My grandfather lived into his late Nineties. He had a simple, but rich and happy life. What was his secret? He cared passionately about the environment, nature and animals; his carbon footprint was light. He was an enthusiastic early adopter of new inventions. He was one of the first British men to ski; he had an answering machine on his landline phone before anyone else. Shortly before he died, he was dealing in shares online. Basically, he embraced change.
Change is the only inevitable. Yet most of us struggle with it. Particularly right now.
My proactive, successful working life has been eviscerated. I don’t want to work from home. I don’t want to be socially isolated. When am I going to get back to the gym? Will I even have a hot summer holiday? How long before life goes back to ‘normal’?
By which we mean stay the same.
If there is anxious mental chatter in your mind, you are not alone. Even social distancing, the nervous hum of low-level, constant anxiety is clear. Of course, it’s naturally exacerbated by the fear of Covid. We are all still learning to live with that particular risk, but clients are mostly focused on the daily stress of working from home. From the practical – like juggling endless online meetings with endlessly amusing small children – to all-pervasive expectation that you are now always available in this new boundary-less, socially empty work day. Calls start early and end late; emails continue to flow into the evening. You aren’t out, so you are in constant contact.
Of course, it’s partly our own fear of this change that is driving us to intensely connect with colleagues, over-schedule meetings and work late. We don’t want to be out of the loop. We are not sure that we can cope alone in our own company.
Change also creates work: announcements, extra staff support, new technical systems, updating websites, financial difficulties, hard staff decisions etc. Many people feel more busy working in the lockdown than they did before; many people also feel more exhausted.
Slowing down is perversely draining of energy. Think of the last time you touched down on a foreign runway and immediately starting streaming with a cold. Slowing down is also a revolutionary act in the developed world with technology, constant connection and high levels of material expectation. It requires confidence, self awareness and presence.
To embrace change, you need to stay close the actual experience of change. Notice what emotions it brings up in you: fear, anxiety, denial, resentment, anger. Care rather than be concerned for those emotions because they are real to you. Remember change is not an abstract presentation, but in the concrete daily detail of your new schedule. Don’t deny it, because it is undoubtedly already there. Seeing it with clarity, care and understanding will allow you to deal with change more effectively.
Lastly, you might imagine that you are an old oak tree with deep roots into the ground. Those roots are your strength and resilience to the wind when it howls and shakes your branches. Keep grounded and you will discover your flexibility and be able to embrace this inevitable change.