Designing People Strategies to Embrace the Future in a New Normal
Helena Herrero Lamuedra is an international HR Executive with extensive and intense experience partnering with Senior Leaders to achieve extraordinary results by transforming themselves and their organizations.
Helena had coached Top Executives in complex business and career transitions, oversaw the Human Capital Strategy for different businesses in alignment with overall business intent and specific culture and financial metrics, and was a catalyst in organization design and transformation related to mergers, acquisitions & divestitures by scaling businesses up or down in response to market opportunities.
She has a tracking record supporting businesses to develop a sustainable and impactful People Strategy by integrating Leadership Capabilities, Employee Value Proposition, Talent Management and Succession, Employee Engagement and Wellness and Learning Platforms.
Helena graduated with a Psychology degree from Universidad de Belgrano in Argentina, holds a Human Resources Certificate from Cornell University, US and is GPHR, SPHR and SCP certified as well as Certified Executive Coach and SCRUM Master, Coach and Trainer.
She is yoga and meditation practitioner and studied Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
Helena's focus is the integration of Design Thinking and Digital Disruption with Applied Neuroscience and Mindfulness, to realize organization's transformation to their upmost potential and results.
In the span of a single second, our lives can change, as energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can fathom. By Madisyn Taylor
Since our lives are constantly in motion energetically, change is a constant element of our existence. As dynamic as that energy is, it is not random or haphazard in nature — the shifts in energy that are constantly taking place are the result of our choices. The formulation of intention, a change in perspective, or the creation of a goal can transform our lives in blink of an eye.
We think positive thoughts and the world becomes a brighter place. Or we decide who we want to be and become that person. With each passing moment, we are given innumerable opportunities to create change using nothing more than our awareness.
In the span of a single second, our lives can change immeasurably because energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can consciously fathom. Though we may not at first be sensitive to the vibrational shifts taking place, our choices are ultimately at the heart of these transformations.
We can typically recognize the consequences of key decisions because we anticipated the resultant energetic shifts. But many, if not most, of the choices we make each day are a product of instantaneous reactions, and these still have a significant impact on the energy of our existence. It is for this reason that we should learn to wield what control we can over these shifts. If we bear in mind that all we think and all we do will shape the existence we know, we can deliberately direct the energetic motion of our lives.
Each day, you make an infinite array of decisions that cause energy shifts in the world around you. In many cases, these transitions are almost imperceptible, while in others the change that takes place is palpable not only to you but also to those in your sphere of influence.
Your awareness of the immediate energetic consequences of your thoughts and actions can guide you as you endeavor to make the most of the autonomy that defines you as an individual.
The myriad choices you make from moment to moment, however inconsequential they may seem, represent your personal power, which sanctions you to transform the energetic tide of your existence with nothing more than your will.
Real life most often happens during the in-between times, when we are not celebrating a special occasion.
While celebrations are intended to honor life’s more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration.
The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration.
Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It’s your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.
I sat at the edge of the dock and watched the lake’s waves gently crest and fall, undulating in sun-tinted hills and valleys that stretched as far as my eyes could see. The flow seemed in unison, geese flocking all in the same direction as the tide came in, storm clouds in the far distance drawing near.
As my legs dangled there, warmed by the still-present sun, clouds beginning to cover the sky in a cotton blanket, my toes just grazed the surface. I witnessed the reverberations of this tiny action, small ripples in all directions of where skin met water and water met skin. A smile crawls across my face.
I considered all the times that I focused on the splash. When faced with an approaching deadline or a problem to solve, I’d throw myself into one well-thought-out, perfected direction to make the thing I wanted most happen. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but every time I could guarantee I’d be exhausted.
When faced with a decision to try something new or let go of something old, I never bothered to witness what would happen if I just inched a toe in, allowing a tiny action to take it’s course over and over again. Dipping just a toe in could change everything. I might not be able to swim across the lake in one day. But the physics, the butterfly-effect mechanics of it move forward from just my willingness to show up, be present, and step in.
