World-upending events sure have a way of scuttling our best-laid plans. They can disrupt, test, and potentially demolish the systems we’ve labored to put in place, leaving us reeling and unsure of both our former goals and the tools and processes that we’ve long relied on to achieve them. In the strange and unfamiliar new world we find ourselves in, a way forward that may once have been at least somewhat clear can be suddenly hard to see.
Yet while 2020 has been extraordinary in the cascade of hurdles it has sent our way, on reflection I think it’s the concentration and intensity of the challenges that’s been unique, more so than their intrinsic nature. Old problems can easily reassert themselves in new ways that require us to adapt our tactics, without necessarily changing their fundamentals. All of this has brought to mind one of the most important lessons I’ve learned — one that I’ve come to appreciate now more than ever: the profound value of maintaining an active rather than reactive stance, of taking the reins of life rather than falling into the default habit of merely responding to outside forces.
Even before this year threw its worst at us, keeping one’s bearings and navigating life actively was a challenge. The never-ending stream of emails, texts, and social media posts that inundate us, the mobile devices that keep us connected and receiving them at all times, and the expectation that we keep up with all of it, have made it easier than ever to fall into reflexive reactivity. Life will hand you an unrelenting “To Do” list if you let it, cobbled together from others’ priorities, and it’s perilously easy to fall into the trap of continually responding to those external demands without giving due thought and precedence to your own most important values and goals. Even in normal circumstances, your carefully and intentionally curated “To Do” list can become cluttered with minutiae that make it hard to see through to your main objectives and keep them in the forefront of your thinking and daily actions.
Enter a world where existing plans are out the window, new plans have become extraordinarily hard to make with any degree of confidence, and we look to daily briefings and decrees to tell us what’s next, and you have a situation where seemingly every process you’ve put in place, no matter how carefully focused or finely tuned, starts to break down. In an environment of fearful uncertainty that’s cultivated by a relentless, 24/7 news cycle and the social media streams that amplify it, it’s far too easy to become overwhelmed and immersed in a toxic, bogged-down morass of uncontrolled reactivity. You may well sense that the intensity of the howling wind you walk into, and the drag that you must overcome to move forward, has increased.
Amid this intensified sound and fury, it’s become more vitally important than ever to live with intention — to remind yourself of your purpose, to maintain and trust in your bearings, and advance toward your objectives in whatever ways you can manage to, with steady, unrelenting determination. In the face of a louder-than-ever storm of demands that you respond, react, panic, submit, and divert from your chosen course, you will need to resolve, with some serious commitment, that you are going to keep going.
To be sure, these are not “normal” times. They require us to flex, adapt, and re-assess processes and short-term plans that, for the moment at least, may no longer apply or seem relevant. But in so doing, we’re also challenged to take stock of what is most important to us in the long run, and work to actively maintain our focus on it — to tune out the world’s relentless, panic-inducing sound and fury when necessary, and find and cultivate the resilient and immutable within ourselves.
I’ve written this as a reminder to myself as much as to others. Now is the time to find and tend to that indomitable spark within yourself, to keep your inner fire lit and press on toward your most important goals with calm, steady determination. When life knocks you down, it’s time to stand up and get moving again.
My goals for this site remain very much the same — to share useful knowledge. And while these challenging times may warrant re-examining tools, ideas, and practices to adapt or discard what is not currently practicable, the vast majority of what I’ve had in mind to write about here (38 more post ideas in the queue and counting) remains as relevant as ever. I very much look forward to developing and sharing that material here, and I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me.