It may sound cliché, but the following is a blanket truth I believe: Humans, for the most part, are creatures of habit. What I mean by that is we tend to gravitate toward the familiar and comfortable in the ecosystem we share with neighbors, peers, coworkers, customers, clients, and those whom we haven’t yet met and may not know. Habit=safety net. It seems easy to be bold and make statements for what seems right or popular at any given moment, but when called to stand our ground, we scamper back to our house, shut the door and blinds, and hide behind curtains of our reality to calm us.
Our experiences and those outcomes shape our opinions and develop truths about what works for us. And so we repeat them with regular cadence.
We tend to take the paths with least resistance and leave those less traveled to others we feel have more tolerance and stamina than we do—those not afraid to lose their footing from time to time and are able to correct course.
We creatures of habit don’t really like change; we don’t like the unexpected. We shy away from the unknown and cringe at disruptions. We don’t like feeling our way through scenarios that have no definitive sign of leveling off. And if there are any combinations of these, look out!
We have a front-row seat
As the health, political and environmental climates flex their muscles, we must decide the path we will take as we stand at the crossroads of our personal and professional selves—where the clean, tidy, and organized meet the disheveled, unkempt and chaotic; the point at which disruption occurs.
“We have a front-row seat to a compelling time in history,” a good friend recently said to me. The disruptions we are witnessing and creating are ours out of which to mold new and different ways and things. “We’ve always done it that way,” is no longer something we can say because we haven’t been doing it “that” way for months, and we know more effective and efficient ways to operate exist. We have evolved in our thinking and have experienced what we once thought was unthinkable—we simply cannot go back. We can only go forward. The way we lived, the things we did, the places we went will never again be as we knew it. We need to admit, accept, and embrace that nugget of truth and move on.
To some, “move on” is the hardest phrase to hear. How do you keep your personal and professional lives from intersecting, now of all times, or do you? The line between one and the other is blurring as we struggle to hold down a home and work life at literally the same time in the same space.
Despite what it may appear we are losing we have an opportunity to gain so much more. Our minds and eyes are wider for having thought and seen what once was imaginable. Take us out of the box, and we learn about ourselves and those around us and discover the capabilities we share. We have tested boundaries, crossed lines, learned new technologies, homeschooled, prepared dinner, and met our coworkers’ families and pets while on a Zoom call—something that certainly would not have been encouraged or tolerated “before.”
Transform the workplace with empathy
We’re learning to adjust, to trust in a new way of working, looking at the world, and adapting. We’re using empathy to transform the workplace in a way that’s not quite yet been done.
“It starts by changing your world view,” Dee Paku-Spalding recently told attendees of a Women & Worth Virtual Summit. Paku-Spalding, founder and chief executive officer of WIE Network, encouraged attendees to diversify their network, what they read, what they watch, and where they go as a “first step to develop an understanding of something you don’t understand.”
“Some people likely take for granted computers and internet,” she said as an example of contrary realities the pandemic has uncovered. “Empathy is really about broadening the lens through which you look at things.”
Resilience is a silicone bubble
Humanity’s resilience is flexing like a giant silicone bubble being pulled, pushed, and squeezed simultaneously. We don’t yet know how the future looks, but we’ve been dodging, ducking, rolling, and pivoting for more than six months. We’re malleable.
This year has taught us we need to be forgiving—of ourselves and of each other—as well as patient and understanding.
“We need to stop waiting to get back to normal,” my friend told me. “We have a new normal. We are evolving, and I choose to believe we are evolving into something ultimately better. Like a piece of sand in an oyster, it is an irritant that creates something beautiful.”