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May 19, 2020

Exploring the "New Normal" -- #MTtalk Roundup

Yolande Conradie

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©©Getty Images/da-kuk

"If all that we see are the scattered pieces of 'what was,' the story of 'what is yet to be' will never be told."

― Craig D. Lounsbrough, U.S. author and counselor.

Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes you're afraid of things that don't exist - like the monster that lived under your bed when you were a child [editor's note: nope, I'm telling you that thing was real!].

Fear can also masquerade as a jealous ex: it wants you to cling to the past and not face a future filled with new possibilities. Of course, fear is also an important warning system, shouting, "Get out now!" At other times it just says, "Stop and think."

Journeying Into the New Normal 

We are all familiar with our pre-pandemic world. We had our routines around the things we did and the places we went.

For most people, going to work meant going somewhere other than our own home. We went to the gym, met with friends, went to coffee shops, hugged one another warmly, and shook hands with strangers. 

For now, that is gone. Going to work likely means opening a computer on our kitchen table, if we even have a job to "go" to. We avoid crowds and distance ourselves from friends. We wouldn't dream of touching a stranger, and our regular coffee shop visits have come to a grinding halt. 

What was known, has become unknown. And although humans are good at pushing boundaries, it's always uncomfortable at first. But eventually, what was "beyond" and "unthinkable" will become the new normal. 

What Is Normal? 

Normal is now, and normal is yesterday, but it's not necessarily tomorrow.

I like this explanation of "normal," that I found on"If something conforms to a general pattern, standard, or average, we describe it as normal, but of course that standard can change over time. What is normal today may be 'abnormal' in the future."

As they say, normal can indeed change over time. It changes when what "is" becomes obsolete, unacceptable, irrelevant, or impractical.

It changes when we find new ways of doing old things. It changes when "we've always done it that way" is no longer the best way. And sometimes it changes without warning, and fast. 

What If the New Normal Is Better! 

One question I asked myself a few times over the past few weeks is, "Do I actually want things to go back to the 'old normal'?" Although I would obviously not want people to lose their jobs, their businesses or their health, I don't think I'd like a complete return to what we had before.  

Previously, I did part of my work from home, but I also gave face-to-face lectures at university. The pandemic forced me to re-write my modules as online courses, so now I do all my work from home. And I love it! 

I want children to go to school, to learn and socialize. But I also want them to enjoy the depth of connection with their parents or caregivers that they may have lacked pre-pandemic. I hope we'll see more of that in the new normal. 

A daily commute can be a positive experience. But is it really necessary five days a week, if we can work from home? Wouldn't going to the office perhaps two days a week give us more quality time with ourselves and our families? And it'd be much more environmentally friendly, too! 

Keep the Compassion

We've seen care and compassion rise to remarkable levels. People are supporting one another physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I'd love that to remain.

In South Africa, where I live, we have a word: ubuntu. It means, "I am because you are." It says that we cannot ignore others' plight and be truly fulfilled and happy.

It's like a human body: if one of your limbs is sore, the whole body knows it, and directs its energy and attention to healing that wound. I hope that's part of the new normal for the body of humanity. 

I hope that spirit of caring is part of our new normal. 

The New Normal Twitter Chat

In our Twitter poll this week, we discussed which areas of life you think are going to change most in the new normal? Here is a selection of your responses to the questions we asked:

Q1. Can we go back to the "old normal"? Should we even try?

@MikeBarzacchini Was there an old normal? I feel like my life and career has been a series of changes and shifts. This may be the most global and universally shared. But I can't remember a time that I'd truly define as "normal."

@Limha75 If the new normal continues to be more people smiling at each other in the streets, and saying thank you when people try to socially distance, then I'm quite happy. 

Q2. What scares people about the new normal?

@J_Stephens_CPA Change is always scary as it involves the unknown, and we cannot control all of that. But we can control how we react, which can eliminate the fear.

@JKatzaman The new normal comes with the new paranoia of constant questioning and uncertainty of what to believe.

Q3. How have you changed as a result of the pandemic?

@JoanaRSSousa I'm having ups and downs. I felt lost, anxious, happy, sleepy, and now I have enough energy to design new plans, new opportunities, in my professional and personal life.

