In these strange days of a global pandemic, with its lockdowns, distancing, isolation, panic-buying and more, never more has it been so important to hold onto one simple, yet powerful, message: your present circumstances are temporary; and they do not have to define your future reality, unless you allow them to. I heard Greg Hartle say that from the platform at a conference in L.A., and it’s stuck with me ever since.
You know, and I know, that those words are not just the stuff of motivational tweets and coaching conversations: they are a fact. Yet, despite knowing that, so many of us allow our future to be shaped by the situation we find ourselves trapped in right now, don’t we? I know I certainly have. Many times.
In fact, I spent 30 years living as if my present, temporary, circumstances were also my future, permanent reality. I allowed myself to become trapped in a profession I hated, believing that I had made my bed and now I had to lie in it. It never occurred to me that I could break free from that self-created prison cell. And why would it, because life just doesn’t work like that, right?
Wrong. Life works exactly like that. If you choose to make it so. But, how do you choose to make it so? How do you exercise the gift, and harness the power, of choice so that you come out the other side of Covid-19, not simply facing the groundhog day of previous patterns, but a future that reflects who you truly are. A future that is aligned with your values, your strengths, your qualities, your meaning, and your purpose.
Well, you adopt five simple, but powerful, principles to guide you.
Be realistic and honest about your current circumstances.
No matter what havoc Covid may, or may not, be playing with your circumstances right now, it’s time to get honest about what those circumstances are. No fluff, no feathers, no brushing things aside. They are what they are, and only when you truly get a handle on what that looks like can you begin to move forward with any real intention and direction.
Don’t justify them. Don’t play them down. Acknowledge them, accept them for what they are (which, by the way, is not the same as liking them), and use them as the foundation for a better future the other side of this present, temporary reality.
Acknowledge that change requires a decision.
Change starts with a decision. Sometimes it’s an easy decision, sometimes it’s a bold, brave, maybe even scary, decision. But change, no matter what that change may be, always starts with a decision. Every significant change I’ve ever made in my life didn’t happen by chance – it always came about by choice – a choice that was embodied in a decision.
And, no matter how much you may not want to face that decision, just as it was for me, so it is for you: no matter what change your present reality requires in order to release the future that you want, it starts with a decision. And until you make that decision, everything stays the same.
Be open and available to opportunities.
No matter the scale of its impact on your life, this current unprecedented time we find ourselves in is a rich landscape of opportunities.
But, this is not a landscape filled with opportunities to learn new skills, develop new practices, launch new projects or simply be better than you are right now, as so many pithy social media captions would have you believe it is. No, the landscape that Covid-19 has created offers an opportunity to use these paradigm-shattering times to rediscover who you truly are, what life truly means for you, and to frame a new paradigm for living.
And that, quite literally, is the opportunity of a lifetime – be open and available to seize it with both hands, because you may never have this level of opportunity for change – change in how you live your life, build your relationships, pursue your passions, unleash your strengths, and manifest your values – again .
Be prepared to do things that don’t make sense.
As friends, family, and especially Kate will tell you, I’ve made more than my fair share of decisions that, on the face of it, made no sense. And those things didn’t always end well. But, in the main, while they may not have played out as I expected, each and every one of those no-sense decisions has played its part in helping me to navigate the adventure into my real life – through an unfolding series of temporary circumstances towards a permanent future reality that is aligned with the person I truly am.
And the same will hold true for you. In amongst all the uncertainty that surrounds not just your present circumstances, but also maybe your future, allow yourself to embrace the unusual, to contemplate the things that seem nonsensical, and to consider following the path less travelled, or maybe even never travelled. Because, you know what, experience tells me there’s magic on the other side.
Listen to the voice inside you.
For 30 years, I silenced the voice inside that kept telling me that, whatever my circumstances, whatever decisions I had taken, whatever prison I found myself locked inside, those things are only ever temporary. Only when I allowed the voice inside to be heard did I realise what needed to be done. What had to change. How I could escape the cell I had trapped myself in, playing the part of both prisoner and guard.
You see, the voice inside knows you. It knows your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations. Let it speak. Listen to what it tells you. Because nothing is for the rest of your life. Your present circumstances are never permanent, unless you choose to make them so. And, as you listen to its message, maybe, just maybe, that voice will beckon you into a clearing where, perhaps for the first time, you can see beyond the here and now into a future that holds a space for who you really are.
The bottom line
The bottom line is this: no matter what spin you try and put on it, Covid sucks. These present circumstances, on so many levels, suck. But this place we find ourselves in is just temporary – it does not have to define a permanent future reality unless we choose to allow it.
The question is, what will you choose? What reality will these present, temporary circumstances define for you?