“I can’t believe it’s been two years since…” is perhaps something we’ve all said in these past few months. Time itself seems so distorted when viewed through the lens of the pandemic. The activities we’ve had to put off due to travel restrictions and lockdown protocols are our new reality, while the isolation, fear, and paranoia of those initial days almost seem like they never happened.
When the regular structures that mark our lives are thrown out of whack, it’s easy to lose our bearings. You think you just had your annual physical, and it turns out it’s been over a year. You believe that you just met someone and then remember it was well before COVID-19 was a thing. You prepare to return to office life, but can’t seem to recall what time you used to leave home to get there on time, or which shoes you used to wear to work.
For a lot of us, this confusion is adding a layer of stress we certainly don’t need. It’s not just that we’re trying to relearn and remember what was once the norm; we’re also regularly reminded of how the past two years have passed us by and that we don’t have much to hold on to.
The good news is that we can harness both these stresses into something beautiful, where we’re the active creators of our lives. The structures we had were inherited from “the way things were”; some worked for us, and others had us twisting like a pretzel to fit our needs into other people’s agendas, or running faster in a world that confuses doing with self-worth.
Here’s our chance to begin fresh, to create structures that work for us and help us show up as our best selves in a world that needs us more than ever. Here’s a three-step process that can guide you:
Step 1: Who Do I Want to Be?
Begin by listening to the yearnings you have in your silent moments, or think about the person you’d become if everything in life went your way. How are you showing up in life? What are you doing? How are you feeling? Who are the people you’re surrounded with? What is the work you’re engaged in? What is it about you that draws people to you? How are you a source of inspiration to others?
Spend some time reflecting on these questions. Or you may want to ask yourself: “Who will I regret not being? What will I regret not doing in life?”
Step 2: Who Have I Already Been?
Think of times in the past when you were living in alignment with this vision and desire you have for yourself. Transport yourself to that time and feel its energy. What was happening in your life? What were you doing that helped you show up as this person? What were the structures you had in place? Who were you choosing to spend time with? What were the boundaries, intentional or unintentional, that protected your energy?
Think both about your pandemic life and your pre-pandemic life, because both had elements that worked for us.
Step 3: Design Your Ideal Day
Now that you know what works and what doesn’t, it’s time to create a day that helps you be the person you want to be. Think of it like the pieces of a puzzle coming together into this beautiful vision you have of your life. As you think about your ideal day, pay special attention to what I call the five B’s:
- Bookends:How will you start and end your day? Think of the routines that help you have a positive and hopeful mindset.
- Breaks:How will you maintain your energy throughout the day so you respond to life rather than react to it?
- Blocks of time:When will you do your most important work, and how will you minimize distractions?
- Belonging:Who are the people you will prioritize and connect with regularly? How will you engage with the beauty in life?
- Boundaries:Who and what will you say no to so you can say yes to what’s most important in your life?
The importance of these five B’s cannot be overstated in a world where people, stressors, and distractions grab our attention away from the life we want to live. Taking a break, setting aside five minutes for mindfulness, or saying no to the emotional vampire in your life
is difficult only when you can’t connect it to the bigger picture of your life.
In her beautiful book The Writing Life, author Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Be intentional about the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves.