At the start of the pandemic, when many of us were asked to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus, it seemed like a lot of people had one of two reactions. Some embraced sheltering in place, thinking to themselves, “Why not use this big ‘pause’ to do something I always wanted to do?” — whether that meant cleaning out the closets, picking up a home renovation project, or learning a new language. The rest of us — including me — had no such plans. My goal was never to come out of quarantine a different, more improved person. It felt like everything in the world was so overwhelming, and getting by — day by day — would be more than sufficient.
As time went on, however, many of us — myself included — came to realize that we can’t help but evolve and come away changed by these times. But rather than let change happen to us, we can be intentional and actively participate in our transformation.
Some of us will make small but meaningful tweaks to our lives. Others will strive for a larger, sweeping “reinvention.” There’s no one right way to go about change; the important thing is to be deliberate and purposeful, and keep moving forward.
Here’s what’s been working for me, as I take this opportunity to contemplate who I want to be and how I want to evolve. Perhaps some of these techniques can help guide you on your own journey.
Revisit your goals. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions — not because I don’t think they’re useful, but because I don’t think we should limit ourselves to reassessing the trajectory of our lives just once a year. Why not do that right now? Consider this turbulent time in our nation — both with the virus and the seismic reckoning over racism that we’re in the middle of — an ideal opportunity to review what you want to accomplish and who you want to be.
We’re living through something we’ve never lived through before, and that gives us all the chance to look at our lives from a different angle. Do your personal goals continue to make sense and resonate with your values? Have your priorities changed? If you realize you need to pivot some aspect of your life, make that choice now rather than waiting for next month, or next year.
Reflect on the events of this year. Are there things you’ve learned, or that you’ve been thinking about, that have troubled you? Were you bothered by the lack of human connection you felt during quarantine? Did you crave a more active lifestyle when you were spending most of your time at home? Reflecting on what didn’t work for you can be a great tool to help you decide if you want to do something differently going forward.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was pretty much on an airplane every week for work. These past few months have been the longest stretch of time I’ve been home in approximately 10 years. I have discovered a new passion: I love being home. This experience has made me realize that I can be an effective leader, colleague, and influencer without getting on a plane each week. It’s better for me and my well-being, for my family, and for the environment. Now that I have realized this, it excites me to think: How do I evolve to do all the things I want to do, but do them in a different way?
Use your own personal data to fuel change. Your emotions give you information — in fact, I think of my emotions as data. During this time, whether because of COVID-19 or racial injustice or economic challenges or any other circumstance, what were the highs and lows of your emotions? And what can you learn from them?
Observing my emotions has highlighted the importance of finding joy in everyday moments. I always believed in it, but I was often too busy to fully recognize the joy in little things and hold onto that joy. Before, if my puppy did something funny, I’d laugh in the moment — then move onto whatever was next. Now I laugh and realize that she has no clue about what’s going on in the world; she is just living in the moment and living her best life.
Educate yourself. Sometimes in order to create change — personal as well as societal — we need to commit to learning more about why things are the way they are. I am a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and access, and I am constantly looking for ways to further the conversation around mental health.
Lately, as the pervasiveness of systemic racism has become a larger conversation in our country, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the history of mental health in the Black community. Our mental health system needs to do better for everyone, and specifically for the communities of people of color. One way we can affect change is by elevating BIPOC voices in the mental health and well-being space. We can’t allow their voices to go unheard anymore.
Recognize your power. Even the most personal changes we make can have a powerful ripple effect through communities and our society as a whole. Think about the collective impact we could have if we all made one small positive change and put that out in the world. If we all decided “I’m going to travel less for work,” the impact that could have on the environment would be immense. Or if we each made the commitment to volunteer with an organization we’ve never worked with before, or committed to learning about racism and how we can all amplify BIPOC voices, the results could be transformative. Simply put, when we embark on positive change in our individual lives, everyone benefits.