We are all stuck at the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We are worrying about the virus, about life and death, worrying about the food supply, worrying about our medical workers, worrying about our jobs and worrying about the future. Caught with us in the same place are some people who seem to have decided that this is their moment to find their passion, their balance and their connections.
Who are these people? Are they nuts or are they the ones who have found the truth?
Well firstly, let’s acknowledge that this is a time of fear and not be too carried away by the loud voices of Instagram achievement. We lived in 2 worlds before the COVID crisis and we continue to live in those 2 worlds today. One world of the truth, where we live normal lives and feel failure and success, happiness and sadness; and the other world, the shiny world, where everyone is perfect, driven and happy.
In this time of fear, we are creating what historians call an event memory. You’re going to talk about COVID19 and you’re going to be asked about it, and you’re going to relive it for the rest of your life. In a strange way, you have a choice today about how you’re going to shape your conversations and feel about yourself for the rest of your life.
If this resonates with you and you are looking to create the balance of feeling fearful, being real and taking ownership of your personal event memory, here are five questions to help you in that journey.
1. In the future, how would you like to describe who you were and what you did in this time of crisis?
These are the outcomes you want to create in the context of your life. For me, it was about leading a calmer, quieter life, not getting caught in the vortex of bad news (I am a news junkie and it does not help at this time), for a client it was about being the rational voice in his community and for another it was about using the opportunity to be present with his children and being healthy. The description you write will help you disengage from the moral fatigue that is overpowering most of us and lead to small wins as you go through the next few weeks.
2. What do you enjoy doing ‘with’ each person you’re in lockdown with or with each person in your close circle of family and friends?
The key here is to think of each individual and focus on what you enjoy doing ‘with’ them, not ‘for’ them. The shift between the two terms allows us to think about changes in relationships and new ways to create the bond and strengthen the relationship. According to a Bloomberg report, as China started to ease lockdown restrictions, the number of people wanting to get divorced kept the clerks too busy to even take breaks. This was a warning to the rest of the world, being locked together is going to bring strain to most relationships, proximity does not automatically bring people together.
Similarly, with chores and supporting kids through their homeschooling schedules, it is easy to get lost in what you do for your child, forgetting to do things you enjoy together even if it is for a little time in the day. A client decided to dedicate 20 minutes to each of his children in the day, to have undiluted fun, with no oblique goals of learning math or strategy inserted surreptitiously. When we spoke a week later, those moments were what were his stand-out memories from this time.
3. What is your recharge-superpower?
Most people I speak with don’t think they have a superpower. And yet as they think about how they bounce back, how they move forward, how they re-engage their senses after stress, irritation or sadness, they find a pattern. My nine year old discovered that basketball was her recharge superpower, I finally acknowledged mindfulness to be mine, a client has identified writing and another has found that their recharge gets accelerated if they are helping others in any way.
4. How are you of help to those around you?
‘Those around you’ could be people who are in your family, perhaps members who are isolated, alone and scared and just need to talk to someone. ‘Those around you’ could be your community of front liners, the healthcare workers, those ensuring we get our essential supplies and those that are keeping our cities running despite their fears for themselves and their families. ‘Those around you’ could be communities you have nothing to do with except humanity, migrants stuck away from their homes, families struggling with homeschooling needs, daily wagers, freelancers, restaurants, the list is endless.
Being of help in this crisis seems to contradict our current place in Maslow’s hierarchy. Self actualisation when we are fearing for our lives? However, in this moment of fear, we need to feel part of a community, we need to feel that we are all in this together, that together we will overcome. In helping others and finding ways to support others, we are strengthening our psychological safety.
5. What is something that will help you be stronger and happier after this crisis is over?
Whether it’s something you’ve been thinking about or it’s a new insight, put it down as a far away goal. It’s a far away goal, because in all probability it defines a longer term outcome, one to be achieved over an extended period of time or one set in infinity. Meditate more, exercise more, manage time better, improve something, these are all examples of goals that are hard to achieve because they don’t define a clear outcome in the first place. Even with progress, the spotlight is on what is not accomplished yet.
For the faraway goal, set a micro goal. If you had only 3 days in lockdown what progress could you make? What is a little step you can take, the smallest, minutest step that will help you move forward on that goal.
Micro goals are the most effective strategy I have used them in my coaching practice and have helped my clients move forward on goals they have been stuck on for a long time. The couch to 5K program, is a great example of setting micro goals that help us feel progress. Set goals that are easy to achieve, that give reasons to celebrate and encourage you to go on.
As I ask my clients these questions and help them frame who they are going to be through this crisis of our lifetime, I have found a weight lift as the path becomes clearer. I have also done this exercise for myself and my family. It helped each of us make sense of the time we are in and how we want to remember our self when we look back.
If you’re not one to write out answers in solitude, find someone to talk through these questions with. Involve those around you, we are all in this together and hopefully, we will all get out together as well.
If you want to have a conversation with a coach through this difficult time, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. All our coaches are ICF certified and are legally bound to uphold the highest level of confidentiality.