There is little argument that the pandemic has been disruptive to our lives. We have been challenged in ways that we might never have imagined. The changes came with little warning and little opportunity to prepare. And the pandemic has lasted longer than anyone seemed to imagine or predict.
The result for most of us is that we have changed. We may not be aware of just how we have changed, but there is a feeling that we are different now. Traumatic experiences, especially when they extend over long periods, can have an impact on how we think, how we live, how we work, and with whom we engage.
Yet, the fact that we have changed matters less than how we will be different. Fortunately, the ways in which we have changed and continue to change are not predetermined. Nor are they beyond our control. We can allow our post-pandemic lives to play out without making conscious choices and creating a new direction, or we can use the disruption to reimagine and reprioritize our lives from this time forward. If gaining control, determining our post pandemic life path, and creating our own new normal is what we want, there are at least five components to which we can give attention.
First, we can open ourselves to new perspectives. We can explore how others view issues beyond what we assume. We can commit to listening, exploring, and seeking to understand. Committing to see life and the world through the eyes of others is a great step toward gaining new perspectives. We can also try new experiences. Changing routines, going new places, and meeting new people can create new understanding and insights, as long as we remain open and curious.
Second, we can develop a new sense of purpose. With new perspectives come new questions, new options, and new ways to approach life. We may discover that new priorities emerge for how we want to live. We may see opportunities to serve and make a difference that previously escaped us. We may also find that we rediscover a sense of purpose that had waned in our pre-pandemic lives. A new sense of direction, renewed commitment, and clarity about what is important to us can energize our lives, lift our attitudes, and create a new sense of hope.
Third, we can develop new habits. To sustain new perspectives and live with a renewed sense of purpose, we may need to shift old habits and create new ones. Habits are intentions in action. Unless we change the ways in which we choose to live each day, we will soon find ourselves back into routines that are more consistent with the “old normal” than the new normal we are working to create. Our new habits may help us to be healthier, engage in life more fully, or improve the lives of others. Regardless, unless our habits and routines reflect the commitment we have made to change, little progress can be expected.
Fourth, we can engage in new learning. New perspectives and new purpose almost always lead to the need for new learning. As we begin to discover elements and aspects of life we have ignored or have been unaware of in the past, we will inevitably find that there is more to know, understand, and appreciate. Our learning may be formal and structured, or it may be more organic and opportunistic. The choice is ours. What is most important is that we open ourselves to continuing to grow and discover.
Fifth, we can form new relationships. Often our journey to discover new ways of seeing life and our world brings us into contact with people who may be on the same journey and can help us to discover what we need to continue our journey. Similarly, when we discover new purpose in life, we are likely to encounter others who share our purpose and can help us to live more fully. These relationships can energize our personal new normal and bring a fresh dimension to life. We just need to stay alert for opportunities and be willing to reach out when new relationships are possible.
Disruption is usually uncomfortable and disorienting. However, disruption also creates opportunities for change, innovation, and discovery. The pandemic is no exception. The question is, what we will choose to do now?