Pivoting Through Change

Remember when you first realized the pandemic wasn’t going away overnight? I do. I had just returned from visiting a client in MN, and every news outlet warned big changes were coming. As a speaker, trainer, and consultant, I spent about as much time on the road as I did at home. What now? I had to pivot.

Pivoting in Place

Pre-COVID, I really loved my life. Travel allowed me to meet fascinating people in various industries, and to help them resolve business and leadership challenges. My work made me feel relevant. No, I wasn’t a doctor or nurse, but I could help leaders heal damaged parts of their organizations, and I’m a caregiver at heart.

Then everything changed.

The economy started to collapse, toilet paper disappeared, and people got into fist-fights over the merits of wearing–or not wearing–masks. My own economic reality changed. Events were cancelled. Consulting clients closed their doors, many having to let good people go in the process.

Sound familiar? Did you experience some of those same realities?

Pivot Your Thinking

I needed to shift my thinking.

I wasn’t powerless. Didn’t I have the ability to gain control over parts of my own world that had slipped away over the years? COVID-19 gave me something I didn’t have before: time. And I took that time to contemplate my next steps.

When I took the time to think through my previously “perfect” life, I had to admit to myself that it came with baggage. Much of that baggage ended up around my waist. Frequent travel delays often left me scurrying for gas station dinners at not-so-exotic locales in the middle of the night. On top of that, I couldn’t get into a regular sleep pattern or exercise routine. Much of the time, I fought fatigue, and I felt much older than my young age of 37 (which is a lie, but I’m sticking with it).

What thinking have you had to adjust over the last several months? Or what thinking should you change to help you cope?

Pivot Your Habits

Armed with this perspective, I took stock of things I had more control of instead of less, which led me to change some key habits. I started each morning with a walk. Those walks became long walks. The days were long, and more daylight meant I could walk several miles and still be home by 8:00 am. Eventually, those walks turned into runs.

I quickly found that my activity level directly correlated to my mental health. I fight depression and anxiety fueled by great amounts of grief. Working long hours in business distracted my mind, but it didn’t heal my heart. But spending time in my head while exercising helped me unravel things that I had not been able to face. I knew this from research. I even teach it. But I had gotten out of the habit of practicing it.

My eating habits changed, too. I started eating to fuel my body instead of soothe my aching soul, giving me more energy and a clearer mind.

I made other changes, like getting back into a regular sleep pattern. Routine is critical, and I found one that worked for me. Much to my surprise as a night owl, I found that I do my best work when I get up insanely early and go to bed at a correspondingly insane hour.

What habits have you had to change to face the challenges of the past several months? Or what habits do you need to change to give you an edge? 

Pivot Your Goals

My clear head and energized body helped me wrap my arms around my next pivot: goals.

Since my wife and I run our own business, we are not strangers to setting business goals and reviewing them regularly. We continued doing that, but in addition to discussing business goals, I started setting personal ones, too.

My morning runs evolved into a training program with goals and measurements like we used in our business. I figured since I already spent hours a week exercising, I should have a destination. Initially, I determined to run a half marathon on my 54th birthday. However, an injury kept me off my feet for two months. Instead of giving up, I pivoted. I decided to run on September 19th, the fifth anniversary of the death of my daughter, Alana. Fixing on that unforgettable life event fueled a new purpose in me: to honor my daughter by doing something that would have made her very proud of me.

While running in the pre-dawn hours on that day, I cried thinking about the joy and pride she brought me in her short life and the hole she left in me when she died. And that brought a level of emotional healing I’d never experienced before.

Since April (and minus 2 months where I could not walk), I’ve run 204 miles and biked 614 miles. I’m not an athlete. I suppose I could have been a competitive eater, but that’s as close as I ever got to breaking any records.

While changing my personal goals, I also focused on my business goals. I’ve always loved teaching and consulting, but COVID left me without an audience. Then I started working virtually with clients. That was my first business pivot. Still with more time and less money on my hands, I thought about what I used to do when I worked in a factory many years before and on runs more recently: I wrote poems, stories, and books in my head.

That led me to my next pivot. I’d written and ghostwritten several books. The only reason I stopped was that speaking and consulting kept me so busy that I didn’t create time for deep reflection or putting thoughts to paper.

I pivoted back to writing, and since then, I’ve co-authored a business book with a colleague and outlined the book I plan to co-write with a dementia expert about losing my mom to Alzheimer’s disease last Christmas. I’ve started ghostwriting again, penning books on topics ranging from theology to military life to mental illness.

What goals have you had to change to survive the past several months? Or what goals do you need to change to stay focused in this challenging time?

Pivot Your Expectations

Someone told me after my daughter died that the biggest source of pain is letting go of what might have been. What’s true in grief is true, too, when our lives change due to any unwelcome, unwanted event.

You likely entered 2020 full of hopes, dreams, and high expectations. People say “Happy New Year,” not “Wishing You the Same Old Shit for the Brand New Year.” Most of us have a certain expectation that things will either remain the same or improve over time. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to get ourselves out of bed.

Not only do we need to adjust our thoughts, habits, and goals, but we also need to pivot our expectations. Some companies made record profits this year because of COVID-19; others have closed their doors or absorbed record losses from the same crisis. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, your expectations need to pivot.

The Persian poet wrote hundreds of years ago the oft-repeated words, This, too, shall pass. We have no problem understanding this to mean bad times won’t last forever. And thank God for that. But it also serves as a gentle reminder that good times, like the ones some companies are enjoying due to the crisis, won’t last, either.

When circumstances change, expectations must change with them. For example, I have no expectation of doing as well financially as I did last year. Heck, my income will likely end up closer to what I made in 1995. Which is fine, because it’s in line with my expectations. If my loved ones remain healthy, I’ll consider myself rich beyond measure.

How have your expectations changed for what you hope to achieve this year? Or how should your expectations change so at the end of the year you feel grateful instead of cheated?

I’d love to hear about personal or business pivots you’ve made in your life, and how they turned out for you!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Ken Grant says:

    Loved the concept, though I had to chuckle because it reminded me of a particularly funny episode of “Friends.”

    As you know, I am currently in a very different place than you and Jocelyn. In my 70s, happily retired and finding that I must make make goals and execute plans to reach them when I find it so easy to just sit back in the recliner and watch television. I saw it with my grandfather and with my mother when they just quit and waited to die. I didn’t want to be that guy.

    Before the Covid 19 I had purposes. I was a founding member of the Wake Forest High School Business Alliance and we met once a month and had lots of mentoring activities with the students there. I had church where I ushered most Sundays. And, I was mentoring a young man in another high school. Covid almost ended all of that, but we started Zoom meetings for the Business Alliance and for church. I have picked up a couple more students to mentor via email and telephone. I am writing stories that one day I hope to be back in front of audiences sharing again.

    Truth is that I am pretty much hardwired for quarantine. I am content to stay home and work out in the neighborhood. But, it does take a lot of will power for me to continue to push myself without the external stimulation.

    I’ll be interested to see what your book on military life turns out to be.

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