Have you become too serious with the pandemic? [Wise Wednesdays]
Have you noticed that being energised feels a little more challenging than usual this January? Perhaps you have great ideas but feel a little sluggish?
Me thinking about "goals"
I was talking with a client last week who, over the past three years, has transitioned from a director role in a global organisation to being an independent consultant in sustainable food policy.
Her project roster is pretty full – a blessing and a challenge - and she’s getting to the point where she needs to refine her Project Filter to prioritise opportunities and clients that are 100% aligned for her.
But there’s a sense of seriousness in going through the motions, albeit towards goals that she cares about. It doesn’t help that the pandemic and its restriction on various opportunities outside the home has narrowed the scope for new, non-work opportunities. As a result, life feels somewhat dry and devoid of spontaneity and surprise. She feels she’s become ‘too serious’.
My guess is that she’s not alone. Yes, the seriousness might take on different flavours for different people. But I believe it’s linked to the impact of the pandemic and has a common root.
Last year, the term languishing was used to describe the epidemic of nebulous heaviness/sluggishness/seriousness that seemed to be sweeping across society.
And, of course, identifying patterns and trends is helpful (I’m a trained epidemiologist and born pattern-spotter, and I love spotting an interesting pattern). But the real question is:
How do you cut through this seriousness when you’ve got a lot on, other than just wading through it?
Mindset shifts and Self-Surprising
One of the most important factors in a career pivot to more freedom and creating the life you envision is to shift from an Employee-Expert mindset to an Entrepreneur-Leader mindset. This mindset shift helps you to get comfortable operating outside an organisational structure.
What does that mean in practice?
Well, like my client, it means that you’re able to perceive your own vision and goals and act on them consistently. You have an excellent self-care routine, set good boundaries and get the right help when needed. You understand the psychology of habits and do the deep mindset work through coaching and related modalities.
While an Entrepreneur-Leader mindset is much more adapted to the level of uncertainty we currently live in(because turning-uncertainty-into-opportunity is literally the job description), it can become limiting if we inhabit it for too long.
In a way, breaking out of heaviness, sluggishness, seriousness of any kind and shifting into something different requires a catalyst: a willingness to do the unplanned and the unexpected.
We need to surprise ourselves: Self-Surprise!
Personally, I’ve noticed that allowing more spontaneity has helped raise my energy levels, positively impacting my work, business, relationships, and overall happiness. I’ve found myself engaging with totally unexpected things, such as Chinese historical dramas, cold swimming and even clothes shopping (which I don’t usually enjoy).
(By the way, you may like Christian Busch’s book The Serendipity Effect, re-released with Penguin last week, as Connect the Dots. He goes into the art and science of creating good luck and making room for the unplanned as a way to facilitate your true path. When he invited me to share my career transformation story for the book, I thought “why not?”. I never thought that Arianna Huffington and Daniel Pink would be reading it.)
Keep it simple and illogical
The paradox of practising spontaneity is that you can’t, of course. But you can create favourable conditions, as the book explains.
You can also try reconnecting with creative hobbies, spend time in nature, doing something out of the ordinary, saying 'yes' (or 'no') more often (whatever is the opposite of your tendency). Some of my coach colleagues swear by improvisation classes.
In essence, look for that opening in the moment as an invitation: an option, an opportunity of some kind, which you might normally dismiss or that conventional logic might go against.
And if you need a simple prompt to play with, ask yourself:
- Does this opportunity drain me?
- Does it energise me?
- Does it feel neutral?
Go for neutral and see what happens. Let me know what delights you discover.
After two years of heightened uncertainty and moments of extreme stress, I believe we’re slowly learning to trust life again – and to trust ourselves, really.
What has spontaneity brought into your life recently?
Have a good week,