About a year ago, I wrote an article called “Could coaching save the world?” where I shared observations of what I might now call “societal strain” and how I felt that coaching was so well placed to meet an important need in the world. Fast track to today, the world is already unrecognisable in so many ways as a result of COVID-19.
Thousands of people have lost jobs, we have a supply and demand chain crisis which may catapult us into one of the biggest global recessions we have ever experienced, vast numbers of our populations across the globe are in isolation and confined to their homes. We have food hoarding, food rationing, food stealing and food rage. We have home schooling, conspiracy theories, and social unrest emerging in some parts. Most significantly of all, we have thousands of deaths with the numbers not yet under any real form of control in most parts of the world.
On the flip side, we have singing to each other from balconies. People are reaching out to help neighbours they may have previously never spoken to. Waters and skies are clearer and brighter and birds being heard singing for first time in years since the reduction of noise pollution. There’s been a significant reduction in pollution that we would never have dreamed possible just 3 or 4 weeks ago. Thousands of people are offering their help and support to others in need. Life is slowing down and people are spending time with their families and on their own fitness and wellbeing. Innovation, flexibility and creativity are showing in many ways. We’re seeing virtual dance parties, “vinner parties”, quiz nights on Zoom, and bring a pet to work from home day and many other adaptations in order to maintain the patterns and rituals of life that feel important.
What does all of this mean?
Just before COVID-19 reached my world, I thought that I was experiencing my own crisis as someone very close to me was going through 18 rounds of electro convulsive therapy (ECT). This meant being put under general anaesthetic and having an induced brain seizure twice a week for nine consecutive weeks. It was brutal to be with someone you care about going through such an experience, let alone how they must have felt on the receiving end of it. However, one of things that I remember being told at almost every appointment was that the treatment was like a “re-set”. Even though the experience itself was quite horrendous, it was an opportunity for things to be “re-set”.
I am not intending to draw any further comparison between ECT and COVID-19, however the notion of a “re-set” lingers with me…
What opportunity is being presented to us? What might be “re-set” by all of this, that is helpful to us?
I am hearing questions along the lines of “when will we ever get back to normal?” and I find two aspects of that question interesting. Firstly, “get back”. Here in the UK, Spring is coming and in the Spring we put our clocks forward. I also recall the work of Carol Pemberton in her book “Resilience” where she talks about resilience being the ability to bounce forward, not bounce back. I therefore propose a reframe of that question to something like:
How can we now go forward from here?
The other interesting word in the question is “normal” … what does that mean? More importantly, what will it mean in the future? If we can bounce forward, can we create a new normal?
What are you currently experiencing now, as a result of this situation, that you would like to keep and take forward into the new normal?
I am currently asking myself this question every day, several times actually, as I navigate making adjustments to my own world. One of the answers that emerges for me quite frequently is: “focus on what’s really important to you”. This experience has led to some wonderful and welcomed changes in my personal life including more time with my children, more laughter in my home, more quality conversations with my partner, more play, more sleep, more exercise, more writing and more meditation. In my professional life, I have found myself compelled to take significant action on a “project” that I have been thinking (and procrastinating about) for months, no years actually, and that is to launch an offering that is directly aimed towards social impact and social progress.
This time of “crisis” has offered me the chance to reflect upon what I really want to be doing with my time, what I have missed doing, and even more importantly who I want to be. I don’t intend to introduce morbidity into this article, however, when faced with this kind of global challenge, I have found myself wandering in my thinking towards questions like, what would I want to be known for, remembered for? These COVID-19 induced questions are actually really great questions!
Two things have become really clear to me so far. On a personal front, I am relishing the extra time that I have with those I love most, and I don’t want to compromise so much on that when this period has passed. I am also really benefitting from the slower pace and the time to take a little more care of me. On a professional front, I am excited to introduce my new offering, Coaching with Conscience which will operate alongside my current business and which exists to have a positive impact on society and environment through coaching. These things are what are important to me and are what I want to be integral to my “new normal”.
What is really important to you?
Sometimes, I also find myself hijacked by the attraction towards fear, worry and anxiety. After all, this is one of the biggest challenges our world has seen in our lifetime. When that happens, I do try my best to remember examples of people who have faced things far worse than me and I often think about the words of Viktor Frankl:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
What is the response that you choose?
What are we being invited to learn through this experience?
Will we listen, and will we learn?
Watch this video to learn more about Tracy’s new initiative, Coaching with Conscience:
Hilary Oliver is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor and Mentor Coach. Hilary trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an International Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Hilary also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. She has been the President of the UK ICF Chapter and is a Past Chair of the ICF Global Board.
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