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Who Are You Going To Be When We Emerge From Quarantine

I was texting with a friend this week, and we were comparing our workout practices. Since quarantining, both of us have used the time to get ourselves back into the best shape we can - mind, body, and spirit.  He’s often my go-to buddy when I need a dose of “all in'' motivation, and today I was seeking some help on why I might be stalling in my progress.  After he shared some incredibly valuable insights, we started talking about how so many people in our lives are continually complaining about how hard it is to be quarantined, or how miserable this whole situation is. Rather than focus on those negative people, however, he leaned into those who share our outlook. “There’s a lot of Shakespeares out there writing the next Hamlet that we just don’t know about yet.”  I’ve been thinking about that sentiment all week.

This is such an extraordinary time in our lives.  Without question, the health and financial hardship it has caused has been horrifying. And yet, people seem to fall into two obvious buckets right now. There is the “glass half empty” crew, (as in, those who approach it with “This is the worst thing ever! Let me share why this is harder for me than everyone else!”) OR those on the “glass half full” opposite end of the spectrum (“Wow, this time at home is a gift!  I’m recreating my whole approach to XYZ.”)  Of course, there is a host of reactions in between, but I seem to zero in on those two extremes the most when I connect with people.  And it’s likely to come as no surprise, I index more on the glass half full side.

We are now several months into this incredible period in history.  Of course, each of us needed to settle into our new routines and alternative ways of balancing our personal lives AND our work lives at home. As the world is slowly beginning to re-emerge from this period of isolation,  we are all getting excited to get outside and reconnect with the familiar.  Friends, family, and the simple pleasures of grabbing a bite to eat outdoors or laying on a beach are within our sight line.  Of course, hopefully we’ll be mindful about not jumping back in too quickly, as we don’t want to set ourselves back.  Finally, though, we can begin to see the sunshine peeking through the trees.

So who will you emerge as?  Will you be the person who immediately goes back to your comfortable space, and tries to get back to life as you knew it as quickly as possible?  Or did you instead embrace your life as if you were in a snowglobe (I’m stuck in a bubble, but let’s shake it up and find the beauty?!) I’m hoping for all of us that we are more of a snowglobe crew.  Why?  Consider this:

  • Yes, we have all faced challenges during this difficult time.  Health, financial, emotional, family...the list is endless. Obviously, some of us have been impacted significantly worse than others with layoffs, furloughs, and of course COVID related health issues. For those still working, we muddle through days trying to be productive while homeschooling our children or trying to plot out “safe” grocery store runs between meetings. At the core, each of us is facing unique challenges, and it offers such a wonderful time to pause and exercise our best empathy and understanding to all.  My challenges might be different than yours, but we all have them.  Those who emerge having not just “survived” but rather “thrived” are those that lean into those challenges, and find new and creative ways to be productive and connect with others. So whether it’s committing to taking a MasterClass in place of a few nights of Netflix, or getting outside for an hour a day and getting some fresh air and exercise, we can all find a host of (often inexpensive!!) ways to enrich our minds, bodies and spirits. Already there?  Help someone else take that step forward.
  • Yes, we all seem to be working harder than normal.  It’s not surprising that so many of us are claiming to be working harder than ever during this time.  This dynamic is likely happening for a variety of reasons, including never being more than a few feet away from your new “office”,  as well as attempting to be accommodating to your colleagues who are all facing their own challenges and managing their own time schedules. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for yourself.  We are all in this together, and no one is going to judge you for laying down the guidelines about what works best for you.  Personally, I start early in the morning, go straight out, and find myself totally useless by 6 pm.  That means I’m missing out on some virtual happy hours and need to be thoughtful about how I schedule time with people on the west coast, but it allows me to set expectations with both my colleagues, as well as my kids.  And because it works for me, I’m sticking to it.
  • Yes, our lives have been disrupted, but will this drive you to become a disruptor? As far as I am concerned, it’s not about what happens to us in life that matters; it’s how we choose to respond to it.  It’s fun to see how many people have used this time to lean into new hobbies (I’m floored by how many bread bakers there are in the world now!), pick up old ones, and find new ways to approach their lives. For some, that’s just been a function of adaptation.  For others, it’s sparked a creative outlet to shake up their world and make real change for the future.  I don’t care how amazing your life was before this all happened.  Every single one of us could do at least one thing differently to make our lives more meaningful or better.

We are on the cusp of entering into our new world, and nothing will be exactly as it was before this pandemic hit us. The question you should ask yourself is, “who am I going to be going forward?”.  I’d argue if you go back to life as it was, you’ve missed out on one of the biggest gifts of time and opportunity we might ever be handed.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator