Our (Almost) New Normal

The different phases of the sun rising seen from my window on my American Airlines flight this morning. A good metaphor for change.

When the CDC removed restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings for vaccinated people last week, and governors followed suit, a new normal began. We could almost hear an audible sign as many took off their masks and rejoined society at a different level for the first time in more than a year. While some businesses are still requiring masks and even more still requiring social distancing, the feelings of freedom are palpable.

This past year of COVID has been an amazing time in our lives. If it taught us a anything, it should have taught us that we individuals are not in control. At any given time, our lives can change on the dime. Just think about our recent and even current gas shortage. We could not have imagined that before we even get out of our COVID crisis, we would have another one to deal with, a gas shortage.

Both of these events, COVID and the gas shortage, limited our flexibility greatly. Whereas prior to COVID we could travel without restrictions, since March of 2020, we have been somewhat home bound. Although there is great variance in how the virus and the restrictions have affected us, most people around the world have had to forego many of their freedoms. In the U.S we are very fortunate by having sufficient vaccines, while many in other countries are not so fortunate. The recent changes of loosening up restrictions is more of a U.S. phenomena, not yet available to many others around the world. Our friends in Canada are a good example of an industrialized nation that is still virtually on lockdown from COVID.

From all of this, especially from COVID since it has been a longer lasting crisis, we learned, or should have, that stability and even predictability is an illusion. Just when we think life is rocking along normally, our normal changes. So, what is our (almost) new normal in the U.S.?

The best word that describes our current, and I propose future, reality is ambiguity. Ambiguity is the unknown. We are living in a time when ambiguity needs to not just be accepted, but embraced.  We need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity, releasing our need for predictability. If we don’t expect ambiguity and get better at embracing it, we will not thrive, we may not even survive. The stress of trying to hold on to what we know and want instead of accepting and embracing the unknown can destroy us.

How do we do this? What tips and tools can help us accept and even embrace ambiguity? I have three ideas for consideration.

First, we must know ourself. We need to be very clear about what we need to feel in control of ourselves, even, or especially, when things are out of our control. What centers us? What restores our calm when all around us is crumbling, when the ground under our feet is shaky? Our answers to this tell us what we have to have to weather these times. What are our needs? Needs are different from wants. Our needs are nonnegotiable; we have to have them met to get through tough times.

Another idea is to surround ourselves with people who bring light and love to us, and minimize or  eliminate those who have the opposite effect on us. People need people. Not all people need people to the same degree, but we all need the connection we feel from positive people in our lives. To deal effectively with ambiguity requires that we have those people who we need to be present for us.

My third idea for consideration during times of ambiguity is to have systems that help us manage our time, money, and other resources. Time of great ambiguity are not the times to spend with abandon. Nor or they the time to spend our time with less than worthwhile endeavors. This is the time to conserve, so we have sufficient resources including energy to meet the demands of this time.  

What are your needs? Are you clear about those? Are you able to get them met most of the time, especially during times of great ambiguity?

Who brings light and love into your life? Are you able to be with them enough, either physically or emotionally? Have you or can you rid yourself from energy depleting people?

Do you have systems in place that help you conserve resources? Are you able to rest, sleep well, eat healthy, exercise consistently? If not, your body may give out, and an unhealthy body cannot manage times of ambiguity. Are your finances in order? If not, what changes can you make to begin to correct that? Are there some activities or obligations that need to be replaced by time for rest and reflection?

A lot to think about. And even more to do something about.       

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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