Planning your future, now.
A time of drought is a time when the rains don’t come. The wells dry up and no one is spared. But droughts end and opportunities arise for those willing to take them. Right now we are all in such a time, where things taken for granted have disappeared overnight. What will you do differently when the drought ends and the rains come?
The one thing we have right now is time
In our society we don’t get a lot of downtime, and when we do we tend to fill it with vacations and other activities, activities that are themselves devoid of downtime. We don’t really know what to do with unplanned gaps. This is why unexpected unemployment, for example, is such a mental shock, in addition to a financial shock.
What we are being given right now is time, time to think about where we want to be when things begin to move again. My personal feeling is that there will be no return to ‘normal’, that many choices will be different. There are two ways to cope with this: to deny it and do everything we can to go back, or to embrace this new world, darkened as it will be by our experience with the virus.
Throw out the bucket list and make a life list
Bucket lists are typically one-time experiences we want to experience before we die. They’re fun in their way and lists have a way of getting checked off. But we have an opportunity to rethink a list that is often much less defined, a list of what a new life might look like. A description of your day to day life months from now, in a perfect world.
The ‘perfect world’ planning model has no rules
What if you had a clean slate and enough resources to draw a new life on it? You have one of those resources right now: time to plan and imagine. Even if you continue to work full time, feed and educate the kids, or have a full day, there is still some time to be found to dream a little. Commuter time, coffee break time, time not spent in office small talk. Why not imagine a different life path? It costs nothing and it can do no harm. Apply the perfect world model: in a perfect world I’d…
This is not daydreaming and there is a reason why.
Changes start with incremental actions and build momentum on their own: Write it down and share it
There is a requirement that moves this out of the daydreaming world and into the real world: you have to write what you want down. Simple enough, right? Very few people do this, with a few famous exceptions that include practically anyone whose lives you admire. Successful happy people activate their dreams by writing them down and sharing them.
Why sharing? It could be embarrassing, right? Look, we are all in an unknown place right now, all of us. That gives us a shared viewpoint that is exceedingly rare in life. Any stranger you see is coping with something monumental: money issues, unemployment, fear, illness, or loss. And all of us are those strangers with that unexplored bond. Sharing a dream of how you would like to come out of this isolation with others will not only validate it, it will get others thinking forward instead of dwelling on today’s issues.
But it does something else. Writing down your new life description and sharing it, activates it. On a subconscious level your mind takes these actions as instructions to start making changes. Too New Age for you? Try it. Write down a new habit you are going to install. Give it a time of day, parameters, and a goal. Then follow your instructions. My most recent one is ‘don’t leave dishes in the sink’. This means when I make dishes I wash them (I do not have a dishwasher to hide them in!). The timeframe is when I make a dish, the parameters are: wash them now, not later, and the goal is always to walk into a clean kitchen.
Be specific in your description
Goals activate when they are clearly defined. If your new life is vaguely defined, it will be a vague life, which is more common than you think. You need to provide some telling details. In fiction writing, details are very important but must be used sparingly because the reader prefers to fill in the blanks. Your subconscious, given important details, will fill in the blanks.
Because we have time, and unlimited access to information resources, we can do some research, another way of loading details into that part of ourselves that takes action. Read bios of people with lives like that you imagine. Learn what the day to day boring parts are like. Figure out whether they sound like a worthwhile trade off for that new life.
Populate your new world
One of the things we learn from a forced break with reality, like the one we are all experiencing right now, is the value of other people in our lives. This is a double-edged sword. I have learned that some on the fringes of my life are more important than I gave them credit for while others are not. These can be brutal lessons and many will ignore them. But those who willfully ignore that lesson fall into the category of those who want to return to the familiar.
This is a time to think about who contributes, and who takes, and the value of the exchange. This goes for ourselves too. Am I taking advantage without bringing something to the table? Not a bad thing to learn about yourself- if you learn something from it. Populating your next life means identifying who you need to spend time with and who you don’t. In general, the best advice is to drop the negative voices. You’ll know who they are as the going gets tough.
The real message is that change is inevitable but you have power over a lot of it
A lot of people are feeling powerless right now, for good reason. Their worlds have become unrecognizable. The only reason I’m writing something like this is to help me understand where the world is going, apply my experience to that, and share it with others. I am not a ‘self-help’ writer by nature but I am a student of change, especially personal change. And my observations and experience tell me that good things can come out of it, if you grab the opportunity. The opportunity now is time to re-evaluate our lives and do some reinvention in the process. That’s a big gift the universe dropped on us. Use it.