Being the type-A planner and over-thinker that I am, trying to start something without having fully charted a course usually stops me in my tracks. Shouldn’t I have this totally mapped out? Aren’t I just inviting a ton of mistakes and last-minute choices? Don’t I first need to research everything everyone else has done in a similar situation?
While some choices do require a lot of planning, maybe it doesn’t always have to be that complicated. Maybe the way to do a lot of things is that simple: You start trying to do the thing. You see what happens. Instead of using check-the-box, step-by-step processes, you focus on how you feel. You turn back when it no longer feels like you. You accept that perhaps there isn’t an end. It’s just a continual process of showing up more fully and finding the baseline joy in being yourself, even when it doesn’t feel easy.
It’s one thing to say, “Go on ahead, step your toe in,” but it’s another thing to actually get started in the face of second-guessing and resistance. How do you begin making even the tiniest of progress forward? What if you don’t even know what forward looks like? I don’t have the answers to any of this. But for me, it never hurts to get quiet and ask more questions.
Often, I reflect on these in my journal. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. What am I awake to now that I wasn’t before?
If I listen closely, there are voices I have failed to listen to, there are angles and curves and depths to this water where I can learn more, and places where my heart can break open wider to not just set my own self, but others around me free. I try to think about the one, tiny action-oriented thing I can do to acknowledge and uplift those voices and places. That’s forward motion.
2. How am I holding on too tightly?
Lately, I feel like I am just hanging on to my well-being by the tips of my fingers. But every few days, I hit on that joyous, spacious, floating feeling and wonder how that happens. Mostly, it only happens when I am okay with things not going how I want them to go. Even if I feel like things are out of control, I find comfort in knowing I can paddle my own boat, right here, in this body I have right now, no matter how many waves are crashing into me.
3. How am I focusing on the barriers?
If I pay attention, I can see that I’m actually not an incredibly unlucky person who has bad things happen to her, but a person who focuses on only the supposedly bad things that happen to her. This isn’t about self-blame, but rather, reframing the regret of past events or the anxiety about the future as the blocks I’ve created in my flow. These are barriers in the water that I am choosing to narrowly focus on, instead of noticing that water moves around and through things every day. I may wobble, shift, and change, but as I slowly come out from the other side, I’ll be more resilient, centered, and transformed.
Overall, these questions help me explore the fear of stepping into the unknown, and instead of looking solely at the risks of what could go wrong, to focus also on the opportunities that the unknown presents. Keep in mind: You can always pivot, turn back, or flat out quit. You aren’t trying to end up somewhere exactly, you’re taking one step into the water of possibility, with your curiosity as your compass.
If asking these questions makes this notion sound simple, perfect, or complete, as if it will feel effortless—it won’t. It is akin to a tidal force—we have to continually sink back into our own knowledge in order to reach forward. There’s no shortcut here around yourself, which is perhaps the most difficult challenge to confront of all.
But I know this: If you never step into the water, you’ll never know where the ripples take you. Maybe, even if darkness approaches, I can dip my toe into this water, and maybe, the effect of my ripples are somewhere out there, as you read this, navigating to you. It seems like a good possibility, and one worth smiling about.
Like the changing seasons, life is cyclical and looking back at our life we can see our own symbolic springs, summers, autumns, and winters.
In this modern world, it is easy for many of us to feel loosely bonded to the world’s cycles. As many of our duties tend to stay the same through both heat and cold, the equinoxes and solstices may carry little weight. Yet the seasons do shift, daylight waxes and wanes, and, sometimes extravagantly and often subtly, nature changes her face.
Many ancient cultures devised artful explanations for the never-ending transition from spring to summer to autumn to winter. The Navajo Indians believed the seasons were caused by Estsanatlehi, the wife of the Sun God. They believe that Estsanatlehi renews herself each spring, blossoms in the summer, ages through the autumn, and dies in the winter.
The four seasons are often associated with a joyous, eternal cycle of life.
We can look to the cycle of the changing seasons to create meaning within our own lives.
