Let’s avoid a "new normal”

There is a whole vocabulary of post-lockdown language that no-one welcomes, largely because no-one wanted the circumstances that surround its prevalence. The one that grates the most for me at the moment is about adapting to “the new normal”. Aside from the fact that I’m a language fan and it is grossly overused, I think that its because I’m wary of the notion of settling on one new way, when - as has been proven in spades this year - much about the way we live and work may be subject to change at very short notice.

So what’s an alternative? I’d argue its more valuable and perhaps healthy to focus instead on how to build in flexibility to our choices and preferences, so that next time the inevitable lockdown (or equivalent) strikes it is less disruptive and indeed distressing. What might that look like in practice?

Firstly some reflection on where you’ve come in the last 5 months. That’s long enough to have let go of some of the things you loved about the old routine, because there has been little choice. Note - you’ve also been able to let go of the things you didn’t love! We have become champions at making the best of what is available - space to work, groceries on delivery, faces on a screen instead of in person. On a good day that results in a growing sense of resourcefulness as we come together as networks (team, family, organisation, neighbourhood) to navigate the unknown - and whether or not you’re able to see that as a benefit right now, it will stand you in good stead. “But how on earth will we…?” becomes redundant, because we just did. There’s a beautiful Charlie Mackesy drawing shared on his social media today, that is simply captioned “Look how far we have come”.

Secondly some taking stock today. What have you managed without, and what are you desperate to replace or return to? What else could you manage without? What was there never time or space for before, but now becomes a real option? This is a great opportunity for shedding some baggage and considering the art of the possible, which leads straight into:

Thirdly, there’s never a wrong time to do some planning and reprioritising, with added insight and contingencies this time! Talking this over with a colleague this week, I reminded her how liberating it can be to have goals and ideas that you keep private - if they only last the day and you change your mind, that’s easy. No-one else will hold you to it, unless you ask them to.

Let’s not let a “new normal” become a different fixed way to operate, but rather a new and enhanced level of adaptability.