Seeing Differently: Letting Go of Normal to Create A New Reality

In the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the world as you know it is bound to be different. Yet, the fixation I hear quite often is about the “new normal”. What will life be like after we get through this?  Has this disruption to the life we knew become our “new normal”?

The more germane question to me is: “Why would you want normal, be this the “old” normal or a “new” normal?” What is with this seemingly myopic fascination with normal?


(adjective) conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

(noun) – the usual, average, or typical state or condition

Your body is consistently replacing itself with new cells. Individual cells in your body are dying constantly. If your body did not generate new cells, you would die. Change is not only constant, it necessary to grow and thrive! When you scrape your knee, break a bone, or come down with an illness, your body creates new cells as part of the healing process. Our biological human design regenerates the cells in our bodies constantly. So why would you settle for the “new normal” when you are innately equipped with the capabilities to create better?

How does this apply to how we individually and collectively respond to this new reality the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon us?  What does this mean for us?  What is this global lockdown inviting us to see?  What is it inviting us to create? How is it inviting us to be?

Many of us have been so wrapped up in the busyness of our lives that we have continuously chosen to disregard these threats to life as we know it.

The “stay-at-home” order has created space for nature and humanity to pause, recalibrate, and renew.  It has so clearly revealed how interconnected and interdependent, not only humanity is, but also our entire ecological and economic systems.  Issues such as climate change, inequality, and sustainability have been flashing red lights, warning of the dangers and impacts to not prudently and proactively addressing them. Many of us have been so wrapped up in the busyness of our lives that we have continuously chosen to disregard these threats to life as we know it. This slowdown of human activity, in an attempt to mitigate the impact of this highly contagious and lethal virus, has awakened many to the gluttonous, disconnected lens through which we complacently operated as “normal”. “Normal”, if it ever was, is no longer desirable nor sustainable. Normal reflects the existential threat we comfortably ignore.

This tragic, indifferent, insidious virus has disrupted our lives in numerous ways.  We have hit the pause button on hugs, high-fives, and handshakes. Frequently washing our hands, physical distancing, and wearing protective face masks have become our new habits, not only for our own well-being but perhaps more saliently, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus to others.

Virtual human connection through video chat platforms like Zoom and phone conversations have become our lifelines. Remote working has become essential rather than a flexible work option. Parents have been thrust into the role of teachers. The whole notion of essential workers and businesses is now acutely seen through a different lens.

A harsh reality of this quarantine is that we are not able to be with our loved ones due to physical distancing and other measures designed to protect each person, particularly our most vulnerable from contracting or spreading this virus. Most alarmingly, the stark, brutal reality hits us when a loved one becomes ill, or heartbreakingly worse, passes away.  Not being able to be with our loved ones or help them when they need us most, particularly in their final moments, is excruciatingly sad. The unimaginable grief at not being able to say goodbye, nor to properly celebrate their life and lay them to rest, has become our new reality.

The toll this global pandemic has taken on humanity have been far-reaching, heart-breaking, and very real.

What have you learned during this disruptive pause?  What insights have your reflections yielded? How will you take these insights and create a new better reality not just now, but so that this new reality sustainably creates better for you, for humanity and for our planet?  What will be different for you as we move through and emerge from this pandemic together?

Normal is not an aspiration, it is a limitation. Normal is a convenience we can no longer afford.  Normal is and always has been an illusion, a manufactured construct to attempt to create an imaginary baseline, or comfort zone, for us to individually and collectively calibrate and soothe ourselves.

There is simply what is. Present reality. Then there is what does yours look like? How are you choosing to see it? How are you choosing to create it? Normal has nothing to do with reality. Your mindset around normal has everything to do with it.

Words create worlds. My experience, both personal and working with clients, has revealed three truths:

1) what we stop doing is vastly more important and impactful to creating meaningful change than what we start doing

2) letting go of limiting beliefs, assumptions or simply things that no longer serve you is the best way to create space for and movement towards what matters most to you

3) you are your greatest roadblock to unleashing your human greatness to create better

These choices are always available to you. Flourishing and fulfillment happens when you have the self-awareness, belief, and focus to intentionally take purposeful action to create your better reality, our shared better reality.

Shedding precedes soaring. Unbounded by the weight of erroneous assumptions, limiting beliefs, and baggage you have carried with you for far too long, you can boldly, intentionally, and purposefully envision the new reality you are committed to creating. You are now able to direct your energy, attention, and actions forward to creating better with and for one another.

You were not born to be normal. You are uniquely blessed with talents to create your reality. What do you need to stop doing to create your new reality?  What do you need to let go of so you can soar and flourish in this new reality?  How will you contribute to shaping our shared new reality?