In each season, there is a prevalent mood that can inspire poignant reflection. Autumn ushers in crisp, chilly mornings and evenings. There is a shortening of days and a lengthening of shadows. Winter creates a bare landscape bathed in bright, pure light. Spring is a time of regrowth and new possibilities. While summer is a time of long days during which the rich fullness of those possibilities can fully blossom.
Like the changing seasons, life is cyclical. Look back over the years, and you can see your own symbolic springs, summers, autumns, and winters.
Each new season brings with it familiar joys that can be pleasurable to reacquaint yourself with. Embrace the feelings that each new season awakens within you. Above all, savor the changes, knowing that each season that passes will come again.
Always remember that each season can connect you closer to the earth’s cycles while bringing something special into your life.
The refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance, can add a new richness and texture to your life.
Though we humans are self-aware, we nonetheless cannot distance ourselves from the world around us and have a natural tendency to ascribe meaning to all that we experience. The significance we perceive in our experiences is rooted in our observation of patterns as they relate to ourselves.
One situation has the power to teach us about life because it exposes us to something unfamiliar. Another touches our emotions deeply by enabling us to see how fortunate we are. Yet our initial impressions of an experience may not wholly reveal the true significance of that occurrence because our full response to an experience is like an onion with many layers that all have disparate meanings.
Consider that a sunrise may stun us visually while simultaneously evoking memories of childhood and reminding us that each new day is a rebirth.
If you take the time to examine your experiences closely, you will discover that your original impressions may only be a part of a larger story of significance. Peeling away the layers of an event or incident can be a fun and interesting process if you allow it.
Your interpretation of any situation is based not only on facts but also on feelings, beliefs, and your values. As you ruminate upon your experience, spend a few moments contemplating how you felt when it began and how your feelings had changed by its end. Ask yourself what abstractions, if any, it awakened in your mind.
The significance of an experience may remain hidden to you for some time. The meaning of an event can change when viewed from another context or may only become apparent after intense meditation. An incident that seemed superficial may unexpectedly touch us deeply later in our lives.
If you take a truly open-minded approach to your examination of each new level and do not shy away from revelations that could prove painful, you will learn much about your relationship to the world around you.
And the refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance can add a new richness and texture to your life.
In the early days of the pandemic, it seemed smart to press pause on major decisions; it’s not ideal to make big changes in the midst of a crisis. But now, several months in, many people are facing difficult decisions — involving relationships, careers, children, health and more — that can no longer be ignored.
“The advice of not making decisions when you’re under stress is great for someone who is in a short-term traumatic experience where there’s an end to it,” says Kimberly Diggles, a licensed marriage and family therapist. But with no end to the pandemic in sight, particularly here in the United States where the number of coronavirus cases remains high, Diggles says it may not be possible or healthy to leave big decisions on the back burner. Instead, she and the other experts with whom we spoke recommend a proactive, mindful approach. Here are their tips for decision-making during the pandemic and other stressful circumstances.
Assess the moment
Stress can negatively affect our cognitive performance, so try not to rush into a decision during a tense or fearful moment.
“When we perceive a threat in the environment, the amygdala” — often referred to as the fear center of the brain — “becomes overactivated,” says Sunita Sah, an organizational psychologist, expert on decision-making and professor of management studies at the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, the emotional regulation center of the brain is underactivated and the prefrontal cortex — which is required for thinking — is also underactivated, which makes it very difficult to think clearly.”
Taking a beat to bring down your heart rate can help. You need to feel less afraid to make a good decision, Sah says. “If you’re feeling really stressed or traumatized, try not to make an instant decision. The first step is to get some distance.”
For people who work in high-pressure environments — such as Elizabeth Clayborne, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center — swift decisions are often necessary. But equally important, Clayborne says, is the self-awareness to recognize when you need to regroup. “I work in an environment where mistakes cost lives. So I have to be diligent to know that I’m always performing to the best of my abilities,” she says. “In the ER where there isn’t really a time to break, I have to be creative to create the space I need to think.” That may mean something as simple as walking to the cafeteria or getting something to drink, she says. Taking a moment, even briefly, to stop or step away is a small action that can make a massive difference, allowing you to reset and then “re-engage in a more focused manner,” Clayborne adds. Pausing can also prevent you from falling into another effect of stress: binary thinking (limiting yourself to just two options).
