In recent weeks many of us have been daydreaming about life “getting back to normal.”
Which begs the question, is your old “normal” life something you still want?
Sure that life was filled with habits, structures, behaviors, and relationships that kept you healthy and happy, (things you’re actively missing right now). However, there were likely also parts you were less jazzed about, parts you were actively working on changing.
What if, right now, life is offering you an opportunity to make those changes?
What if this crazy time in history is giving us all a chance to hit the reset button on our lives and adjust how we work, live, and relate to one another, (and the world around us) for the better?
Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to at least give some thought to what our new “normal” could look like.
What makes the cut?
As you reflect back on the life you had before this virus, ask yourself if there were old habits, behaviors, people, practices, (and yes, technology) you used to rely upon that may have outlived their usefulness.
In other words, if you were to pack a suitcase for a “trip back to normalcy,” is there anything you want to consider leaving out of your bag?
In the context of Newport’s book, these questions were designed to help you decide what technology to let back into your life post-digital detox, (which some of you just finished). However, I think they work on a broader level too, speaking to this unique moment in time.
Question 1 - Does it support your values?
For example, if you’ve taken a break from Facebook, (because of your detox or the Covid-19 news was making you depressed), before returning to it, ask yourself if that platform supports your values. If not, maybe continue to maintain strong boundaries or leave your notifications turned “off.” Maybe make stronger boundaries and delete Facebook entirely.
This same question could be applied to anything in your life that has been thrown into upheaval by the virus. Before you return to the career you hated, a relationship that drained you, or commitments you were doing merely out of obligation, ask yourself if those choices support your values. If not, maybe those are things to which you never “return to normal.”
Question 2 — Is this the best way to support that value?
Just because a choice, habit, behavior, or relationship supports your values doesn’t mean it automatically gets an all-access pass to your life.
For example, maybe you learned that Facebook is a still a great way to stay connected with friends and family, (which is one of your values) but the fact that it becomes so polarized during times of crisis is far more harmful to you in the long run. Maybe the best way to stay connected with friends and family is to call/text them individually.
Again, you can pose this question for anything in your life. For example, just because you value “service” doesn’t mean you should stay in a volunteer gig where you give all of your time away to others, so much so that you deplete your own reserves. Maybe the best option is to limit your service to the things about which you’re most passionate and spend equal time “filling your own tank.”
If this weird time in history is teaching us anything, it’s that there is a finite amount of time and resources, (and toilet paper!) in the world, so we need to be picky about the choices we make.
Question 3 —How can you maximize this value?
Even if something passes the first two tests — it supports your values AND is the best tool for doing that task — it’s still O.K. to set some conditions, rules, and boundaries around how you use it in your life.
Again, to use the Facebook example, maybe you decide what’s healthiest for you personally is to only use the platform on the weekends, (so you get your news, but in less frequent bursts) and then spend the rest of the week reaching out to close friends and family one-on-one.
Maybe you’ve come to the realization that your job doesn’t really support your values, but working remotely has given you more time to explore things that do. Maybe you shift your focus to figuring out how to maximize this benefit, (like offering to continue to work from home indefinitely) and minimize the potential harm that could result from that choice.
What gets added?
Consider also posing these same three questions to assess any new habits, behaviors, people, practices, and technology you’ve added to your life recently.
In other words, if you were to pack a suitcase for a “trip back to normalcy,” is there anything new you’d want to stick in your bag?
- Is taking daily walks or doing art projects with your kid while you’ve been quarantined something you’ve come to value?
- Loving the new meditation practice you adopted so you wouldn’t lose your mind with all this added stress?
- Enjoying that you’re finding yourself less focused on material possessions and more on human connection?
If so, how can you make sure these practices don’t get left behind once you return to “normal?”
This week’s exercises
- Asses your old “normal life,” (and your current reality) and ask yourself the three questions above. Were there parts of your old life that weren’t working? Are there parts of your life that are working better now? What lessons can you learn from this information and what changes can you make right now or when life gets back to business as usual?
- Reflect on your four week digital detox (if you completed one.) What lessons did you learn? Use the three question above to decide how to move forward from here — which technology to resume using, and which tech to continue to limit in your life.
- Practice radical self-acceptance: I know a lot of people are struggling right now, so if you’re not doing ANY of these eCourse exercises, that’s O.K. As Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” If that means just surviving each day, then so be it. That’s enough.
Next week we’ll be talking about… well, I’m not really sure. I’ve kind of been going rogue lately, debating each week the appropriateness of this eCourse in general and the information I should share. If you’ve got any suggestions or continue to find this helpful, I’d love to hear from you.
As always, thank you for stopping by. I hope you are healthy and safe.
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