COVID-19: What I've Heard You Thinking

by Paul Tripp in

What do you know now that you didn't know before?

For me, it's that exact question, which my clients have coaxed out of me while we have sheltered in place. In retrospect, this question has always been on the tip of my tongue, unlocked only by this pandemic. The last month has revealed quite a bit for many of you as well. Because we share the same circumstance of being human, I thought I'd share some thoughts of what I've heard you thinking.

DO I WANT THIS JOB?

For all of you who are fortunate enough to have work, your truth is that the pressures and accomplishments of the daily grind continue despite COVID-19. It makes sense that many of you may feel guilty, even thinking about how unhappy you might be in your job while millions of people are unemployed. What I understand about change is that it comes when you either feel tremendous outside pressure or unrelenting internal pressure to adjust your circumstance - and COVID-19 is doing both.

One client quit their job last week. One client allowed themself to get fired. One client stated, "I realize that I've been selling out for money," and started looking for a new job, while another explained, "Although I am not happy, any job is better than no job right now." I wonder, which circumstance resonates with you?

What I've heard you thinking is that your sense of purpose matters now more than ever. For many, finding a sense of purpose is a lifelong endeavor. In times of crisis and change, it makes sense to wonder exactly what your purpose is and what it might mean. Some of my clients have realized that making sure their family is happy gives them enough meaning to weather any job stress while other clients have stated that they want to contribute more to social change and activities bigger than just themself.

COVID-19 has caused many people to shift their previous circumstances. From your new vantage point, what do you see for your life that you didn't see before? What do you know now that you didn't know before? Gratitude for work is a given. So how can you get curious about the marriage between your job and life's purpose?

I AM NOT GOING TO BE BOUND BY THE SAME WORK RULES ANYMORE

"I used to be the first person in the office and the last person to leave at night because I was always so scared about what others would think of me as a leader if I didn't set the example. I didn't have a life outside of work," one client told me a few weeks ago. Their COVID-19 discovery was an internal story of the value they placed on physical presence. As we explored their story, what they discovered is that they have been a more engaged and communicative leader since working from home. So much for physical presence!

Your productivity stories of working from home have been astounding. You no longer have drive-by interruptions from co-workers. You are flexing your work hours to ensure you get some daily exercise. You are unplugging for good at night and not plugging back in to just "finish that one thing…" You are eliminating office chat that used to occur in the lunchroom, hallways, and wherever else a lurking co-worker might have appeared. You are marking yourself as "busy" in the chat app and not feeling guilty about it! So many examples of how you've decided to put yourself first. Unapologetically first. Why do you think you waited?

Many of you have proclaimed that once you go back to the office, you are not going to be bound by your old work rules. I’ve heard you say that it will be ok to close your door, take a day to work from home, take some time out to go for a walk or to tell co-workers that you need to focus and don’t have time to talk. It’s as if all of the work rules you used to abide by are up for discussion. What behavioral work changes do you want to make when you go back to work? What do you know now that you didn’t know before?

THIS IS MY NEW NORMAL

For every client who has adjusted to their new virtual environment with resounding productivity, many continue to struggle with the isolation caused by COVID-19. The theme for those who appear to have adjusted is that this circumstance is their new normal. Their thoughts don’t revolve around what was or what could have been. Instead, they appear to be processing what is and what could be. Which mindset do you relate to?

One part of what makes prison so painful is the sudden isolation and quarantine from society. A few weeks ago, my curious mind started thinking about what lessons I could learn from prisoners to help clients, and one Google search later, I was flooded with new information. Two key themes have stood out for me from all of the opinion pieces I have read from released inmates: Create and adhere to a schedule. Let your imagination soar. What do you think a released inmate could teach you?

For those of you who are not my client(s), I wonder what curiosity you have bubbling inside that you might want to let boil over as you continue to shelter in place? Closure on this chapter does not yet appear to be in sight, and so I wonder.......

What do you want to know about yourself that you didn’t know before?