As we move, in a blur, through the 18th month of the pandemic, I have begun to notice what I can only describe as a numbness that quietly set in without my knowing.
“This is not ending anytime soon” is a common refrain. We numb ourselves to the words: both to their impact, and to their overuse. Pandemic burnout sneaks in slowly.
Perhaps one of the reasons we struggle with how best to make our way through the Pandemic and out of pandemic burnout is because we are each so uniquely on our own journey with it. There is no “one size fits all”. Many of us have lost someone, but others of us have not. Some of us have been brought closer to someone. Have felt claustrophobic. Or unbearably lonely.
A lot of our healing will occur through reconnecting with others, in a way that has sorely been missed. But ultimately, the only way we will find our way through this is for each of us to lead ourselves out of it in the way that works for each of us individually.
Redefining “Lead yourself”
For this reason, it is time to revisit and redefine what it means to lead ourselves. Just as the numbness slowly set in, the thaw will not be instantaneous.
At this moment, a lot of the management mantras ring hollow. Peter Drucker defined leading yourself as “being the CEO of your life”. If this sentence leaves you with that Pandemic numbness—like they are words spoken in a vaguely familiar but foreign language, that’s understandable. We’ve been through a lot.
Such definitions of “lead yourself” can feel one-dimensional and don’t properly address our current state of mind.
I’m guessing you have no shortage of things to get done. You know “what” you have to do. There are plenty of “whats” to fill your to-do list.
What we need now is to focus on the “why” that goes with the “what”, along with the “how”, and even the “who” we want to be as we do it.
These are questions we can only answer for ourselves.
We have an opportunity here to reset. We have an opportunity to look honestly at those old “whys”, “hows” and “whos” that used to inform what we did, day in and day out. For many of us, this was not decided consciously before the Pandemic. And through much of the Pandemic, it was the same, because it was “all hands on deck” much of the time. We put out fires. We adapted and adapted some more.
But consider this: eighteen months in, do you still want reaction to be your modus operandi?
If you are ready to thaw out of that Pandemic numbness, you don’t have to pretend things are normal. You don’t have to go through the motions of your old routine until it feels normal again.
Ask yourself these three powerful questions to lead yourself out of Pandemic burnout.
Why do you do what you do?
It’s time to reconnect with the purpose of our work. And it is possible to do this even if what you are doing doesn’t feel particularly lofty or noble.
How do you want to do what you do?
This is about how you want others to experience working with you. It is about being present for what you are doing and who you are doing it with. And it is about going about your task list with intention.
Who do you want to be while you are doing it?
The most nebulous question of the three, your “why” and your “how” certainly give you some hints as to your “who”. Ultimately, this is about recognizing your authentic self, when you are working as your authentic self, and when there might be dissonance with that.
This is “Leading Yourself” for today’s world. As we explore the answers to these questions, we can emerge from the Pandemic greater than we were before it. What are your “why”, “how” and “who” that will lead you through?