You wouldn’t take a road trip without gas in the tank, so try to avoid embarking on a big decision when you’re running on empty. This advice might seem obvious, but Diggles and Clayborne say that it’s common for people — particularly in places with a strong hustle or busy culture — to unintentionally skimp on the basics. Missing out on meals and sleep “shouldn’t be a badge of honor,” Diggles says. “Give your body a chance and give your brain the energy it needs.”
In addition to fueling your physical body, take a proactive approach to your mental health. Diggles suggests finding a grounding activity (her current favorite: yin yoga) that will relax your mind in a way that allows you to “practice being mindful and intentional with your thoughts” so that when you start to feel anxious or you’re faced with a decision, you have the ability to talk yourself through it.
High-impact decisions deserve your undivided attention, says Cassandra Shuck, an entrepreneur who has launched several successful businesses. “A lot of times when we’re making a decision, we’re often multitasking and don’t give it the full stage.” She suggests blocking out time in your schedule for a “one-on-one meeting with yourself.”
Don’t show up to your meeting empty-handed; prepare a list of questions to help you think through options and visualize a variety of outcomes. Here are some prompts to get you started:
Is this a time-sensitive decision? This can help you prioritize according to urgency and determine if something can be put off. “Buying a new car, for example, may not be time-sensitive. There will always be cars on the lot to buy,” Diggles says. “But something like IVF or trying to decide whether you’re going to home-school your kids or go back to work, those may be time-sensitive.”
What type of energy does it require, and do you have the capacity for that right now? Your capacity may fluctuate day-to-day, Diggles says, so what you need to consider is whether, on average, you would have the bandwidth to carry out the decision once it’s made.
Is it something you were thinking about pre-pandemic? Consider whether the decision was already on your radar. Diggles says asking this question can help you determine whether you’re making a choice to ease uncomfortable feelings related to the pandemic or to move something forward that’s important to you. Avoid making “reactive decisions,” she says.
What might the choice look like down the road? Who does it affect? What happens if you succeed or fail? Shuck suggests fast-forwarding mentally to your future and imagining what it’d be like to look back on your life. Allowing yourself to take this view can provide insight into whether and in what ways this decision is important. And, she says, don’t discount your intuition. While all of the experts warn against making impulsive decisions, they acknowledge that your “gut” reaction can alert you to something significant. “Gut reactions give you information,” says Sah, the organizational psychologist, and when it comes to high-impact, personal decisions, “people have to think about different scenarios and their own comfort with risk-taking.” So, she says, we need both an intuitive, emotional response and a slow, deliberative approach to make good decisions.
What are your biggest fears about making this decision? Diggles recommends doing some “reality testing” on your fears to gauge whether they are genuine possibilities or if your brain is serving up overgeneralizations and binary thinking.
Don’t go it alone
Once you’ve had a chance to think through things on your own, seek support and a sounding board.
A friend, therapist or health-care provider can introduce possibilities you may not have considered. Diggles says this is particularly important but also challenging when making decisions during tough times. “When you’re in the middle of a trauma, the last thing that you want to do is go to something unfamiliar. That can be scary … and it takes bravery to consider options you haven’t before.”
If possible, Sah says, in addition to a support system, invite the insight of people who think differently from you to introduce “cognitive diversity” into the mix. But be discerning, she says: Consider the source and their potential biases. She also recommends physically separating yourself from the advice-giver before you make a decision, if possible, to reduce the effects of “insinuation anxiety” — the concern that rejecting advice will signal distrust to the adviser. Invite input but then make the decision in private if possible. “Even just a few minutes [apart from the advice-giver] really helps you to understand what your own preferences are,” Sah says. “If you need time and space, ask for it.”
