If there was ever a time for that word, it’s now. Never in our living memories has the rug been ripped so fast from underneath so many of us. Here we are, each scrambling to create some semblance of a ‘new normal’ in which we can be sure of only one thing: uncertainty.
One of my brilliant way-showers, Brene Brown, talks about the ‘Effing First Times’ (the FFTs). Well, if this pandemic doesn’t qualify as an ‘effing first time’ for most of us, I don’t know what does! There’s no rulebook. Our leaders don’t have one. We don’t have one. And that’s an uncomfortable situation in which to find ourselves, isn’t it…
When we can’t type our problem into Google and find a solution, we need to ‘Google inside’ instead. We need to lean inwards, and find our own way through. It’s up to each of us to create our own new normal.
If you are a solo, micro or small-business owner, this way-finding will involve forging a path through not just for yourself and perhaps your family, but for your business. It’s something I’m actively doing now, and I’d love to share with you my own ideas for these early days, along with some thoughts inspired by some of the remarkable women in the mastermind circles I lead. (Spoiler alert: it’s not all bad news!)
Get ready to connect even more deeply to meaning and purpose.
A crisis brings into sharp focus what really matters. External adornments are stripped back. Connection comes to the fore and the service and value we give to the world really shines. My friend and colleague Donna Brown urges us to become a refuge for our clients now, and I love this idea. What are we if not a soft place for our clients to land when they need help? A place away from the turmoil, where feelings are real, help is requested and support is given generously.
Here are some questions women have been asking in my mastermind groups…
‘Who am I now?’
This is particularly relevant if this crisis is forcing you to pivot into a whole new way of working. How do you redefine yourself, if things have changed for you radically? What happens when your business is a major part of your identity and almost overnight the landscape has shifted? What now? Where to next?
Is this grief?
We’re grieving the businesses and the lives we had, which were altered almost in an instant. This is sadness for something we’ve lost, and we had no control over that loss. If you’ve been trying to find a label for what you’re feeling — and that’s always a good idea — the emotion you’re struggling to articulate could well be grief.
Who are my trusted experts?
Some sources of information inflame our emotions. Too much information does that too. If you’re scrolling through viral horror stories before you go to sleep and checking exponential graphs first thing in the morning perhaps it’s time to put in some ‘consumption’ boundaries. I’ve had to do the same. One of the women in my Mastermind has chosen one or two trusted experts from whom she receives her information, and that’s it. She’s blocking the noise.
Another is seeking out futurists — people speculating about what this change could mean for us all. She’s devouring ideas about how the world might look after this, and it’s bringing some much-needed positivity.
Can we play now?
One of my clients has been in quarantine with her son. He returned from overseas, and the two of them and the two dogs have been in a really small space. They’ve been consciously creating fun. Domino runs and games and puzzles and laughter (and he’s twenty-one, I should add!) Play is never just for children. We all need to let off steam and have fun, now more than ever.
What’s on my rainy day list?
Mine includes everything from gardening to finishing the book I’m writing, along with working through the unfinished courses I’ve started. This is a great time to gently close some skill gaps, so you’re continuing to grow, rather than just spinning the wheels.
How can I support other small businesses?
We need to do whatever we can to keep businesses around us flowing. I enrolled in a writers accountability hub for 30 days. We order a takeaway meal from a local small business each week, and buy coffee while taking our dog for a walk. Every purchase helps, as does sharing other businesses with your friends on social media.
How can I create structure in my day?
We’ve lost a lot of our normal frameworks. I’ve been working at home for years but we’ve had to set my husband up to work from home too, which is new for both of us. When our routines have been upended, we need ‘bookends’ in the day. How do you start and end your waking hours?
What works for me is to perform the Tibetan rites in the morning, then genius mind writing, which is like journaling, to listen to a short meditation, to ensure I move my body (I’ve rejoined my local gym and am participating each morning in classes via zoom) and have at least one healthy meal. At the end of the day, it means going to bed at the same time every night, doing my gratitude list and listening to either a meditation or some beautiful music to lull me into sleep.
Of course these bookends were the first to go when everything changed suddenly. I’d not been eating well. I certainly wasn’t exercising or journaling. My husband and I were binge-watching Netflix and getting to bed far too late. And then of course I was grabbing my iPad and reading awful news! Hello! Is that why wasn’t sleeping so well?
As well as bookends, find those small times when you pause, take a breath, re-anchor yourself and just check in. I call them the ‘park benches’ in the day, when you slow and stop and gather yourself.
When we gather ourselves, we can be more conscious and make more conscious choices. And we can do that in several important ways:
We will come to the other side of this. And it’s really important for you to have remained a lighthouse and an anchor for your audience. It’s not about bustling full speed ahead with our pre-pandemic messaging and activities. That doesn’t feel right. But neither does hiding. Be there for your people. They need you.
Take note of what others are doing well. Ask, ‘how might that work for me?’ Look for inspiration. Take what’s happening in the marketplace and consider what you might emulate, in your own flavour. Obviously, I’m not talking about copying here. Your experience and perspective and audience and services are unique to you. It’s why people will follow you through this…
Reach out. Connect with individuals. Make sure people are okay. Bring people into your world. Collaborate. One of my clients owns a gym and is creating a wellness hub, where clients can gather for advice on everything from nutrition to physiotherapy to yoga in an online hub – she’s working with other service providers in her community to create the hub so they all benefit. Who could you co-create with at the moment?
Kindness is escalating at the moment. It lifts my heart.
I did a beautiful program many years ago called the ‘Soul Callers’ course, created and hosted by Amy Oscar. Amy asked us, in any difficult or threatening or scary or unusual or uncertain situation to pause and ask what would love do? To me that’s the essence of kindness, allowing yourself the power of the pause, so you’ll respond rather than react.
I hope you are safe. I hope you’re finding in your heart that, as uncertain and scary as things may be at the moment, we have an opportunity to connect more deeply with other people now, but also with ourselves. We can connect more deeply to meaning and purpose in our world. We can strip back some of those outer layers that haven’t felt great for a while now, if we’re honest…
Become clear on what you want to gift to the world. Know the value you want to add. Pause. Go inwards. Feel everything. Observe. Connect.
And be kind.