As we turn the corner on the pandemic, some are daring to hope for a significant wave of energy, renewal, and reinvention in society. And admittedly, what better time is there to turns things inside out, and rethink your priorities and concept of the future. For example, when we take a look at the root of “emergency,” it is the word “emerge,” which means to rise up or out of. This is to say that within a moment of crisis, there can be inspiration and improvement.
Some are already comparing a potential positives of the upcoming months and years to the Roaring ’20s—with a similar period of innovation, change, and expansion. While you may not be ready to shop for your flapper wardrobe, the timing may be right for you to consider reassessing yourself and your direction. If you decide you want to renew, the time is right for a few reasons:
- You can take advantage of new energy. There is a lot of pent-up demand and people are eager to get out, get active, and get connected. Research shows humans are driven to develop. We often grow and thrive when faced with hard times. Consider riding this wave of energy as you seek to take on something new.
- You can leverage openness. Going through hard times makes people more open: having stretched to get through the past year, people may be more willing to consider a new you as well. According to a sweeping 2019 study of 70,000 people, optimism is correlated with health and longevity, so this may be the best moment to grab the opportunities in front of you
- You can celebrate new bonds. From a sociological perspective, one of the primary ways we build strong bonds is by going through hard times with others. Evidence demonstrates sharing difficulties tends to forge strong relationships and this is true whether said pain is physical or emotional. This kind of connection provides support and a safety net as you try a novel approach in your life.
First, open up your mind to multiple options and begin to think critically. Give thought not just to yourself, but also to your work, your relationships and your community. Consider how you can go bigger or broader or how you can be more targeted in an effort to have more impact in any situation. Here are some sample questions to start with.
INTERROGATE WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU
What has surprised you about yourself? Anytime you’re surprised, it’s a clue that you’ve unlocked an assumption. Surprise tells you that something is not what you had presumed it would be. So give thought to what has surprised you about yourself over the past year. What were you able to handle that you wouldn’t have expected? What bothered you more than you would have thought? What energized you or helped you through? Perhaps you’ve been surprised by your resilience or by your capacity for empathy toward others. Start with surprise to begin unlocking new thinking.
What have you learned? Closely related to surprise is the question of learning. What have you learned about yourself? What makes you tick? What makes you angry? What gives you happiness? Most importantly, what are the elements about yourself and your capabilities that are new to you and that you wouldn’t have predicted a year ago? Perhaps you’ve learned about a social issue about which you have a lot of passion. Or you may have learned about a new type of project at work that energizes you. You may have even learned about something you’ve spent time on, but which is no longer a great investment of your energy.
FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY
What do you wonder about? As you think about the future and how you can rethink your choices and options, consider what you’re curious about. What makes you want to know more? What makes you passionate? What creates a desire for new knowledge? Have you discovered a new interest in a political concern? Or have you unearthed a new enthusiasm to learn more about a language or a culture which can give you greater perspective at work? Curiosity is linked closely with knowledge—the more you know, the more you can be curious because you have a foundation on which to build. Curiosity is also significantly associated with persistence. What do you care enough about to pursue with interest and passion?
What inspires you? Through tough times especially, there is plenty to inspire: stories of people helping people, people surviving, and people solving problems or getting by in ordinary but moving ways. Use this inspiration to spur your own assessment. Where might you go and how might you have an important impact on others around you—in new or renewed ways?
CONSIDER WHERE THINGS CAN IMPROVE (OR STAY THE SAME)
What would you have done differently? Throughout the ups and downs of the last year, you’ve surely had moments that weren’t your best. It’s natural to go through dark days when you could have done better. Consider what you would do differently or how you might improve. What trade-offs would you make and what can you learn about how to improve in the future? You may have found areas where you would manage your boundaries differently between work and home. Or perhaps you’ve missed opportunities to connect or build rapport with others. You can still reach out and mend these broken bridges with former friends and acquaintances.
What would you take on the journey? As you look forward to the path ahead, what would you take along and what would you leave behind? Would you pack your newly found confidence and creativity? Would you ditch your limiting thinking? Would you take along the new volunteer work that stirs you? Or leave behind your “Negative Nellie” relationship with that distant acquaintance? Reflect on how you might intentionally shore up your strengths and assets and choose to let go of the aspects of yourself or your situation that aren’t serving you well.
ASK YOURSELF THE DEEPER QUESTIONS
Why? One of the most powerful questions you can ask in any situation is “why?” It will lead you to a deeper understanding. Research has demonstrated that asking why questions can help students learn more deeply, build relationships between strangers more quickly, and even expand the impact of marketing. Asking why for yourself can help you create new opportunities, prospects, and potentials.
We have an opportunity to come blazing out of the pandemic—with new ideas, new hope, and new expectations. This is your moment to anticipate where you might go and create a future for yourself which is even better than the past from which you’ll emerge—and hey, that flapper style was kind of fun.