Permission to Take Your Life Back
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
For awhile this year, business blogs went blissfully silent. I wasn’t bombarded on a daily basis with messages about how to be a better entrepreneur, or a list of business books I had to read if I wanted to succeed, or the latest technological breakthrough that would actually take lightyears to reach my industry.
But as living with a pandemic became life instead of disruption, the blogs came screaming back. My feeds pushed me every day to become a better businessperson by these three, five, or ten tips. I noticed colleagues “What I’m reading” posts on social media slipped from comforting classics back to Dale Carnegie (that old dinosaur just won’t slip into the muck, will it?). Business as usual was back.
I’m here to tell you, in 2020 more than any other year, if you want to take your mind off of business, you go right ahead. We have bigger fish to fry this year and debating the ideal office layout for productivity shouldn’t even be on the fish fry list. We have hundreds of years of racial injustice to atone for; we have a democracy in shambles; we’re teaching our kids at home while being unable to see our parents as a pandemic continues to rage through our country. So if you want to look away from business news, do it. You don’t have to be reading the latest management book and if you never got around to reading "Lean In," move on and read something else.
If there’s anything to gain from this terrible year it’s the understanding that a fulfilling life means so much more than what we do in the workplace. There’s no need to apologize if you don’t want to have your work email accessible on your personal phone. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV instead of webinars in your free time. You don’t have to be pursuing your next certification, and your job title is not your self-worth. We’ve hopefully all given ourselves permission to step back and rediscover identities separate from our work selves.
In the Before Times, it felt so much more urgent and important to continuously stay up to date on the latest news and trends in the industry. It felt vital to read professional development books and sign up for the webinars, trainings, and programs that would take careers to the next level. Failing to do so might mean becoming irrelevant and bouncing back from falling behind seemed insurmountable.
But now…now all of that seems increasingly irrelevant. As the pandemic waits on our doorstep or for so many thousands of people, comes crashing into our homes, all of the things we do outside of the office – the hobbies we explore, the people we spend time with, the conversations we have – have noticeably become so fleeting and precious. For many of us, we’ve revisited long-abandoned interests and pursuits, and found solace and satisfaction in rediscovering these parts of our past selves. Maybe you started painting again, or running, or just got outside more this year. We’ve all spent more time than ever with the people we live with, and while that’s certainly not always easy, it feels more meaningful than all of the time we spent in offices over the years. With in-person contact restricted, we’re talking more than ever with loved ones via Zoom or even through the mail. We’re taking more time to live full lives under the reality of so many lives lost. And it’s ok to do it.
This time is all we have, and a minute from now, an hour, another day – none of this is guaranteed. The time to pause and ask yourself what you will be grateful for at the end of that time is now. Has any human being ever breathed their last breath and sighed, “I wish I’d attended more innovation webinars”? Is “He worked 80-hour work weeks” inscribed on any person’s headstone? How depressing would an obituary be that read simply, “She was a master of the fishbone diagram”?
The truth is that most of us will not be remembered for our work, so what would you like to remember and be remembered for? Those are important questions to ask and answer now. Prioritize opportunities to build meaningful memories for yourself and with those you love. Webinars will be there tomorrow; these other moments may not.