Last weekend, I had a moment.
I woke up early Saturday and with checklist in hand, I was ready to move. The emotional fallout of COVID-19 was not going to bring me down. I would get through that list. Check. Check. Check. And I would feel good.
But as the day wore on, and other urgent things popped up, my top priority––the goal, the thing I was absolutely going to do, hadn’t gotten done. Now it wouldn’t because my mental and emotional stores were depleted. Everything felt OUT OF CONTROL. I acknowledge that I am usually not in control of events, but much of the time I can pretend that I am. Not now.
Yet more self-reflection. There’s a lot of that going around. You have a good day and you think, “I’ve got this.” And then, you don’t.
Here’s what I’m figuring out on this new S Curve of Learning:
1. Routine is paramount. Get up at a specific time. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. As Terry Tempest Williams said, “Rituals are the formula by which harmony is restored.” Checklists for me represent routine—conventional planning.
2. Willingness to be driven by discovery is also required. None of us know what the next day, week, or month will bring. This demands what Rita McGrath calls discovery-driven planning. An ability to take a step forward, gather feedback and adapt. I’ve learned that I engage in a sneaky, self-sabotage. If I’m on pace or ahead of schedule on my checklist, I start adding more items. So, I’m never really ahead, always behind. I’m now adapting. I am making a list of essentials. Once those are completed, I call it a win. IF I want to add something then I can. But I’m not allowed to add more while the list is in progress.
3. Routine for an anchor, discovery to adapt and progress, grace for the journey. If someone doesn’t deliver on a project as you expected, remember that they’re dealing with their own stuff too. In the US, at least, I’m finding that parents, especially single parents with small children are struggling. This S curve looks different for all of us, and it’s important to lead with generousity. To that end, there’s a Bible story about a debtor whose debt was far beyond his ability to pay. The equivalent of millions if not billions of dollars. He pled for relief and it was given. But when the person who owed a small amount (i.e. US$25) sought relief—he sent that debtor to prison. I think most of us are especially kind right now—even forgiving of debts or failings. Especially with others. But when it comes to that small debtor––ourselves––it’s off to prison. What others need, what we need, is grace for the journey. On that note, there was an article published by Scott Berinato, titled “That discomfort you are feeling is grief.” It’s a beautiful piece. We are grieving. We have all lost something. The depth of feeling we have in loss can be the wellspring of hope for the future.
4. Learning is reflection. This is a period of intense learning. On the launch point, the early days of the S Curve, (where we find ourselves with this current COVID-19 way of living) growth feels slow. But if we’re observant, we’ll realize that our growth is actually fast and exponential.
Finally, we aired an important podcast this week: Susan David, Susan is an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist and author of the book Emotional Agility, a concept that is especially important in these extraordinary times. Her definition of emotional agility: “Emotional agility means having any number of troubling thoughts or emotions and still managing to act in a way that serves how you most want to live.” To have grace. To be compassionate with ourselves.
And, because you are at home, consider listening to this, or other podcasts with your children. They need these skills too.
Thinking of you,
P.S. Many of you shared that LinkedIn Live was valuable for you so we’re continuing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please join us!
P.P.S. If you’d like to be eligible for Susan’s book Emotional Agility–we have three signed copies–hit return and say, “I’m acting in a way that serves how I want to live.”
P.P.P.S. I very much enjoyed this article from Chris Yeh and Jennifer Aaker, Searching for Meaning in the Corona Virus Age.