Sunday, May 3, 2020

Getting Back To Normal?

I was so relieved the other night.  I'm a contributor on a podcast, and we were having a conversation between the four of us about the pandemic.  I've heard over and over the last few weeks how happy everyone will be when we can "return to normal" again.  One of my friends on the podcast said something that I'd been thinking a lot about for the last few weeks.  That's always a relief when you get confirmation that someone else is having similar thoughts.  And that thought?  Well, it's this:

I have absolutely no intentions what-so-ever of going back to what I considered "normal" before.

I have been habitually and chronically busy my entire adult life . . . and adding to my schedule every chance I get. I have aspired for 35 years to fill every waking moment with some kind of activity. Then on St. Patrick's Day everything came to a screeching halt.

Over the last 43 days, I've gone from pacing the house about to go nuts because I have nowhere to go and nothing to do, to finding myself in a state of peace the likes of which I haven't experienced since I was a very young man.

I have found calm and with it clarity.

But it didn't happen over night, and it didn't happen without considerable effort. I've had a lot of time to think, and I was way overdue for some very serious and very deep thought.  It's been like peeling an onion, one layer at a time, and getting down to what's at the very center.  And when you slowly peel away the layers one at a time and get down to that center, what you'll find there is what you're all about.  What's truly important to you.  Your beliefs. Your values and guiding principles. Your purpose and your mission are there, too.

The hard work was peeling away the layers. Some of those layers were ugly.  Some of those layers were things I didn't want to see or remember. There were some old wounds I didn't know were still there, and that I'd never let heal. And there were so many walls. And shields. And barriers.  Defenses I'd set up over time to protect myself--that part of me that's a lot more vulnerable than the thick skin and hard head I've developed over the years. 

These things at our center are timeless--they don't change.  They represent the best version of our selves.  But we pollute ourselves over time as we earn a living, interact with the world, survive the struggles, fight the battles, and struggle to shield and protect ourselves from the pain that life inevitably throws at us.

Over the last 42 days, I've reintroduced myself to someone I haven't seen in a long, long time. I've never been more relaxed.  I've never felt more grounded.  I've never been more focused.  And for the first time in many, many years I can sit still and just think.  I didn't have to decide anything.  I didn't have to make a list of goals.  I didn't have to create a plan.  I didn't have to make anything up.  I had to get down to the center and simply discover what was already there--what had always been there.

And we all have that, if we get down to it.

And the powerful part of this whole thing?  When you discover (or rediscover) what's at your core, you can apply it as a litmus test to every aspect of your life going forward.  It becomes your rule and your guide.  You can look at your calendar and say, "yes, that brings me closer to where I want to go" or "no, that doesn't."  You can look at your interactions with other people and easily tell if an interaction is in line with your principles or not.  You can look at projects you're involved with and easily tell which ones further your purpose, and which ones do not. And those difficult decisions we all have to make in life are so much easier when we apply those core values and principles to them.

So no, I'm not planning on "going back to normal" once we get through this pandemic.  My calendar will align with my purpose. My interactions with people will reflect my values.  And I will always live my life going forward in harmony with my beliefs.

~TEC

There's an excellent exercise that can help you in finding your center--it's creating a personal mission statement.  There are a number of books on the topic, but one in particular I'd recommend.  It's a very short book by Stephen R. Covey entitled "How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement."  It might take you an hour to read it.  I used it to help me work through my process, and I'm sure it will help you in yours!  You can download it on your Kindle from Amazon for 99 cents! 

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