To say that change is difficult is a huge understatement. Disruption, uncertainty, and chaos make us feel insecure. We may feel disoriented, unsure of ourselves, and clueless as to what we should do next.
“Never waste a good crisis.” — Michael Bernard Beckwith
We’re all in this together. We’re all experiencing and coping with the disruption of norms due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Our days are drastically different from what they were.
Parents find themselves moonlighting as teachers from their living rooms as they try to meet with coworkers on Zoom. Many of us have been furloughed or laid off, many of our businesses are threatened, we’re losing clients or customers, events have disappeared, our livelihoods are endangered. And many of us are trying to adjust to working from home, juggling our lives, relationships, priorities, time…
Worst of all, many of us are facing uncertainty about our health and the health and protection of our loved ones. These concerns attack the very heart of our sense of security and safety.
It’s chaotic and unsettling. But change, no matter how uncomfortable or frustrating, is also a normal part of life—even in these seemingly abnormal circumstances.
Change is difficult. It’s also possible that we can learn to harness change as a force for transformation–but only if we can ride the change and learn its lessons.
We all know change is tough. We’re starting to see that life as we knew it will never be the same. These times call for not just getting through them, but for transforming—to become who we are capable of becoming. Transforming is more than learning and growing.
Learning is knowing something today we didn’t know before; growing is doing something we haven’t done before. Transforming is becoming someone we’ve never been before. However, as Bob likes to say, “transformation is a real bitch.” Frankly, he’s right. When we’re changing, growing, and transforming, it’s uncomfortable at best and painful at worst.
Yet, change is constant and necessary to our social-emotional intelligence and wellbeing. Change is part of being human. Each day, each moment, thousands of our cells are turning over. We’re always changing, as is the world around us. Our bodies are constantly transforming into something new and different than they were yesterday. Tomorrow, they will be different yet again.
Our minds, too, can undergo constant transformation. There have been many studies about how we adapt to changing environments and how these changes help shape and even strengthen our brain.
As we learn and adapt to different situations, we form new neuropathways. Our brains make different connections they grow, or as scientists say, we have neuroplasticity. Activating this quality of neuroplasticity actually keeps our brains sharp and functioning at peak capacity. Neuroplasticity–and the possibility of transforming–doesn’t just happen; we have to activate our neuroplasticity with our intention, attention, novelty, and stretching just at the edge of our comfort zone. (Merzenich)
Now, of course, our brains are also built with a strong sense of self-protection. The primitive part of our brain—our amygdala—is our survival center. It tells us when we feel fear when we should be alarmed. In unfamiliar circumstances, our fear center may be telling us to tread lightly, and move forward with caution. Right now in this unparalleled global crisis, many of us may feel like our amygdala is in overdrive.
We’re afraid, and to balance our fear, we’re seeking security. We may not be focusing on or even considering the new neuropathways that our brains are building from this experience because we’re just trying to get through these strange circumstances.
But if we focus on the growth that’s happening—the way we’re learning to cope and even address adversity during these challenges—it may help us reframe some of our fear. We can activate our neuroplasticity to build new beliefs, behaviors, and ways to deal with our emotions.
This time tells us a lot about our resilience, our spirit, and our sense of courage as we forge ahead throughout these challenges.
Each of us has a choice right now. We can decide that this current disruption of our norms that’s leaving us feeling so insecure and unsettled is really frightening and terrible and we should shut down. Or we can choose to use our fear to fuel our actions and see this as an opportunity to change and grow. (And it’s perfectly okay and normal to choose growth and still feel discomfort, grief, and fear!)
There are a lot of uplifting stories emerging from this outbreak that show people discovering their strengths and using this time to connect with others. Instead of choosing to isolate themselves during social distancing, they’re finding new, creative ways to connect and engage.
I’ve been moved to tears hearing about the kindness of strangers, stories of selfless service, watching and listening to Italian students creating beautiful harmonies in isolation as they sing, “They are one person…they are for each other” (lyrics from Helplessly Hoping by Crosby, Stills & Nash). They might still be frightened (of course), but they’re taking steps to reach out and engage.
People are seeing what they are capable of doing, finding love and compassion in their hearts, finding creative solutions to problems, learning new skills, and more.
While I have been frightened in this time, I have been stretching into new territory and have been so moved to see our whole company turn on a dime, with Bob’s strong visionary leadership.
We are converting all of our coaching and training to powerful, interactive online experiences. All our staff have new duties as we develop creative ways to serve–not only providing the services we’ve always provided but also designing and offering many free webinars, trainings, and conversations to provide support for people during this time.
We’re providing innovative curriculum, webinars, and workshops to support many different audiences on various topics: entrepreneurs, salespeople, leaders, parents, singles, couples, seminars on living with purpose during this time, emotional intelligence and harnessing fear, meditation, couples conflict, networking in this new world, dealing with soft addictions…
All of this is happening while we’re creating innovative ways to bring high touch to high tech. I am stretching into new territory, scared of the unknown, yet thrilled at the creativity and proud of what we are creating, the people we have the privilege to serve, and who we, and I, our staff, and our foundation are becoming.
What if we all used this time to learn a new skill? Or what if we channeled our energy into self-compassion, kindness, and activities that brought us a sense of calm and purpose? What if we took on the challenge to realize that we can learn and grow through this time, we can develop ourselves, we can transform? Might we then emerge from this experience stronger, more confident, and more powerful than when we began
Transformation doesn’t just happen. Making positive change and building new neural pathways in our brains doesn’t just happen without our intent, focus, and attention. Creating an intention for this time, for each activity we engage in, and focusing on what we want to get out of our experiences makes a monumental difference in the quality of our experience–and the results. Rather than waiting to just “get through this,” what if we intended to learn, grow, transform?
Any time we go into an unfamiliar experience, our intention can a powerful guide.
Maybe your intention during your shelter-at-home time is to really connect with your child by engaging in play each day—read stories, pretend, and use opportunity to connect with your family.
Maybe a nourishing intention for you is to find ways to strengthen your bond with your spouse as you figure out how to navigate the unfamiliar together. Have deeper conversations, play a game, or read a book together.
Perhaps your intention is to learn something new each day, create something, or find ways to connect with loved ones by writing them a letter of appreciation.
Maybe you intend to look for new possibilities, learn a new skill, try things you’ve never done before. Consider taking a course. (You can visit WrightNow to access our great courses for FREE for the next three months.) Or, maybe use this time of job insecurity or loss or furlough to develop more skills for the future, go back to school or get a graduate certificate or degree. Check out Wright Graduate University or our non-credit courses.
Some people may want to set the intention to connect with family or friends (even from a distance). Can you enjoy dinner over video conferencing? Could you Facetime with your friends? What if you watched the same film or read the same book and then set aside time for an in-depth discussion?
Find ways to bring more intention and meaning into each interaction. It may feel like staying home right now is a challenge—even a punishment. But we can find ways to bring a sense of purpose to this situation. What if we looked at our “shelter in place” as an opportunity to really savor some juicy, in-depth connections with important people in our lives? To develop deeper relationships? To focus on what really matters? To stretch ourselves into new territory, learning new things, becoming more of what we wish to be? What if it is a time for transformation?
This global challenge will test us. It will be difficult and even painful as we experience loss. We don’t know what will come, but we will get to a better world on the other side–and a better us. We are innovating, we’re growing, we’re changing, and we will learn how to support each other through this time.
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.