“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
–Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
It’s been 35 years since we were assigned to read A Tale of Two Cities in Mrs. McKeel’s class and yet I cannot get the opening paragraph quoted above out of my head. Here we are 150 years past the author’s death with the clearest example of a “Dickensian Era” where no one needs to look up the definition because we are living it.
That said, why have I labeled it the ‘best year ever’ given the death, sacrifice, turmoil, angst, grief, and general disarray of the year? Not because for just as many the experience has been one of hyper growth in their business and/or career, freedom to work from any location, and more time with their loved ones than they could have ever imagined while in their prime earning years.
This is the best year ever because it offered several universal lessons; whether or not we have the awareness to learn, grow, and evolve however remains to be seen.
Here is what I’m thinking about as we close 2020 and look forward to the new year.
No one is immune ….. from Grief
Irrespective of where on the planet you are living, the pandemic has impacted you in some way. The obvious grief is that of loss-of-life, yet there are other types of grief that many struggle with – sometimes in silence for the shame they feel at their grief.
Survivors grieve the closure they were denied that usually begins by sitting at the side of a loved one, next to their sick bed, to say goodbye. Or from gathering with family via a funeral to celebrate the life lost.
Others are grieving with survivors guilt: guilt that they are well, guilt that their business/career is successful, and guilt that their lives now have more flexibility than when they commuted every day.
And of course, to degrees large and small, people grieve at the loss of their routine; by nature, change is difficult because we crave routine, sameness, and the predictability where we find comfort.
We are uniformly grieving what we previously called, “normal”.
We figured out what (and who) are important at home and work.
In this instance my husband and I might have been just ahead of the curve having made the leap to working-from-home in a rural town adjusting to being with one another during the work day *and* the evening back in 2018. We did this intentionally; for the rest of you, there was likely tremendous tumult as you quickly responded to use your home for work, school, and living. Some of you even became healthcare professionals for frail family members.
As a business coach I frequently describe what I do as tackling three categories: organization, accountability, and communication. Suddenly, we were all tackling the same challenges at home where we used to go to relax, eat, play, and chill with Netflix. Suddenly we were feeling the pressure when our home is chaos (organization), the roles of teacher/parent/caretaker are murky (accountability), and feel but don’t say how utterly stressed out we are (communication).
Furthermore, we are realizing that where we work doesn’t necessarily need to determine where we live. More and more people are choosing to live in proximity to nature versus the freeway. And companies are realizing that requiring people to commute for an hour, sit in a cube while on the phone, interact with few coworkers, and then turn around and commute home is a waste of time and money for everyone. The notion that they are paying for the office space, as well as a ‘manager’ that does little more than ‘watch’ others work is a horrible use of money – better invested in hiring the right people that can be trusted – as evidenced by the work they are accomplishing while keeping their household operating.
We value nearly everything differently.
This year has forced conversations we rarely if ever have had. At least we have not done so in quite such stark terms. For instance, is an older person’s life worth less than a young person because they’ve already lived longer? Is wearing a mask an infringement on personal rights or a collective responsibility for public health? These are just two I’ve heard discussed here and there. Topics that used to remain off-limits are being bandied about by strangers.
We all seem to value the ability to be with one another in a more reverent light. We used to treat the phrase, “we should get together” as a throw-away line – a segway for getting off a phone call. In an era where we avoid contact to either stay healthy or protect vulnerable people in our orbit, we’ll never take that for granted again.
It also seems that many are taking more seriously than ever their health; now it’s pretty clear that the benefits of eating well, exercising, and being outdoors is more than attaining aesthetics.
Here’s what I know: there is no “going back” – not in any facet of our lives.
My hope is that the grief we have endured, seen others endure and still may experience gives us the empathy to fuel patience for ourselves, our families, and even strangers. We are more alike than different.
Though the pendulum may swing sharply to all things interactive and social, expect that we will find a new balance in how we use our time. Our future will likely have us committed to exchanging a long work commute to making it to see our kids in a play (or game). We will be more willing to question the “face-time” some employers required under the guise of ‘team building’. Now we know we can have flexibility and team; there was no reason for the false choice.
Finally, let’s value people, relationships, and health over appearances, inauthenticity, and sickness. As humans, our power is in the choice we get to make when presented with information; we need not react, remain stuck, or accept circumstances when we have the power of choice.
In 2021, I commit to living every day in choice.
Ken Kilday is the CEO/founder of Leader’s Cut: The Ken Kilday Coaching Experience. He is an experienced Executive Business Coach and EOS Implementer®. Ken is an entrepreneur himself who has designed, built, launched, and rejuvenated successful businesses and now he helps other businesses find success through coaching.
Ken works with business owners in companies of all sizes to implement actions, evaluate success, and adjust to new, improved habits and actions to produce repeatable and predictable outcomes independent of changing business cycles.
Now is the time to hire a business coach for 2021. Contact Ken to schedule a 15-minute Meet & Greet and discover how business coaching services can best help you and your unique business.