COVID-19 is changing what we want out of life and work.

Survey after survey is asking our workforce about their future intentions. They are finding a groundswell of thinking of career change, home relocation, and fantasies of quitting the rat-race. Is this a good thing? Or is it a sign of a crisis of confidence? We need to tread carefully.

We need to ask ourselves if we really do want all this change.  And what change anyway?  Because let’s face it, most people fear change and prefer the status quo.  And it has been pretty common that once a big move has been completed the grass has been found to be no greener.  Change can be as stressful and the things that cause it. 

Perhaps the pandemic has lifted the lid off lots of deeply held unhappiness in life and work.  Maybe it has done us all a huge favour by rebooting our thinking, our aims, and our ambitions.  Whatever, we need to focus on what is important.  No amount of pressure causing stress is acceptable.  And stress can be caused by all aspects of the pandemic, overworking (by holding together a business or role in adverse circumstances), under working (by being at home on furlough), and through uncertainty, and all types of change (when coping with the after-effects and a return to ‘normal’). 

It is important to recognise this and counter the causes and the effects, as soon as possible.  As we consider the possible diminishing of the pandemic, the pressure points shift and change as we recover personally and reconstruct ourselves professionally.  These effects will not just disappear as fast as they arrived, they will indeed reverberate for many years, possibly even generations to come.

The next steps are exciting and entirely possible.  Remember, you have taken many decisions before that have resulted in actions and direction.  All of them have brought you here.  You therefore have the tools in your box to make the decisions for now and next.  If you don’t feel like you have, talk to a trusted friend and colleague who can help you navigate the fog.

There are lots of things to work through, if this is sounding anything like you.

Firstly, we need to focus on our thoughts and feelings. What are they, can you name them? You may need help to recognise them, but this is worth the work. Timing is everything, how long you’ve been feeling like this is important, the feelings may have pre-dated COVID-19, or they may have been prompted or exacerbated by it. It is possible and totally understandable if unhealthy behaviours have been adopted or have been maintained. Now is the time to name them, then let go of them, one by one.

Your instincts may be to freeze, fight or fly. This classic stress reflex model helps us to understand what may be going on, and which impulses we are triggering. It is revealing. Doing nothing (freezing) isn’t very helpful in the medium to long terms if you want things to change. It may help us feel better in the short-term though. Conflict (flight) can be destructive and could cause a whole mess. And running (flight) literally runs the risk of leaving lots of value behind, only to regret it later. Remember that the grass isn’t always greener. We must think carefully.

Goal setting can help describe want you want in life and work in the short-term, medium-term, and long-terms.  It offers the chance to help identify what must happen right away, steps towards the dream, and what the end goal actually is.  The outcome might surprise you.

You are the best agent of change. It is crucial you pinpoint the changes you can make happen right here, right now. As is naming which of these changes you can take control or ownership yourself right away. If they aren’t happening, what is stopping you then? It might be that to gain change you need to be willing to let go of something. And this should not always be a solitary business. It is entirely likely you will need the support of others, your partner, family, friends, colleague or boss. What do you need them to do to help – and have you asked?

Who knows, your changes could change not only yourself, but the goals and dreams of those around you.  That is something worth celebrating.   

Photo by Alexas Fotos on

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