If you’re hesitant to seek out advice and lean on others, ask yourself why — and try to push past the tendency to withhold. Oftentimes due to social conditioning or expectations, “women especially do a lot of silent suffering,” Clayborne says. “I don’t think we should feel guilty about asking for support.” She knows firsthand the value of a support system in navigating difficult decisions and uncharted territory: Clayborne was seven months pregnant when the coronavirus arrived in the United States and she continued working in the emergency department of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in Maryland. Two other colleagues were pregnant at the same time and, in facing so many unknowns, the three leaned on each other (and have all since delivered healthy baby girls).
Do your best with what you’ve got
Once you’ve laid out your options, you may find none of them are ideal. “Sometimes it might seem like there’s no good solution and anything you choose is going to leave you at a loss of something,” Diggles says. But if a decision must be made, take a moment to acknowledge sadness about the circumstances that have forced you to make this choice, and mourn the loss.
The good news, Sah says, is that once you’ve decided something, you may experience relief. Whereas, if you’re still hung up on making the decision after you’ve done your research, collected insight and weighed your options, that can lead to the added anxiety of being stuck in “analysis paralysis.”
And once you’ve made a decision, says Shuck, the entrepreneur, go all in. “When you make a decision, most of what matters is actually how you carry it out,” she says. If you halfheartedly commit, the outcome will likely reflect that.
Although decision-making can feel exceptionally difficult right now, times of trauma and upheaval can also provide clarity and unanticipated opportunities to pay attention to and accelerate things that are important to us. “Sometimes traumatic events can be a catalyst for moving us forward,” Diggles says. For example, “we’re seeing that with Black Lives Matter.” (After the police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans, several million people in the United States took part in protests; the New York Times reported Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in this country’s history.)
Significant change is possible on an individual level as well. A number of Shuck’s businesses have sprouted from times of trauma; two weeks after delivering a stillborn baby, she launched a doula and bereavement business, and two months after giving birth to her daughter and struggling with breastfeeding, she created a lactation cookie company. In both instances, she says her healing process led to helping others on their journey.
“Remember that one of our best human strengths is our ability to bounce back,” Clayborne, the emergency medicine physician, says. “I see it at work — human beings impress me every day, people survive and manage things that I can’t even imagine sometimes. I know people are scared for a number of reasons, but I’ve always felt that I see the true human spirit shine through most brightly when we’re challenged and there are uncertainties like what we’re experiencing right now. We are a resilient species, and I expect great things in the future.”
As we live, we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview.
Living in an information age, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the constant influx of scientific studies, breaking news, and even spiritual revelations that fill our bookshelves, radio waves, and in-boxes. No sooner have we decided what to eat or how to think about the universe than a new study or book comes out confounding our well-researched opinion. After a while, we may be tempted to dismiss or ignore new information in the interest of stabilizing our point of view, and this is understandable. Rather than closing down, we might try instead to remain open by allowing our intuition to guide us.
For example, contradictory studies concerning foods that are good for you and foods that are bad for you are plentiful. At a certain point, though, we can feel for ourselves whether coffee or tomatoes are good for us or not. The answer is different for each individual, and this is something that a scientific study can’t quite account for. All we can do is take in the information and process it through our own systems of understanding. In the end, only we can decide what information, ideas, and concepts we will integrate. Remaining open allows us to continually change and shift by checking in with ourselves as we learn new information. It keeps us flexible and alert, and while it can feel a bit like being thrown off balance all the time, this openness is essential to the process of growth and expansion.
Perhaps the key is realizing that we are not going to finally get to some stable place of having it all figured out. Throughout our lives we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview. No sooner will we have reached some kind of stability than it will be time to open again to new information, which is inherently destabilizing.
If we see ourselves as surfers riding the incoming waves of information and inspiration, always open and willing to attune ourselves to the next shift, we will see how blessed we are to have this opportunity to play on the waves and, most of all, to enjoy the ride.
The question “How are you?” has long been a go-to greeting, a way to spark a bit of small talk. But this year, as our lives have been impacted by a myriad of challenges — the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest, political stress, and more — we have an opportunity (and need) to deepen our connections with others. And asking more meaningful questions can help spark those productive, compassionate conversations.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us thequestions they’re asking others right now that are strengthening their connections. Which of these will you start asking others?
What’s something you’re excited about?
“Asking someone what they’re passionate about at the moment can be a great conversation starter. Even before the pandemic, my favorite conversation opener was, ‘What’s something you’re excited about right now?’ It’s open-ended enough for someone to talk about their work, their favorite TV show, or anything else that they’re loving at the moment. I love watching someone’s face light up when they get to talk about something that excites them.”
—Craig Inzana, content creator, Omaha, NE
What’s been keeping you busy?
“I’ve recently found that asking people more specific, but not intrusive, questions leads to a more authentic exchange. Some of my go-to questions are asking people what’s been keeping them busy lately, how they’ve been spending their time, or even asking about movies or books they’ve come across lately. Since there is so much stress and uncertainty in many people’s lives, striking the balance between curious and compassionate is key.”
—Marta Chavent, change and management consultant, France
What have you learned about yourself lately?
“I have enjoyed asking people, ‘What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself this year?’ Not only have I realized that they usually open up and are willing to share personal stories, but they also get excited about sharing something positive related to personal growth. I find that asking this question always leads to very vulnerable conversations.”
—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Orange County, CA
How are you feeling?
“One thing I try to always ask my family and friends is how they are feeling emotionally and mentally. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I know that when you are in the depths of the fog, it’s easy to just say, ‘Yeah, I am good’ when someone asks how you are. But taking things a bit further and asking how someone is feeling shows that you understand that feelings are more complex than just being ‘fine.’ It also helps the other person know that they can confide in you if they need.”
—Melinda Jackson, Raleigh, NC
How are your spirits today?
“The number one question I am asking everyone in my life, from family, friends, clients, and strangers, is ‘How’s your spirit today?’ At first, people are surprised, because it’s usually the first time they’ve been asked that question. But once they take a moment to reflect, they openly share, and always thank me for asking. They often say that it’s the first time they’ve stopped to reflect on their spirit in a long time. It’s a question that grounds us in the present moment.”
—Nory Pouncil, self-awareness coach, Fort Lauderdale, FL
What are you doing to care for yourself right now?
“Since I’m working with clients consistently on often long-term projects, I like to check in first by asking others what they are doing to care for themselves right now. It’s a good conversation starter to get people thinking about how they are tending to their own self-care and well-being, even as they work on external goals and projects.”
—Henna Garrison, life coach and educator, Sicily, Italy
How can I help support you?
“I am finding power in the leadership question, ‘How can I help support you?’ This simple question cuts through organizational hierarchies and helps us meet the person where they are at that moment in time. Most often, people don’t have an immediate answer because we aren’t terribly good at asking for help. But if you ask the question, and then sit in the silence for a few seconds, people realize you’re there for them now and later when needed.”
—-Donna Peters, career coach, podcast host, lecturer, Atlanta, GA
What have you been cooking?
“‘How are you?’ is typically the first question we think of, but a more meaningful one I ask, especially to my 79-year-old mom is, ‘What are you cooking today?’ Talking mutually about what we cook that day or week is always heartwarming, and it’s a great conversation starter. Exchanging recipes and sharing ideas on dishes based on seasonal ingredients gives us a sense of safety and closeness as we share those small but essential everyday things, putting the stressors of the pandemic aside for a moment.
—Esin Sungur, Brand Consultant, İstanbul-Turkey
What are you grateful for right now?
“One question that I’ve been asking lately is, ‘What is something that you are grateful for during this time?’ How we frame things can often elicit certain feelings because it asks for the person to focus on something in particular. In this case, that would be things that bring joy, gratitude, and connection. When we face challenging times, I always find it helpful to remind ourselves what we should be centering on, and that starts with gratitude.”
—Simon Tam, author and musician, Cincinnati, OH
What are you looking forward to?
