The world is shifting – on every level. We are, in so many ways, at a crossroads. You can choose to hunker down and wait for the others to decide what the future will be or you can rise up and begin to build the future you want. I’m not necessarily suggesting you start a new company or run for office but I am asking you to think about what kind of world would make you feel satisfied.
Consider the space that fires you up – is it global food supply, domestic workers, distance learning for kids in K-12, or perhaps your own lifestyle and habits? Everything is getting questioned right now so why not find the questions that speak most powerfully to you and do the hard work to answer them in a way that will build the future you want?
For many of us, the impulse is to look for the leaders, the people who are smarter than us, braver than us, more experienced than us, to help us out of confusion and fear. Right now, at this moment in time, we all need to step up to lead in answering the questions we find most compelling or join others in finding the new way forward.
This simple methodology can help you begin building the future you want in the midst of chaos.
Define Your Territory
There is no shortage of compelling issues that need the attention of capable, curious people like you. Choosing where to focus your energy can feel overwhelming but the true overwhelm is the constant barrage of troubles the world is delivering at warp speed. When you intentionally give your attention to one particular area, you are – by default – removing your attention from all the competing issues.
Choosing a territory doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to change your mind later. It simply means you’ll channel your energy in this one direction for a bit. Let’s say you’ve been working from home for several months and you’re fatigued by the isolation, you’re frustrated by not being able to go to a movie or see a play, and you really want your kids to go back to school but you just found out that’s not going to happen. Your territory here can be defined as “home life”.
Find Your Footing
Take a look around with fresh eyes. How did you end up working at the kitchen table instead of a desk in the spare room? When did it become the norm for everyone to look at their electronics when you’re all together in a room? What created the environment in which you live and work every day? Get real about what led you to this place and work to understand where you may be able to make different decisions.
Identify Your Power
Even if you feel like your spouse, you kids, and your boss have required you to live like this, the truth is that you have some power to evolve your home life in a way that works better for you and your family. One way to identify your power is to critically look at a given day and call out the places where you feel the kind of power that produces a sense of ease. Another tactic is to determine where you make decisions for those in your home life. Are you the one who decides when meals are served, where they are eaten, or what’s prepared? That’s power.
When you step back and begin to truly recognize where you have actual impact (i.e. food planning, prep, and consumption), you can see where a different choice on your part can create a different reality for everyone.
Decode the Environment
Though our example here is about one particular home, you can apply this process to any organization. No matter where you go you’ll find a specific lexicon, certain qualities and behaviors that are lauded, and a set of values unique to that organization. You can work through these environmental factors in any group.
For a frustrated remote employee, you can begin to decode the culture you’ve created by observing the language everyone uses. The lexicon can both tell you a lot about the internal environment of the speaker and the current culture. Is your own vocabulary reflective of the environment in which you want to live? Do you refer to your home as being on lockdown or jest about being under house arrest? That language impacts the way you and those around you feel. Intentionally or not, that language results in a culture. When you change your words, you begin to change your culture.
Next take a deep dive into the heroes of your home. Who is praised and what behaviors earn praise? If you are realizing no one gets praise for anything and everyone is cranky all the time – that’s great insight. You can change that. You can decide that a hero in your home life is someone who was thoughtful, kind, honest, or independent. Whatever behaviors will make your home life better are worth encouraging.
We saved the hardest part for last: values. We all want to believe that our family values are good and true and above reproach. But more often the truth is that we haven’t actually articulated those values. We’re so busy living and tying shoes and starting a Zoom meeting and ordering more dog food that we fail to intentionally instill values in our family. The good news is that it’s not too late to look at how the people in your home life engage with one another and discern what values those behaviors support. It may be that you currently value obedience over curiosity or efficiency over independence. You can change that any time you want.
Make a Plan
How can you make adjustments to better suit the environment you want? With a plan. Sketch out the current reality, identify the places where you feel powerful, notice what you like and what you’d like to change. Start small with actionable goals. Perhaps it’s helping the folks in your home reinstate basic civility by using please and thank you. Maybe you want to rethink the language you use so that “stuck at home” becomes something more positive. As you begin to have success in small ways, you can increase the significance of the changes you’re making.
Whether it’s the culture at home or the environment in a corporate workplace, we can all have some level of impact in making positive changes. I hope you’ll step up.
Talk to you next month,