COVID has caused an unpredictably dramatic effect on the way our society and economy functions and even more broadly, on how our world works. These changes are a lot broader than just working from home!
From the dramatic increases we have seen in domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, addiction to online gambling, suicide rates & declining mental health, to broad national economic ramifications, shifts in global trade barriers and the first rise in poverty in over 20 years– the devastation of COVID is fact and tangible.
One of the primary reasons it has caused so much damage is the lack of readiness – our foundations, as an economy and business, were not built for us to cope well in an age and type of change at this scale. But what I have found to be more compelling in my conversations and coaching, is the lack of readiness of leaders at a personal level.
One of the foundations of our pre-COVID world’s understanding of success is the concept of ‘busyness’. Our busy lives served as more than just the perceived outcome of commitment or workload; busyness became a measure of meaning. And rest and stillness had little or no meaning.
These once busy lives that involved commuting, plane trips, meetings, extra-curricular activities and events provided external noise. This noise distracted us from family troubles, our own mental health, parenting, engaging with meaning and moral compass, and compassion. –– creating a superficial layer of career, financial, retirement funds and status; a safety-net as a solution, and this solution as our purpose and main driver.
Before we knew anything of stay-at-home public health orders, every inch of our lives was filled with activity. So much so, that “busy” actually become a value for us, rather than an outcome. Many of us wore “busy” as a badge of honour.
What COVID has done is dull the external noise as we aren’t as busy. This has made us deeply aware of our own internal noise – and we don’t know how to deal with it.
Whether this has been a feeling of burnout that now feels all-encompassing, a lost sense of purpose and meaning, previously painted over by promotions, and the forcing of our hand to blend our ‘work self’ with our ‘home self’ – how to manage this internal noise is now at the forefront of our conversations, coaching sessions and development programs. COVID lockdowns have presented a unique opportunity for self-reflection and character formation.
As we slow down, questions we’ve long deferred start bubbling to the surface…
What is my purpose? Where am I going? How did I get to here? Is this where I want to be? Where do I derive my sense of meaning? Who am I when I’m not in the office? How do I feel about myself when I’m not relentlessly “busy”?
This is presenting itself as leaders find their way around how to be present and grow in depth of self-awareness. Learning how to listen to themselves, with connectedness to a deeper part of themselves represents a reconnection to spiritual disciplines, and a return to lives that are defined by meaning rather than goals.
Lives that value depth as distinct to busyness.