It's starting to feel like a new beginning. What will yours be?
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
Hope. That's what the last few weeks have felt like to me. Why? I'm glad you asked.
It's spring. I grew up on a small rainy island. The distance that comes from living both a few thousand miles away, and in a country that's practically a continent, has taught me that in the UK, we don't really have extremes of weather, but we do have extremes of light. Winters are leaving the house, and returning, in the dark, the daylight visible fleetingly through a window. Spring is when the nights start to grow longer and green shoots appear, and so the season feels like a reward for surviving the damp, chill months. You know it can only be a matter of time until it's light until 9pm and you can sit outside when the kids have gone to bed with some friends and a glass of cold rose. (Side note - hello friends! How I have missed those days recently!)
I had my first vaccine shot. Being processed through the Mercedes Benz stadium with QR codes, and wrist bands, and numbered tickets, and a recovery area overlooking the soccer pitch was awe-inspiring, and felt like being in a movie. But rather than, as it has been for the last few months, feeling like the scene when you're wondering when the scientist with the dowdy bob is going to chance upon the right gene sequence to crack the code and save the world, it was now more like the scene 5 minutes before the end, when the world is returning to normal and they're holding a press conference about the international co-operation it's taken to get there. You know the one, with the American General in uniform, the British guy in a bowtie, and maybe a generic Latin American dictator to show us that we've all put our differences aside for the greater good?
My sister, who has been through 4 months of cancer treatment, took her last giant red pill. She sent me the picture of her ringing the bell that the National Health Service provides you with as the rite of passage that says - I did it: I made it to the end. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with chemotherapy will understand the pride in that achievement. Not to mention the relief that the days of having to wear gloves in the house are numbered; there are side effects to your body being bombarded with toxins that you don't get told about until you're admitted into the chemo club. But they're over, or at least nearly.
Slowly but surely, like bears coming around from hibernation and poking their noses outside the cave to check - is it REALLY time to reappear, or did some joker just light a camp fire and warm up the air? - life feels like life is starting to return to normal.
Last week I co-hosted a workshop IN PERSON with NO VIDEO CALL, although admittedly everyone was 6 feet apart and wearing a mask. Tonight I'm going out for (socially distanced, outdoor) dinner with other human beings, ones that I don't live with (I KNOW!) Maybe we we'll all have our own hand sanitizer, maybe we won't hug our greetings but do that weird elbow bump thing we've all started doing, but it's progress.
All together, there's something in the air that feels different. It feels like something drawing to a close and something else starting. If I had to put a name to the "something else", I'd call it, the rest of our lives. You know, the thing that actually starts every single morning. But is so much easier to grasp hold of when there's signs around that conspire to help you recognize it.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and if you screw that up, you can start again tomorrow. Ingrid Weir
It may seem strange to consider yourself lucky to have been through this pandemic. But I do. It's an opportunity for reflection and change for the better.
When it all recedes into the background: when getting on public transport no longer feels scary, when you can use your passport without three COVID tests, when there are gigs and theatres and indoor events and, yes, hugs again, I don't want to go back to 2019-normal. I want this experience to be what strategy people call "the inflection point". The point when my trajectory changed. Not the point that's the bump in the road that then carried on as if nothing had ever happened, which is what it's easy to default to in the rush for things to get back to the way they were. What if you don't want things the way they were? Who's with me and ready for a little seizing of the day and reinvention?
Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about reinventing yourself George Bernard Shaw
99% of the time, the reason a client comes to a coach is the inflection point: the situation that's made them want something new, better, different, even if they can't clearly add the meat to the bones of what that thing is. So my reinvention experience comes in pretty handy...
I've reinvented myself more times than I can remember. My first day at college, I decided it was time to leave high school misery behind, Jen the adult was going to be happier. I left the comfort of a job in the suburbs to work with a view of the Thames surrounded by the great and the good in the great big scary head office, where just the sight of the front door made me quake.I temporarily lost my mind at 30 and moved to Asia, which is why to this day my comfort food is a bowl of noodles. I lasted less than a year back in the UK before I became someone who commuted to the US and spent my weekends investigating the south, visiting Graceland and eating beignets. I somehow went from being an under-the-radar one-man-band to the very public leader of 100+ team, with every action and decision scrutinized. And then, most recently I gave up my orderly corporate life to start my own business, and somehow became someone who writes blog posts.
Reinvention is easiest when it's adapting, not starting over
I didn't make those changes like someone trying on a stifling new mask that leaves you uncomfortable and unable to breathe. I've done it more like a snake shedding its skin. Still the same me, just slightly shinier scales (do snakes have scales? I don't like to get too close to them). And I think that's why I've felt successful doing it. Spending your life pretending to be someone else has to be exhausting. Spending your life deciding which version you want to be now, like you're upgrading your version of iOS to get the tweaks to the features? That's a different thing altogether.
Reinvention has to be intentional
I've never been one to hold with change for the sake of change. Every one of those examples above started with the inflection point that I talked about - event, life stage change - but also an intentional decision: I am going to.... because....
It can be daunting to bridge those "...", the gap from "something has to change" to "and this is what it is." Isn't it a good job we have people trained to help us answer those questions (as a professional coach, I'm allowed one plug for my profession I think?!)
Reinvention needs motivation
Habits are hard to break and change is HARD. We're hardwired towards routine and established patterns; great for survival, not so great for getting different results. Overcoming the inertia of the way you've always done things before requires having your motivation on tap. Why do you want to do something new ? What's in it for you or the people you care about? What difference will you see in your life? And how do you bring those thoughts to your mind when you're having one of those days when you're wondering... why did I decide to do this again?
Reinvention starts with action
Where do so many of us stop when it comes to making a change? It's often around the "I don't exactly know what I want, but it's not THIS" stage. For those who get past that point and work out what they DO want to achieve/become/do, then comes the standing on the edge of the cliff with the sign with an arrow to "new and scary things." And it's easy to stand there forever, working out the best time to take the leap, the ideal wind conditions, wondering whether you're wearing the right shoes... What's the answer? Just do something. Take one step. The most powerful of all the powerful questions you get taught at coach school is - what's one action you can take to get you closer to your goal? Because a lifetime of actions is daunting, but break it down into something achievable, and all of a sudden... maybe it's not so bad?
One of the most overused business phrases in the last year has been "the new normal." What will it be, how will we prepare for it, how will customer expectations change, what do the knock on effects mean for the way we go to market? Right now I'm sure there are people round the world working on decks to try to offer perspectives on those questions, when the truth is, still none of us know. What a crazy, swirling, unsteady beneath our feet world we live in! The beauty of reinvention is that, it doesn't have to matter. You have the power to set your own course. Now, what's it going to be? And how are you going to get there? If you need any help, let me know.