A decade from now, when you look back on what this disruptive pause known as the COVID-19 pandemic invited you into, what will the choices you made and the story you wrote say about you?


Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly is a visionary connector, community-builder and human development specialist who helps people and teams unleash their human greatness so they can create better together. Brian believes in each person’s unique human greatness and the power of harnessing this to amplify impact for teams, communities, and organizations. Brian is an ICF Accredited Coach whose three-decade career spans business, technology, finance, and human development. He is co-author of the book Becoming You to be released later this year. Brian’s encouraging energy and relational and strategic approach invite the inclusive business leaders and teams he works with to expand their perspective to strengthen their belief and their ability to create better together. Brian works with clients to understand the conditions that create greater contributions, fulfillment, and success and then works with them, using proven frameworks, to help them create those conditions through the lens of their strengths. The results are greater self-awareness, confidence, connection, teamwork, creativity and innovation producing better human and business results. Brian is the host of the We Can Do Better Conversations series, which invite inclusive conversations on topics relevant to bringing greater humanity to our workplaces, communities, families, and relationships. Brian serves on the Executive Board for Overcoming Odds where he helped the Executive Director with board development, strategic business planning and expanding the reach and impact of the nonprofit’s mission. Brian has also served on the Washington DC metro area chapter Board for several culturally-based National nonprofits focused on professional and leadership development.

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  1. The post-coronavirus recovery must be a recovery driven by social awareness. To help us substantially is a single unanimous global decision: let’s be clear, we absolutely do not want to go back to the world we were before. In the name of the shot, we don’t want to jump into the same hot pan as before. The next recovery must be implemented by placing a new social and environmental awareness at the center of every decision and all political decision-making processes. Governments will have to ensure that not a dollar will end up in someone’s pocket unless there is a guarantee that, compared to any other option, that dollar given to that someone will bring the greatest possible social and environmental benefit to society as a whole. Everything that will be done in the recovery must lead to the creation of a conscious economy for the individual country and for the whole world on a social, economic and environmental level.

    • Thank you for sharing your insights on what’s next Aldo. As you point to, greater social awareness is critical to the integrated, holistic decision-making we will need to create the conscious society and economy that humanity and the environment need to sustainably thrive.

  2. Brian — I get why “new normal” is quickly becoming part of the collective vocabulary. Putting on my Dr. Hughes hat, people crave stability and certainty. But you eloquently suggest a powerful alternative: “Flourishing and fulfillment happens when you have the self-awareness, belief, and focus to intentionally take purposeful action to create your better reality, our shared better reality.”

    The distinction here is important: “New normal” is simply an anonymous, vague condition. “Shared better reality” is human-centered and striving for improvement. Well said.

    • Jeff, thank you for sharing your insights on the article. I appreciate the power of words and language. The distinction you highlight is so important and foundational to being able to create human-centered improvement that becomes our shared better reality. Wonderful to speak with you yesterday and I look forward to continuing our conversation!

  3. Very well written Brian. It resonates with what I have written too… we are all seeing things differently… what happens after this depends on how you deal with it now. So much goodness has really been so apparent. Creativity was ignited in many who never thought they could or would. All the many “firsts” such as doing videos…We see the various displays of wanting to help and honouring those that do. We see where people see people first. What matters is different now. We have been able to filter a few whom we thought were something great…to see there Was another angle.. Tome I see the closest I ever imagined of world peace…where we all fought for life together… I don’t know what 10 years will bring. I do know that we who have open minds will see it as a paradigm of all time. I hope for better things….we know old habits will kick in..and people forget too. It’s up to some of us to remind all of us from time to time…I think of the quote “lest we forget” connotated with Remembrance Day …First mentioned in the bible and then in a 1897 Christian poem written by Rudyard Kipling called “Recessional”. … it reflects the thoughts of the soldiers and battles and why … this was on my mind after reading your article her. Thank you for this thought provoking and uplifting piece.

  4. I didn’t find better than an essay of Covey I read a few minutes ago to answer your masterpiece brilliant interrogations dear Brian:

    Open your heart. Take the whole-person approach– body, mind, heart and spirit — and see what a powerful expression “open your heart” is. Physically, keep your arteries clean through proper diet and exercise so that your heart is strong and healthy. Open your heart emotionally so that you are willing to involve people in the problem and work out solutions together, and listen deeply for understanding. Open your heart mentally so that you are constantly learning, see people as whole people, and free yourself of “quick-fix” thinking, so that leadership indeed becomes your choice. Open your heart spiritually so that your life is driven by a higher wisdom, by a divine conscience whose ethic in finding yourself through losing yourself in the service of others — doing well by doing good ❤️

    Thank you for this outstanding piece of wisdom! 🙏💎🙏