We hear and read an awful lot these days that people want to get back to normal. Whatever that is? Often, in their mind they are thinking that normal is pre-COVID-19. Well folks I don’t think that is going to happen. And here’s why.
Whenever there is a significant change in life it never goes back to where things were before the change. History tells us this. Just look at every significant change that took place since 1900. After the First World War things were not the same as prior to the war. After the Spanish flu things were not the same after the Spanish flu. After the advent of the development of the automobile and air travel, we approached travel differently. After the Second World War we developed new social, health and educational systems. After the development of the internet we approached our shopping, communications, and yes even our relationships differently. After each change the way we approached business, work and life after the event were never the same as they were before the event.
Often when people face change, they become afraid – afraid of losing what they have accumulated and afraid of what the future might bring. We still have people denying climate change, claiming the earth is flat, claiming that the US didn’t land someone on the moon, and that 9/11 was caused by the US government.
Adjusting to new realities is a fact of life. We cannot hang on to yesteryear, nor yesterday – they are past. Everyday a new world opens up for us. People who have most difficulty with the new day always seem to see the storm clouds rather than the sun above the clouds. They are shadowed by the darkness rather than the light, which as Leonard Cohn sang (and I paraphrase) always shines through the cracks.
I have seen the same reactions to change in many of the organizations I have worked with. It’s the ambiguity and paradox that we experience as a result of the change. We are not comfortable because our comfort zone is shaken. Our sense of security is lost in the turmoil. And ever so slowly we become comfortable with the new. In these days of rapid change, however, becoming comfortable with the new really means becoming comfortable with ambiguity because the new doesn’t stay very long.
During change we come face-to-face with ourselves. Often it relates to the lack of confidence in ourselves that we can get through this, and that things will be alright. In many ways we have given our sense of who we are over to some other person, institution, or movement. We become chained to what we know and what comforts us and we perceive things through those lens rather than an openness to the different and the new. We can’t seem to let go because we no longer have a sense of control.
Does this then make all change appropriate or acceptable? No, not necessarily – if the change is not for the common good, doesn’t hold to universal principles and values, and isn’t inclusive than it isn’t sound or healthy change. Negative change usually means change for a privileged few or one group over another or for selfish reasons to the exclusion of others.
Reactions to change in business, organizations, and institutions, whether they be religious or otherwise, often get played out by people bucking the change process and wanting to keep the status quo. They often focus on keeping past policies, procedures, structures, and even rubric. What is not realized or understood is that change is evolutionary, unfolding and what worked in the past no longer works today. Each age and stage of organizations and society has its follies which require fixing. As we go through the ‘fixing’ pain occurs. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “there are no gains without pains.”
So what do we do:
So will there be a new normal? Absolutely, but it wont look or feel like the past. It’s about building better and not recycling the past. The real message here though is to be ready for an uncertain future fraught with difficulties and pain but there is hope for the better when people work together to find solutions rather than holding on and holding back.
Thank you for reading,