We’re all facing the hard reality that COVID-19 and its domino effect of hardships will be with us for a while. When the pandemic first began, despite our worries and fears, there was some novelty in working from home and spending more time with family, video-conferencing with friends, etc. But now it feels as though we’ve had enough of all that.
As The Economist says this week, many are becoming disenchanted by and resistant to the behaviors needed to survive. But the virus doesn’t care about how humanity feels about it. It has its mission to accomplish—whatever that is—and despite all our knowledge and technology, it will accomplish its mission. So how do we cope with this longer-term specter in our sights?
We need to shift gears from waiting for it to pass, to accepting an interim norm for an indeterminable period of time. We need to move from demanding to know timelines to accepting the unknown and perhaps even the unknowable. We need to live with uncertainty, mitigate our risks of infection, change our business models, and develop new coping skills.
The skills we need in our personal lives are similar to those we need in our business lives. In business, we have had to recognize that the goods and services we produce might not need to change, but the methods of delivery will have to change. Chefs continue to cook and restaurants produce meals, but a large part of the delivery process shifts from sit-down to take-out. Retail continues to source and distribute goods, but more is online and less is in store. Schools and universities continue to teach, but more is online and less is in the classroom. In the same way, it is important that you try not to postpone things that are important to you in your personal life. Rather find new methods of creating, delivering, and experiencing these things.
First, identify the things that are most important to you in life. These could include health and fitness, time with friends, going for dinners with your partner, playing sports, or visiting art museums. In each of these areas, you used to have routines and rituals. While these routines and rituals have been disrupted, it is possible to adjust and create these experiences per the interim norm.
Then, explore what about each of these experiences is important to you and why it is important. You will be able to replicate the outcomes you identify even if you can’t replicate the activity. Is health and fitness important to you because of the way you feel, is it about pushing your physical limits, or is it about the social element of working out or going for runs with others? Is time with friends important to you as a way of keeping up with them and staying connected, is it a way of escaping your routine and relaxing, or is it a way to share ideas and experiences? Is going out for dinners about the intimacy of the occasion, is it experiencing different venues and menus, or is it getting away from the children? Is visiting art museums a form of inspiration for you, is it the getting out into a different space that attracts you, or is it expanding your cultural repertoire?
Once you identify not only what is important to you but also the reason it is important, then you can explore ways to achieve similar experiences, even online. But the danger is that we are undisciplined about scheduling these new routines and rituals because they can happen without having to leave our homes. Without scheduling them, they won’t happen.
So, how about making a virtual date with friends to have a drink together? Engage a personal trainer online or schedule times during the day to tap into the countless fitness apps and videos to formally exercise. Have a date night at home once a week and go out of your way to prepare unusual menus. None of this is instinctual or even easy, but if these experiences are important to you, they can achieve the value you seek through a different delivery mechanism.
Both at home and at work, try not to put things off for “when things get back to normal”. Don’t allow the pandemic to deprive you of the present moment by promising you a more familiar future. Rather, treat this as the normal for now, and try your best to live it, experience it, and accomplish whatever you can amidst it. You might surprise yourself with a new richness of life that helps to make the challenges of today, the opportunities of tomorrow.