We are all very familiar with the devastation in COVID’s wake. More than 550,000 lost their lives, ten million jobs evaporated, 7.8 million fell into poverty, millions left the workforce to care for children and families, and nearly everyone experienced unimaginable disruptions in their daily lives. What fewer of us are familiar with is an opportunity hidden in this moment, one that can serve as a positive inflection point for the remainder of our lives.
We have before us an invitation to change and transition.
During the pandemic, we all made hundreds of changes; in how we work, care for, study, date, eat, exercise, and perhaps love. Like all changes, these involved an alteration, a refinement, or a difference in particulars. Despite our deep dislike of change, we all enacted change on a large and small scale continuously over the past fourteen months.
In the midst of all this, many recognized something unique. All of a sudden, we were questioning or revisiting our choices about how to fill up our days. In the silence, we became aware of gaps in how we spend our time and what matters most to us.
It is during these shifts in awareness, when we use a different paradigm to ask questions about who we are or how we can make meaning in the world, that we do more than change; we embark on transition. Transitions are processes that enable us to come into our voices more clearly, genuinely, and powerfully.
The pandemic may have prompted some to leave a job or a spouse, or it may have tragically taken a loved one from us. In response, we may have initiated many changes. If these changes also invited us to shift what holds value or meaning to us, we then have an opportunity to respond by courageously turning up the volume on our voices, a shift that alters how we experience the world.
Transformation is a two-tier process.
Stepping into this new thinking about ourselves and the world takes more than courage. We have work to do on two tiers. The first tier is very practical; we need to reconstitute meaning and let go of that which no longer fits.
Think about a time when you needed to let go of a way of being. Maybe it involved disengaging from a workplace tempo that no longer fit your lifestyle or from a worldview held by your family that you could no longer share. Was it easy to do?
Layer on top of that response the second task which involves rearchitecting our relationship to the emotions that mobilize to try to keep us in place. Consider the individual contemplating a divorce. Fear may keep them in a hurtful relationship even though they might know it’s the right decision.
Society has taught us to be afraid of transition.
What remains universal about this moment is not our experience of the pandemic but the invitation for transformation hidden within. Even though the pandemic’s wrath cut along racial and ethnic lines, its finest gift – the invitation to transition – is available to everyone. Re-examining who we are is relevant for house cleaners as much as it is for CEOs.
Not everyone will respond in turn. Not because they cannot, but because we as a people are socialized to dismiss, tamp down, or run the other way when we feel the need to question the beliefs that constitute who we are.
Too often, society has trained us to apply the language of failure or brokenness when we disengage from beliefs or ways of being. Consider how your family might react to your announcement to leave a successful career and head off in an uncertain direction. Would they wonder how you might pay your bills or whether it’s a good choice at your age? How many would reach for the confetti or offer a hand in help?
What value is hidden in this courageous step?
Many people wonder what’s in it for them to take such a leap. Beethoven, credited as one of the greatest classical composers of all time, made such a transformational shift when he lost his hearing as a promising young composer. At first terrified, he withdrew from society and struggled to rethink an identity that felt immutable.
Beethoven updated the beliefs upon which he viewed himself and, through this action, unlocked an unfathomable gift that has inspired the ages. In his journey from this despair, he demonstrated the value of an opportunity in front of so many of us.
Those who are willing to do as Beethoven did will not only benefit from COVID’s flattened curve but also be introduced to a positive inflection point for the trajectory of the remainder of their life. Is now the time to lean in to the newfound awareness of who you are and what holds value and meaning to you?
Linda Rossetti is a Harvard MBA and serial entrepreneur focusing on transition and its impact on individuals and organizations. She is also the creator of “Destination Unknown,” a podcast exploring transitions and how to navigate them. You can follow Linda on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.