On not rushing through transitions (part 2)

In part 1 I explored some thoughts around what I see as the importance of transitions and the idea that this not a period in our lives, years, weeks or days to be rushed. In this concluding part I elaborate on the need to bear these insights in mind as we move towards a world in which we are learning to live with Covid-19: a transitionary period we will all be going through.

Slowly, in some places, the world is awakening yet in others it remains in full lockdown. Such paradoxes are now the norm, the notion that two people can have experiences of the pandemic in such contrast that they may to all intents and purposes have been living on different planets over the last 18 months. Fuelled, of course, by a political class trying to pander to multiple interests only to obfuscate the situation to a point of maximum confusion for all concerned. What is the best thing to do and what is not? We’ll all have different ideas on that, based on our own experiences, values, motivations, personal circumstances and incentives. 

Consensus is hard to find. And I think that’s ok, as there isn’t a consensus experience of Covid-19 to be found, no norm from which only those in extreme circumstances have deviated from. Our experiences of the pandemic are in turn compounded by the fact that we all tolerate different levels of risk, have a greater or lesser need to seek novelty, to be wary of disease and protect health, to be social or to travel and explore. Some of us will have settled more comfortably into the steadfast rituals of lockdown and remote working. At the same time, others will have been climbing the walls and bursting out of the windows in sheer frustration at the situation. 

None of this is new or unexpected. But my point is this. Each of us, as a result, will take a different journey into a world in which we have learned how to live with Covid-19. With the recognition that there is unlikely to be a post-Covid19 world, but rather one in which we have reached the point in whcih is circulated without significant harm within the human population, the question is one of living with it. And we will each have a different distance to travel to enter into that world. How do we do this?

I offer some reflections based on my own work in this space. I think it’s important to try to respect the fact that we have all gone through something very personal and very specific to our own circumstances. We can but listen to other’s stories and try to accept their reality, if not understand it. It helps no-one if we judge everyone else through the lens of our own experience. I think we should recognise that everyone lived different lives before Covid19 and will be in different levels of readiness to either return to them. Many will be seeking to make some fundamental changes and head in new directions, the pandemic a catalyst for personal reflection and soul-searching. 

I certainly think it is incumbent on all of us to recognise that, as a result, people will be heading in different speeds in different directions; some will emerge full tilt at whatever life throws at them, others more circumspect, like a bear blinking in the spring sunshine after a winter deep in hibernation. Can we respect the sheer variety of paths people will want to take into the future and accommodate them, support them, wherever possible? When to head to the office, or to the pub, to the shops or the sports club, the night club or the airport. 

Those former rituals, commitments and perks of living denied us so long will be embraced at different speeds and with different levels of enthusiasm by different people and we should accommodate that wherever we can. We are each the experts in our own worlds and therefore the best judges of how and when to do these things. 

Let’s not rush people in directions and at speeds that causes discomfort or, worse, pain and anxiety and overwhelm. To bull-rush everyone through their very personal transition at a standardised corporate pace will be delatarious to our mental and physical health. For to rush is also to fail to accommodate sufficient time in the transitions, time that is valuable if we are to emerge whole and energised and optimistic into our future worlds. Only then can we deal in our own ways with the highs and lows of our own experiences. Only then might we fulfil our potential as an employer or as an employee, as a citizen, friend, colleague, partner… 

For each of us, the transition will be different; for all of us, it will be an essential period of time.  Best, then, to ‘restrain⁠1 the natural impulse in times of ambiguity and disorganisation to push prematurely for certainty and closure’. Thinking back to the analogy I shared at the start of part 1, I may not be sure how long I need to hang in the air before I catch the trapeze, but I do know this. I’ll catch it when I’m ready, and when I’m ready will be the right time to catch it. 

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1 Bridges, W (2011) Managing Transitions. Kindle Edition

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