After any period of disruption, high-performers and high-achievers all want to get back into the game as quickly and completely as possible. But there is value in taking a moment to reflect. Is the direction you were heading the one you still want to take? Is it getting you where you ultimately want to be? As you dive back into the outside world, think carefully about what parts of your life you want to resume and what parts you can leave behind permanently.
By Kara Jorvig
Reopening. It’s a word filled with energy and optimism. Today, it stands as a symbol of hope after a period of uncertainty and disruption.
The high-performers I’ve spoken to recently are excited. After weeks of a relative economic standstill, they want to get back into the game as quickly as possible. They are jumping in with both feet, ready to restart the race.
There is a substantial benefit to this approach. It brings momentum that can accelerate the rebuilding process. However, if not done with intent or in a calculated manner, there is a downside. A few weeks or a few months down the road, many people who dove right in will likely start to experience frustration or anxiety. The routine they embraced with such gusto might not be generating the satisfaction they desire. The results might not be coming in as they should or, if they are, they won’t be producing the same intangible benefits they once provided.
Why? Because the old routine was designed around an old set of goals and desires. The recent disruption changed the leader. It caused a shift in priorities or expectations that the old routine does not address.
The only way to bring this situation back into alignment is to understand what has changed and what else needs to change as a result.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people at some sort of professional crossroad over the years, and they tend to fall into one of two groups. The first group is much like the group I described above. They are people who want to jump immediately into action. They want to make a choice and move forward without going through any sort of process where they build self-awareness. They don’t stop to ask, who am I? What do I want for myself? Where am I today? Where do I want to go? And because they don’t do that introspective work, they don’t define the variance between where they are and where they want to go. They just move directly into action that may or may not generate the results that they desire.
In the second group, we see people who become paralyzed and don’t do anything. For these folks, the anxiety, stress and pressure that comes from uncertainty become overwhelming. They may want to advance to that next level or transition away from what they’re doing, but they don’t know exactly how to do it and become so overwhelmed that they stay stuck. This group is more likely to know what they want, but they lack clarity around the steps they should take to move forward.
Even if you don’t fall into the second group, some members of your team likely do, so it is essential to know how to cope. Disruption causes a lot of uncertainty, and it throws people off their routine. Taking on new responsibilities at home while juggling work leaves people exhausted, physically and mentally. Burning the candle at both ends is a fast-track to frustration.
The key is to remember that navigating uncertainty is an endurance game. Endurance requires building muscles around resilience and tenacity, as well as practicing a routine that supports physical and mental health. It’s easy to slip into habits and behaviors that are counterproductive. When we’re under stress, binging on Netflix or numbing yourself in another way can feel good in the moment. But the longer you stay off your routine, the more you’re going to struggle to get back on track. Putting a good routine back in place, one that includes regular exercise, healthy eating and getting enough rest, is a first step to unlocking paralysis. Once you have that, you can introduce practices to support gratitude and a growth mindset. Keeping a gratitude journal either first thing in the morning or the last thing before bed is an excellent place to start.
The process for gaining clarity is the same for both groups.
First, you need to carve out some time to yourself. It’s vital to surround yourself with the right kinds of people both professionally and personally, people who provide wise counsel and encouragement. But at the end of the day, finding clarity is mostly a solo endeavor, so you’ll need to find time alone when you can focus. Then, you need to choose an activity that will help you re-center and identify where you are today, how you’re feeling and what you desire next. This could mean taking a self-assessment, spending time in prayer or meditation, or completing some journaling exercises.
Pause for a moment before you return to business as usual and make sure you’re clear about what you want and what it will take to get there. Is the direction you were heading still the one you want to take? And, in today’s environment, will it get you where you ultimately want to be?
You undoubtedly know exactly what you’ve missed most, what you’re most eager to resume. Is there anything you have not missed? This might be a long commute, an overly scheduled calendar, time with someone whom you find emotionally draining or an activity that had become more of an obligation. Is there an opportunity to leave these things in the past? Don’t carry around something that no longer serves you.
This has been a hard season. No question. But you most likely found a silver lining somewhere along the way, some sort of a “turn lemons into lemonade” experience. Maybe you’ve been able to spend more time as a family, playing games or connecting around the dinner table. Perhaps you have made more of an effort to video chat with friends and relatives who live far away. Or maybe you’ve had the chance to be more active by walking or running outside. Think about the things that have brought you joy that you would like to keep as part of your new routine.
Here are some questions that you can use whenever you need to gain clarity in your professional journey:
- How do I feel?
- What is a word to describe my energy most days?
- What is my current mindset?
- What triggers me?
- Do I have clarity around my goals?
- How do I show up each day?
- How do I perceive myself?
- What barriers or interference am I facing?
- How do I talk to myself?
- What is my inner critic saying? Is it loud? Is it quiet?
Asking these questions now, before you get too deeply into old habits and routines, will set you up for long-term personal satisfaction and business success.
Kara Jorvig is the founder and CEO of Allegro Group, a premier consulting, organizational strategy and talent acquisition firm. For nearly 20 years, she has partnered with CEOs and executive teams to help them build leadership teams that place their companies among the elite in their field. For more from Kara, follow her on Instagram @kara.jorvig and LinkedIn @karajorvig.