating more uncertainty and negativity, re-energize yourself by making this a defining moment to connect to what and who is important to you.
Years from now people will ask, "What did you do during the Corona Virus?"