Updated: Sep 8
It’s hard to argue that COVID-19 has disrupted many, if not all, of our regular routines. For those who still work perhaps less so, however, there are new ways we have had to adapt to going about doing routine things during this pandemic.
Why this interruption may be a good thing
I am an advocate for interrupting patterns. I believe it inspires change. Of course, a global pandemic is not what I had in mind, but we can make the best of it and use this opportunity to re-evaluate our career and life. It’s the step I took to re-evaluate mine.
It was late December 2014 when I discovered my essential self and figured out what I truly wanted to do with my life. This conscious break led me out of a career in teaching to becoming a coach. To get there, I had to disrupt many familiar patterns such as traveling or filling up my days with friends and family during the holidays. If I didn’t stop to assess my life at the time, then I would have continued teaching and feeling unfulfilled. This step is what inspired my first tip (step away) in my first talk, Living From the Inside Out: 3 Ways to Go from Over to Inner Achiever in Your Career and Life. Stepping away, however big or small, from our routines allows us to gain perspective and to get clear on what is important to us. So, I encourage you to step away to gain perspective of your life.
I understand this may not be easy for everyone. I am thinking of those with children, in particular. However, it’s possible to take some time to reflect and reassess our needs, goals, and values while we are stuck indoors. Netflix and other distractions and entertainment can be saved for another time. Don’t worry. The second season of whatever you are watching will still be there when you decide to come back to it. :)
I know for some it is difficult to sort through things on your own. If this is the case, seeking out a coach or a mentor to help guide you through your thoughts could be helpful. Of course, this is only relevant if there is any dissatisfaction or unrest in your career and life.
If there is any unease, you can ask yourself a few questions and journal it out or, again, talk it through with someone if it helps:
What kind of life do I really want?
Is my current life in alignment with what I value?
Was there a time that I felt the most content and free? If so, what was it about that time that made me feel that way? Could I recreate/simplify my life to feel that way again?
These questions were inspired by Amanda Whitworth’s blog post, It’s Okay to want to Live a Slow & Quiet Life[i], however, I have variations of it from my practice and talk. The first question is something she asked herself and the last two are things she sorted through to get to live her most authentic life.
If you ask yourself these questions, then perhaps you can get closer to what it is you truly want, not what is expected of you. It can also help close the happiness gap that is so prevalent among people. I know I did, and some of my clients are still working this out.
Essential Self versus Social Self
These are terms I learned during my coach training and have stuck with me. Your essential self is who you are at your core. It’s what you desire without external persuasion or outside influences. Your social self, on the other hand, is what other people, such as your parents, partner, friends or society, tacitly or overtly expect of you. The social self causes you to pursue things to fulfill a specific image. The term “keeping up with the Joneses” applies here and why we stay in careers that lack meaning for us.
The happiness gap
This is the gap between you and your happiness, and it is usually identified by the thoughts: “I’ll be happy when…” or “I’ll be happy if….” It is the assumption or belief that you’ll be happy if this or that thing is fulfilled. The problem is that happiness is dependent on external situations and circumstances, and these are usually elusive or dissatisfying once achieved. For example, “I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds” or “I’ll be happy if I get my certificate.” When we accomplish these goals, then we want to lose more pounds or acquire more certificates to feel “happy.”
If you decide to be content now, with whatever you have, you will appreciate the other things, and they will feel more fulfilling once achieved. Making choices from your essential self is not about not striving for more but coming at them from a value-based, internally enriched place. It’s about appreciating the journey, whereas making choices from your social self, which are externally driven, the focus is on the destination. Although I haven’t read it, from my understanding, a book called The Happiness Advantage discusses this concept at length.
Pause, reset, or something else?
With fewer external distractions during this time, perhaps this is an opportunity to develop your internal source of contentment and identity with your essential self. That is if we stop to reflect on it.
I know these are not new concepts, I’ve seen a lot of information circulating on social media and within the news about this situation being a “pause” or “reset” and a time we can re-evaluate things individually and societally. The challenge with the word pause, however, is that it suggests that things will continue as they have been, and that may not be the case. I find reset a better word, which can either mean to reset to how things were (e.g. re/connecting to your essential self) or adjusting to a new or different way. Perhaps there is a more fitting word to describe the benefits of stepping away? I leave that to you.
Whatever you call it, I hope this quarantine allows you to go deeper to live more authentically.
This said I would love to hear about any insights from the above three questions. You can either comment below or contact me privately.
[i] It’s Okay to want to Live a Slow & Quiet Life. (2020). Retrieved 29 April 2020, from https://www.elephantjournal.com/2019/07/what-if-all-i-want-is-a-simple-life-on-a-farm-amanda-whitworth/