The last few days of social distancing have made it increasingly clear, across the board, that our “normal” has gone completely out the window, and for most of us the way we’ve been earning a living is not feasible. In some cases, that’s because the work itself is impossible — this is especially true in industries that rely on brick-and-mortar business — and in other cases, it’s because up- and down-stream stakeholders are losing their livelihood so belts need to be tightened and everything non-essential for survival is going on hold. It’s pretty scary.
In working with clients, I’ve developed the following three-step process that has proven extremely helpful to shift out of despair and overwhelm, into hope and presence, and from there into action. I invite you to try it out for yourself.
IMPORTANT NOTE: These steps must be done in order, and you can not effectively move on to Step 2 until you have successfully completed Step 1, nor Step 3 until you have completed Step 2. Today, I encourage you to only begin to explore Step 1.
I also really encourage you to set up a session with me to work through whichever step you’re on. I’m sure you’re scrutinizing every expense right now, but this process will have a big return on the investment. Now is the time to take this process seriously.
Step 1: What Do I Need Right Now?
This is the part where we get out of a state of overwhelm. Just today in a training session I heard the brilliant coach and author Jennifer Garvey Berger say “Chaos is super good for innovation, and super challenging for safety… what we crave most during chaos is safety.” This is where you start. What do you need, in this moment, to feel safe? What will ground you, bring down the temperature, and get you back in touch with the present reality around you?
Note that this is NOT answering the question of what you will need in the long term to survive and thrive. We’ll get to that later, as a part of Step 3. This is only what you need right now to get out of overwhelm and into a posture where you can access creativity, access your senses, and can see gray rather than only black and white. Put aside everything else, just for right now, and meet that immediate and present need.
Perhaps it’s sleep. Or exercise. Or time with a loved one. Or art. Or nature. Do what gets you to slow down and engage in your senses. Fill your tank a little bit.
There’s a saying of unclear attribution that goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Take the time to care for yourself now, because you won’t be ready to access your own creativity for Steps 2 and 3 until you do.
Step 2: How Is This Moment Perfect For Me?
Once you’re able to quiet the blaring alarms in your head by completing Step 1, you can start to listen to what’s around you. What is happening now that serves you? What can you take from the world, in its current reality, that gives you something you need?
For those in isolation, perhaps it’s an opportunity for reflection. For those who can’t work, perhaps it’s an opportunity for rest, or an opportunity to take advantage of online learning resources to skill-up for work you’ve always wanted to do. For those sheltering-in-place with family, perhaps it’s some important presence to your family. A woman today in that same training session I mentioned earlier was dialed in from China, a place that is much further along in the arc of the virus, and told us about people she knew who had been on the brink of divorce but after sheltering-in-place together their relationship was on a path to healing back together.
Of course we may wish for different circumstances, these may not be the ones that we imagine to MOST serve us, but what is the gift in this place you find yourself, the reality of right now? A reminder here that this step will be VERY challenging until after you have completed a recovery in Step 1. If you’re resisting seeing what’s good in this situation, maybe spend some more time exploring emotional needs that you have and how you might meet them.
The outcome of this step is to shift out of a sense of scarcity and toward one of abundance. Rather than focusing on the resources that are being threatened, what resources do you have around you now?
Step 3: How Am I Perfect For This Moment?
As we’re starting to feel a little more resourced, this is where we begin to ask, “What does the world need from me?” Take your time and start this part when it feels exciting instead of harrowing. This step is to recognize the gifts you have to offer to this current reality.
For example, I was talking to an interior designer, whose business has come screeching to a halt. Suddenly, people in many industries are being forced to conduct business from home, and professional contacts are therefore getting glimpses into our until-now private spaces. How might an interior designer leverage their sense of aesthetic visual communication help professionals craft a view that reflects their professional brand?
Or, how can a bar owner who had to shut down and doesn’t know when they’ll be able to open again leverage their resources — their community of patrons, perhaps they have networks of performers or event hosts, etc — host virtual events? Or create a mail-order subscription model for their inventory?
This step is the really fun pay-off step. When I’ve done this process with clients who started our session in panic mode and were able to work their way to Step 3, the resounding response is “there are so many possibilities!” What a fantastic shift!!