While I’m an advocate for and practitioner in living as much in the present moment as possible (an ever-imperfect attempt, for me, at least), there are historically two ways I’ve consistently brought the future into my coaching, both of which, well, inform the now.
In one, I ask people to imagine lying in their bed in the evening, reflecting upon the day that has passed, and imagining what about it felt fulfilling or satisfying.
This reflection is about backing up from what we think a day should look like to evaluate an individual’s unique blend of activities and engagements that lead to a sense of satisfaction about a day. It’s different, of course, depending on whether you work for yourself or for a company, if you have a partner or kids, hobbies or a side business, and so on.
In the other, I ask the client to go farther afield, “Imagine you’re 97 and have the good fortune of laying on your death bed comfortable and cognizant. You’re reflecting on your long life and deeply fulfilled in what you see in that reflection. What is it that was so pleasing to you in what you see?”
This activity is about getting out of the reactivity of daily life and refocusing on what’s truly important. As you might expect, when doing this activity, things that seem of ultimate importance in the midst of reactivity become means to an ends: demanding jobs become ways to find personal fulfillment in performing thoughtfully and well, or fade into income streams that allow for travel, security, and time with loved ones, for example.
We might now explore a third: Imagine when coronavirus is contained enough to allow us to re-engage with the world as we once did, filling grocery stores and downtown festivals, hosting dinner parties and play dates, gathering for kickball or a game of Wink.
When you look back on this time of social distancing – of physical distancing, limited movement, intensified stress, increased reactivity, and a more profound sense of our interconnectivity – what are you seeing in how you spent the time that feels satisfying, pleasing, or fulfilling?
I promise you: This is not my sneaky way of jumping on the bandwagon of Learn Something! Make Something! Produce! Produce! Produce! Nuh-uh, not me, not it.
We’re all saturated, even those of us lucky enough to have work that was already remote or easily became so; even for those of us lucky enough to be safe with – and enjoy! – the people at home; even for those of us lucky enough to be dispositionally-inclined toward being more okay with remote social contact. And that trio of factors, they describe almost no one.
Which is to say, this is an uncomfortable time. Discomfort of all varieties is an invitation for us to slow down and get curious:
What is this discomfort actually a response to? What do I find if I dig beneath the stories I tell myself about this discomfort?
What would actually feel nurturing to me now? Is it really doubling down on work or Netflix binging? It is taking a long walk, being extra present with members of my household, reaching out in care toward someone else? Maybe it’s allowing myself to fall apart for a little while because this stuff feels that overwhelming sometimes.
What are my priorities right now? What’s truly important? If learning a new skill intensifies my discomfort, is it okay to opt into a puzzle instead? If it’s a daily battle with my kids over the homeschooling, will it really ruin their education to have a slack few months? Do I have to live up to the same level of excellence I held when I had a more immediate support network of helpers, when my biggest daily challenge was fitting in my yoga routine, when every service, product, need and want was a short drive or a few clicks away?
There’s a critical difference between indulgence and nurturing, whether directed toward ourselves or others. In one, we indulge our basest reactivity. Of course, I can have the whole pint of ice cream – it’s a stressful time! In the other, we pause to explore what might soothe or energize or ground us, and we follow those actions.
We have a long haul ahead of us, friends. It’s possible, even likely, that our needs and energy will shift as time goes on and we continue to explore what it means to live in a time of coronavirus. Exhausting ourselves with shoulds now will only make it harder to adapt as we go.
Remember: You only have the energy to give to others that you first give to yourself. Now it a wonderful time to get serious about filling your own tank so you can let that energy radiate out.
I have a bonus blog post and a bunch of resources – mostly playful this week – for members of The Bigger Badder Crew. You? You’re already bigger and badder – make it official here. If you’re curious about how even a little coaching time with me might help you answer the above questions and shape this to be nurturing and meaningful time, find me here.