We Can Do Better Than 
“New Normal”

As nature starts to show signs of a changing season, here we are, again. The pandemic continues to upend plans we thought we made in confidence just a few months ago. School leadership is trying to adapt. Businesses continue to explore hybrid models to serve their customers. We have all found ways to marry the old with the new. 

With enough of the pandemic behind us to have our bearings and still so much unknown ahead, this moment challenges us to do more than cobble together what we must to carry on. This time of reflection is precious and fleeting. There is an opportunity here to defy the gravitational pull toward a ‘new normal’ and instead actively create a better, more fulfilling life.

This time of reflection is precious and fleeting. There is an opportunity here to defy the gravitational pull toward a ‘new normal’ and instead actively create a better, more fulfilling life. Click To Tweet

Organizations with a focus on improving lives are compiling research and resources to use as we all navigate this simultaneously personal and communal journey.  

A New Map of Life

In 2018, the Stanford Center on Longevity began an initiative called the New Map of Life, focusing on envisioning a world where people experience a sense of purpose, belonging, and worth at all stages of life. The initiative has grown to study how perspectives have changed throughout the pandemic. This project recognizes the uniqueness of this opportunity and time to reexamine our lives:

“For a short time, before new routines and practices replace familiar old ones, we can see with greater clarity the positive and negative aspects of our former lives. The suddenness and starkness of this transformation allows us to examine daily practices, social norms and institutions from perspectives rarely allowed.” 

Aside from inviting thoughtful reflection, the project serves as a platform to share how those perspectives have shifted on ageism, essential workers, inequality, and more. By compiling insights, the project aims to help inform and guide the new culture that will result from this collective experience.

New Beginnings

One year ago, MQ Founder, Carol Anderson, wrote an insightful blog post called “Get Out of the Waiting Room: Designing Your COVID Life.” In her brief commentary, she shared a series from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, instructors in the Design Program at Stanford, and authors of “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.”

In the series, Bill and Dave describe a concept from transitional thought-leader William Bridges on the stages of transition. The graphic below reminds us that we can’t reach a new beginning without moving through the neutral zone. 

When Carol wrote that blog twelve months ago, we were, as a society, in the neutral zone, wondering how on earth to transition to the new beginning. In the series, Bill Burnett proposes the idea of “good enough for now.”

“If you can accept that this is what is available to you right now, then it is good enough. It’s not a consolation prize. It’s the only prize. Because the only other option is living in this annoying waiting room, waiting for…what? We don’t know.”

Bill is still right. Waiting to define “good enough” until you “know more” is a cruel way to live. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot predict the future.

Protecting Your Emotional Health

Creating your definition of “good enough for now” is a uniquely personal process. In a recent article  featured at Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley, author Bethany Teachman, Ph.D. provides a framework for readers to reflect and plan as they chart their path toward a new beginning: 

1.  Set realistic expectations

From what you can or cannot do, to relationships and social skills, setting realistic expectations can help decrease disappointment.

2.  Live your values

When we spent our time in ways that align with what we value, we’re more likely to feel higher levels of satisfaction and well-being.

3.  Keep track

Measuring our level of happiness through specific activities can help us prioritize rewarding ones, which will improve our overall feeling and mood.

4.  Is this a time of growth or preservation?

Our perception of time influences our motivation and goals. If it feels that time is fleeting, you may seek a deeper connection with fewer people. If time feels abundant, you may prefer to invest time in newer relationships.

5.  Recognize your privilege and pay it forward

Helping others can improve your emotional health. Connecting with your community to give back can boost the well-being of everyone involved.

Teachman’s article closes with a couple of sentences that perfectly summarize the key points to keep in mind as we navigate this transition:

“As the return to so-called normal life becomes more of a reality, don’t idealize post-pandemic life or you are bound to be disappointed. Instead, be grateful and intentional about what you choose to do with this gift of a reboot. With a little thought, you can do better than ‘normal.’”

- Brenna Baucum, CFP® | Director of Education & Communications at Money Quotient

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