“I prefer asking this question these days instead of ‘How are you.’ I find that itgives whomever I’m speaking with space to assess their answer and reflect. Rather than a thoughtless ‘fine’ or ‘meh,’ their answer is typically more thoughtful and it helps them stay optimistic during this time. This question creates opportunities for engagement that move static conversations into more meaningful directions.”
—Ampy Basa, community director and HerSpace, Oslo, Norway
What’s been the highlight of your day?
“The questions we ask one another can spark a sense of validation and connectivity. I’ve been asking people, ‘What has been the highlight of your day?’ This question shifts the focus away from the expected ‘how are you?’ and ‘I am fine’ interchange, and instead makes the receiver of this question really think about what has brought them a sense of meaning and fulfillment that day. It’s a great conversation starter and an energy-booster. I find that it’s also a great opportunity to focus on our small wins.”
—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, NJ/ NY
What question is helping you connect with others right now?
The world changed for all of us in the first quarter of this year. All of the plans we had in place for 2020 were disrupted as the coronavirus spread around the world. Our well-thought-out goals to grow and develop were quickly set aside as we switched gears to simply get through the day. We all became agile, adaptive, and reactive, changing strategies as the situation demanded.
“Now that we have a better sense of what we are up against, that this will be a marathon and not a sprint, we need to take a look at where we stand. What are our goals for moving forward into the next 18 months?”
When setting goals, Blanchard suggests a three-step formula:
Assess your current situation.
Decide where you want to be, keeping in mind your new reality.
Outline a clear first step that’s achievable.
Assessing your current situation
“COVID has put a lot of pressure on us. And when pressure is applied, cracks form along fault lines. It’s likely that frailties you may have had before this have flared up. Many of us are familiar with the typical coping strategies of overeating, overdrinking, or binge-watching TV shows. But other, more subtle tendencies, especially those connected to core personal needs—such as the need to control or the need to judge—can rear their heads when life is disrupted. It is really important to pay attention to these tendencies so that they don’t inadvertently run the show.
“Do you know where your fault lines are? Have you noticed your frailties? Addressing them starts with naming them and claiming them. Bring your limiting coping mechanisms under control and shore up those frailties. If a coping strategy is getting the best of you, get some support from a friend, a significant other, or your manager. Find small ways to get your needs met that don’t cause you to alienate others.”
Decide where you want to be
Next, get back to your original vision of who you wanted to be, says Blanchard.
“We can’t do everything at the same time, so it is important to use your values—what you say is important to you—to decide which part of your vision is most significant right now. If you have never done purpose work (often referred to by Simon Sinek as finding your “WHY”), now is the perfect time to give it some thought.
“When creating a vision for your team, or possibly reclaiming it after being knocked off course, you might think about asking team members: What is our purpose? What have we lost in the last few months that we should try to get back? What have we never had that, if we had it, would make us stronger and more likely to achieve our purpose?
“Asking questions like these will do two things: (1) generate feedback you may need to hear; and (2) help your team members to reconnect with the powerful basics that will drive the changes needed to get moving in the right direction.”
Outline a clear first step
This is where you turn the vision into action, says Blanchard.
“Think: What is the first thing I can do that is a manageable task and has a beginning, middle, and end? An example might be to complete a ten-minute workout on a free workout app between ending your workday and getting dinner started. Your first task should be small and completely doable.
“The best way to ensure that you will actually take your first step is to find a buddy who will also do it, or who will do something else they commit to during that same ten-minute period. You can easily sabotage yourself by making the task too big or too involved. The key is to choose something you can succeed at right away—because there is nothing quite so compelling as success.”
Take action now
In any case, it’s getting started that counts says Blanchard.
“It has been a challenging year—but perhaps the time has come to commit to our own growth and development.”
That’s great advice. Abraham Maslow famously said, “You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” To the degree that each of us can see the road before us, let’s take that step forward by rediscovering our purpose, taking a realistic view of our current situation, and committing to action!
By David Witt, based on the work of Ken and Madelaine Blanchard.