I’ve just finished reading a novel called American Dirt. In it, a mother and son need to jump aboard a moving train, more than once. Timing is critical, and it’s terrifying every time.
Do you feel a bit like that these days?
I mentioned in a previous post that this period of pandemic-related disruption has thrown off my sense of timing. My comment resonated with many of you, and I’ve been giving it further thought.
I’ve identified six factors that are contributing to this unsettledness:
- I miss watching sports, live and on television. The rhythm they gave to my calendar is gone and I hadn’t realized what informal scaffolding it provided. (I’m also disappointed that the Olympics have been delayed. Right decision, but sad). So, I’ve decided to draw on sports analogies for my other five points. Perhaps you have some anchors that have come unmoored and shaken your sense of rhythm?
- Runners pace themselves based on the length of their race. It’s impossible to run a marathon at sprint speed or vice versa. We don’t know right now what the length of this race is, so we don’t know how fast to run it. I think we are getting a sense that it falls more into the category of marathon not sprint, but not knowing if we should measure it in weeks or months is unsettling. Do you find yourself going too hard for the long haul?
- We are being expected to pivot dizzyingly quickly. Some people are more prepared to for that level of agility than others — think of the difference between a tennis player who is used to being light on her feet and ready for the next volley, compared to a weightlifter who has trained to be solid and steady. With the level of collective stress we are experiencing, rapid adaptation may be more than many of us can be expected to handle. Are you freezing when you actually need to move, or move faster?
- Our routines are off. Any high-performance athlete has rituals and rhythms that shape his training regime. The same is true for sports teams. Yet much of our predictability, individually and collectively, has been stripped away. This has happened in big ways (i.e. a truly global pandemic that has taken hold with alarming speed) and in small ways (e.g. my office space has been moved into my bedroom). No wonder we barely know what day it is! How can inject some normalcy into your days?
- I miss having things to look forward to. Most athletes compete for a prize. I am learning how much I love having things on my calendar to getting excited about. Time passes sluggishly without them. Can we add a few things back in? Not quite the excitement of an upcoming trip, but perhaps a dinner date with friends over Zoom?
- Like the mother and son in my book, or perhaps a hurdler who needs to time her jumps to be not too early and not too late, I am conscious of wanting to get my timing right. Too soon and I risk sounding tone deaf — it would have been inappropriate in the early days of this crisis to be actively selling things to clients that weren’t hand sanitizer or toilet paper! — and yet too late and I won’t stay ahead of the crowd. (Perhaps, like me, you don’t want to be invited to another webinar teaching how to lead a remote team — that was SO last week!) If you sell things, how can you be truly of service without sounding slick?
I want to encourage you if you are feeling “off.” All of this is exhausting. However fast you’re running, whatever shifts you’ve been able to make, you’re doing the best you can. Let me be your coach on the sidelines cheering you on. Go for your personal best.
And even world class athletes don’t land a new personal best every day. Just show up. And be kind to yourself for managing to do so.