Like most anxieties, it catches me off guard...I'll be feeling alright, going about my day and BOOM I'll get that rush of adrenaline as years of evolution instructs my body to flood itself with what I need to either flee, or fight. Sometimes I'll get the physical feeling before I've even processed it intellectually, but however it hits, I arrive at the same thought: "I don't ever want to go back to exactly how my life was before."
There is an urgency to how I feel about what we're living through at the moment, not because I fear COVID-19 per se (although I rightly do), but because I fear that we won't seize this unparalleled opportunity to revolutionise how we live our lives.
For the first time in history, we've stopped! Rebrand "Lockdown" to "The Great Pause Of 2020" and through the rose-tinted glasses you'll see that this forced-pause also forced us out of our routines and habits, which encouraged us to think differently, to embrace novelty and to reassess, innovate and explore. Spiritualists and conspiracy theorists (not that I'm lumping them together, of course) have long talked about "the awakening" - the moment where the curtain is lifted and we can suddenly see the world for what it really is and understand our role in it all. In The Matrix the Red Pill was the trigger, in Brave New World it was the rejection of Soma, in 1984 it was overthrowing "Big Brother" and there are myriad other examples throughout literature. In our reality what we've lived through may not be as dramatic as all that (although it has still been pretty bloody dramatic!), but it is an awakening nonetheless - OR AT LEAST IT SHOULD BE! And that, right there, is the tension - a tension which arises from understanding the gravity of the opportunity that lies in our laps, combined with the palpable fear that it will pass us by if we don't act decisively and immediately...and that so many people don't realise any of this!
I'm not talking about sleeping in the clouds beyond the pearly gates, nor am I talking about living inside a hollowed-out mountain in New Zealand (that has a self-perpetuating ecosystem, gorgeous glistening waterfalls and frolicking unicorns) - when I say "Utopia", I mean it in this more practical sense: how you live, rather than where you live, necessarily.
So, what would Utopia look like to you? How would it feel? What would your day look like? What would your work-life balance be? How does your work-place treat you? What is your role in your families life? How do you interact with your friends? How often? What is your realistic Utopia and, just as importantly, what are you going to do to make it happen? Will you leave a company because they don't share your values and allow you to work in the way you want to work?
Building one's Utopia isn't just about work of course, but given that work dominates such a large proportion of our lives it would foolish to not give it the focus it deserves. Businesses are the product of their people and their leaders...and every single person in the working world right now has the opportunity to redefine not just their current reality, but their long-term future when it comes to the role that work plays in their lives. The game has changed, but unless people realise that fact and seek to shape their desired Utopia, then guess what? We'll end up back where we were, in the office five days a week, living in over-priced properties to be within commutable distances of offices that we know in our hearts we don't really need to be in to do our jobs...having learned absolutely nothing. If that thought doesn’t terrify you, then GET TERRIFIED!
What we need now are emotionally intelligent, fearless leaders, who empower and trust their people, who consciously seek to dismantle cultures of presenteeism and pay people based on their anticipated output, rather than just on the amount of hours they work in a week.
There are so many different avenues I could go down here...this whole article could be about leadership or reimagining office-spaces, it could be just about work-life balance or a million other things - the point is that we are at a crossroads, we have been gifted the opportunity to re-design our lives to work for us in a way that is personal to us and whether we are business leaders or employees, we must not squander it.
We are social creatures and wanting to be part of a group, team, family, or community is part of our very being...a product of our evolutionary history. Did you know that neuro-scientifically speaking, the brain lights up in the same way whether you are a victim of physical violence or social exclusion? As mind-blowing as that may seem, on reflection it isn't that surprising, as up until relatively recently (at least in evolutionary terms) if you weren’t part of the tribe, your chances of survival were slim to none.
Our brains are hard-wired to spot threats of social exclusion and we cannot help but have a physical reaction when we encounter them...
...however, fortunately there are only so many opportunities in one's life to feel socially excluded: getting shunned by a friendship group at school; not being invited to the pub with your workmates, or whatever it might be, those sorts of things happen to everyone at some point or multiple points in one's lifetime, but they don't happen every day...or at least they didn't, until social media came along...
I won't reiterate the contents of my previous article on social media, you can read my extensive thoughts on it here, but anybody that's used social media knows instinctively that it makes you feel socially excluded all the time. Even the world's most popular people cannot be at every event, or be invited to every soiree, yet they'll know about them, they'll see them in people's feeds, on their timelines, again, and again, and again and again and even if you wouldn't have really wanted to go to whatever it is your seeing anyway, the brain will still light up and whether it's consciously or sub-consciously, that instance of social exclusion will still plague your brain...it is an evolutionary certainty.
Think about how social media works!? We actively follow people we're friends with, admire or aspire to be like, or at the very least we follow people that we find interesting in some way - but how often are YOU included in their posts? How often are you included in their lives?
COVID-19 has tamed the social world...sure, influencers are still flying off to tropical islands and bending the rules for "likes" (and profit), but for the most part, we are alllll back in the same boat, living more simplistic lives with shrunken friendship groups/housemates or family. But, it won't last and I'm preparing for the onslaught when things open back up, because it is going to be overwhelming. It is going to be post after post after post of people having "more fun than anyone else", it's going to be the spirit of FOMO but on a turbo-charged scale as people feel like they need to make up for lost time.
Now, I know this has a lot to do with my own insecurities and I'm not for a moment writing this to say that people shouldn't go out and have a great time when restrictions are finally over! However, what I AM doing is encouraging you to think about the role that social media plays in your life and whether or not it deserves a place in your Utopia. Our brains are not built to be constantly exposed to everyone on earth's lives and I urge you to question whether your obsession with socials really improves your existence?
The Architect Of Your Future
So, what do you want your future to look like? Have you stopped to think about it? Have you got a plan? Do you know what you want? Have you got a vision for what your Utopia is and do you know what will and what will not be conducive to you achieving it? We are living through uncertain times, unprecedented and uncertain times, but there are two things that I know to be true:
1) It has never been more possible than in this moment right now to be the architect of your future. Now is the time to design the life that you actually want, rather than the one that was thrust upon you prior to this unforgettable and game-changing moment in history.
2) The reason there's a tone of panic and freneticism in this article is because the window is closing....if you DON'T seize the opportunity to design your future in line with your priorities and to your exact specification, then one thing is for absolute certain, someone else will design it for you....and whose priorities do you think they'll have in mind? Yours....or theirs?
- Alex Baker
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