@lg217 I have changed because I have been more mindful with my surroundings, as well as being more creative and logical. You learn to be more observant and mindful because of social distancing and pay more attention to the world around you.

Q4. What habits have you adopted during the pandemic that you would like to keep?

@Yolande_MT I've become more focused on being intentional about what I do, whom I keep in contact with and how I spend my time.

@llake I'm more apt to not sweat the details, and that's a good thing. Also, I offer myself more grace under pressure.

@SizweMoyo I'm paying attention to myself and to my thoughts. I didn't realize how many ideas I have, and I'm now working on doing something about those that I think are worth the effort. That's something I'd like to continue going forward.

Q5. What are some lessons your community/workplace can take from this time?

@DrRossEspinoza My former workplace could be more ethical, and have more equality in giving opportunities.

@YEPBusiness I'm really hoping that people will reduce their materialism a bit. I'd like to see the phrase "retail therapy" consigned to the past.

@PG_pmp Being more human and tolerant of each other. At the workplace, many so-called leaders learned that their team members do not need policing, they can work better when given the space they need to perform.

Q6. If you started with a blank page to create a new normal, what would you put on that page?

@SayItForwardNow LISTEN! Be compassionate. Be kind. Value every voice. Celebrate diversity and inclusion. Help and encourage others. Ask for help when you need it. Recognize everyone's efforts.

@Singh_Vandana Have respect for, and stay close to, mother nature. Stay healthy. Be kind and compassionate. Workplace norms need flexi options. Focus on task at hand. Practice gratitude.

@PdJen Keep building an emergency fund. Be ready for something big to hit again!

Q7. What is one thing from the old normal that you would like to leave behind in the new? Why?

A common theme that emerged here is how most of us want to leave behind being too busy, only living for ourselves, and endless face-to-face meetings.

@ZalkaB The glorified busy-ness, hustling and 24/7 hassle. I wish we all slowed down, lived in the moment and enjoyed here and now. Not living in constant pursuit of "something better, bigger, different."

@Jikster2009 Complacency. There are so many things we take for granted. We live in such a consumerist society, and suddenly being faced with closed/empty shops makes you realise that. Also, assuming that everything is OK with other people during a time of difficulty.

Q8. What will you make time for in the new normal?

A recurring theme that came up was staying connected with family and friends, and actively making time to contact them.

@Mphete_Kwetli Make time to reflect on past times and what worked, and sustain my relationship with nature and the environment. Will strive for business independence.

@Ganesh_Sabari Silence & solitude. We have learnt to respect one another's personal space, even while remaining in the confines of the same room/house, thanks to lock down.

Q9. What will thriving in the new normal look like?

@YEPBusiness Because re-integration will be slow in most regions, we will have time to ensure that we are patient with ourselves and others. Managing expectations will be the difference between comfort and discomfort.

@carriemaslen To thrive: be grateful, know the difference between important and urgent, reframe negative to positive, be kind.

Q10. How can we best help one another to cope with the new normal? 

Many people commented about kindness, compassion, and allowing every person to cope at their own pace and in their own way.

@_TomGReid Practice your active listening skills, and develop more patience and understanding with those who are living a different movie than the one you are in.

@ColeenWarden Being vulnerable, being human, and trying to understand each other’s situations/feelings.

To read all the tweets, see the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.

Next Time on MTtalk! 

While coming to terms with change, you're in constant dialog with yourself.

All of us have an inner voice that provides running commentary. Sometimes the voice is a cheerleader and confidence-builder, but sometimes it's quick off the mark to remind you of your failures or weaknesses.

In our poll this week, we'd like to know which voice dominates your inner dialog. For all questions and to cast your vote, please click here

Useful Resources

In the meantime, here are some resources relating to the new normal. (Please note, some of the resources listed may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.

Lazarus and Folkman's Transactional Model of Stress and Coping

The Power of Good Habits

The PERMA Model

Supporting a Friend or Co-Worker Suffering From Stress

Change Management

Managing in a VUCA World

How to Keep Calm in a Crisis

Living With a Lack of Job Security

How Resilient Are You?

Surviving a Downturn

Back on Track

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