Well, it’s clear to me that that there will be no “going back to normal.” COVID-19 has impacted hygiene practices, inter-personal relationships, schooling, commerce, government, the exacerbation of privilege and so much more. Even after the stringencies of social isolation are relaxed, the effects of the pandemic will persist, affecting our lives and those of future generations.
The planner in me says that now, even while we are focused on coping in the eye of the storm, we can begin to note and reflect on our experience in order to prepare for what’s next. In fact, I feel that this is the perfect time for individuals and organizations to begin to think about what is to come.
In recent weeks, I’ve seen Individuals and organizations develop new awareness, re-orient their thinking, and change their behaviors in order to navigate the realities of life in the age of COVID-19. From finding ways to maintain social connection while physically distancing to developing different routines to discovering unrecognized strengths and learning new skills, individuals and organizations have demonstrated agility and nimbleness. At the same time, the pandemic has also revealed growth opportunities such as areas of weakness or emotional needs.
As Max Fisher wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Changes in how we think, behave and relate to one another – some deliberate but many made unconsciously, some temporary but others potentially permanent – are already beginning to define our new normal” and will profoundly change how people interact for a long time.
So how might an individual or an organization begin to prepare for what’s next? My coaching and consulting clients have found that asking three BIG questions has been a helpful first step.
What have you been feeling, experiencing, learning, doing?
- SO WHAT?
What underlies your attitudes and behaviors? What are the implications? How do you make meaning of your experiences? What insights emerge for you?
- NOW WHAT?
What do you take forward from your insights? How can might you use your insights to guide future actions? What might some first steps be for you to take?
Through the lens of the BIG questions, one can further explore:
- What do we understand about the new realities? For example, how has the pandemic affected:
Relationships and prosocial behavior?
Emotions and sensibilities?
Values and priorities?
Available resources and economics?
- What have we learned about ourselves (or our organizations)? For example, about:
Our strengths and our weaknesses?
Our resilience and agility for adapting?
Resources that we have accessed or need to develop?
Areas where we have grown and where we need to grow or improve?
- What behaviors, techniques or strategies have we drawn on or developed to respond to the challenges we have faced?
Which have been the most/least successful – and why?
For what challenges would additional responses, techniques and strategies be helpful?
How will you (or your organization) make the new beneficial behaviors “stick” and become habits? How might you substitute more positive behaviors for the behaviors that are not beneficial? [One popular method to build habits is called the “21/90 rule.” It posits that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, and 90 days to embed it.]
How can you or your organization build on the new behaviors or habits that you have established during this period?
We will surely not go back to “the way things were” – and in fact, we may have an opportunity for a “reset” leading to growth and improvement. By focusing on how we’ve changed, what changes we’d like to retain, and where our “growing edge” is, we can prepare ourselves to meet what lies ahead.