Human beings need stability but they also love, and thrive on, novelty. It’s one of the paradoxes of being human. The stability of a regular, daily routine provides sanity and creates feelings of safety and security, precisely because it provides us with predictability – it’s what we know. It helps us create a sense of order in our lives. However, it is newness and novelty – ideas, opportunities and different experiences, that keep us moving forward and progressing in life; that provide a sense of excitement and, dare I say, hope and adventure.
While we need novelty and newness, that in itself, can also bring about feelings of chaos, change and disruption – something we humans also prefer to avoid. Balancing stability and novelty is a fine line that takes self-awareness to get it right.
As the holiday season comes to an end and the new year looms with the continued disruption of COVID-19 and the fourth industrial revolution to contend with, it can bring with it a mixed bag of feelings. I’ve had them and so have you. Many people are saying things like:
- I’m feeling a bit strange about the new year
- I’m feeling unsettled
- I don’t feel confident
- I’m having a bit of a wobble
- I’m not sure what the year holds so I’m feeling uncertain
- I don’t feel prepared for what’s coming
- I’m terrified because I’ve been told everything is changing
The thought of starting up again in the new year is more frightening than the actual act itself. It’s similar to the first day of a new job that you have chosen for all the right reasons – you feel out of control and out of your comfort zone. In January 2021, I believe that we have such strong memories of the curve-ball we were thrown with COVID-19 , that we are more than concerned about the possible disruption that might come next. You are probably wondering how you can regain a sense of control in 2021 in such a disruptive world.
The dictionary meaning of disruption is a disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process andradical change to an existing industry or market due to technological innovation
Well that is a good definition of the disruption caused by the global pandemic, which will be with us for a long time to come as we transition and adjust to it. Ultimately, where we are going is transformation due to disruption – whether due to a pandemic, technology or the many other forces that are at play.
The dictionary definition of transformation is:
A marked change in form, nature or appearance
We are certainly being called into a process of change and transformation. It was already on the horizon (just read my 2008 and 2019 versions of Future-proof Your Child (Penguin Random House) for details. The disruption coming from the convergence of multiple technologies has been accelerated by COVID-19, so we are feeling like we are having a speed wobble too.
As an individual, please see this as a time of personal evolution, as an opportunity to make changes that serve you at work and at home. To thrive through disruption, you need a willingness to see and understand the changes at play, and to work with them and the newness they bring, rather than wishing for things to go back to normal. Here are seven steps to help you to embrace and manage novelty and newness, as well as implementing good, old routine to kickstart your year.
Seven Steps to Regaining a Sense of Control For 2021
Step #1: Get back into routine
When you are on holiday, you get out of the normal routine that helps you hold things together on a daily basis. It’s important to give yourself the opportunity to change routine from time to time to allow you to recover from the rigours of normal, daily life. However, going back into a regular routine is essential now to send your brain a signal that it’s back to business. You will be amazed at how this will raise your level of confidence again. It’s like getting back in the saddle or getting back on the bicycle. You go back to using the well-worn neurological pathways that are familiar and a sense of comfort and confidence will return.
- Set a regular wake-up and go-to-bed time
- Keep regular meal times
- Decide what the signal will be to your brain that the day is done (listen to my podcast with Sue Fuller-Good here)
- Get enough sleep
Step #2: Start exercising again
Really keen, competitive sports men and women continue their exercise regimen religiously whether they are on holiday or not. I was pretty good until mid-December (and I am not training for anything), then the wheels fell off. Part of keeping myself fit and healthy, in body and mind, is to include regular exercise in my weekly routine. Even if this means committing to a 45-minute walk three times a week and a couple of short sessions of vigorous exercise in-between (whatever vigorous means to you). Some of the benefits include:
- Committing to a regular habit gives you a sense of purpose
- Maintaining the discipline of regular exercise provides a sense of control
- Movement oils and greases the system, so to speak, and will often get rid of niggles of discomfort or pain without you having to visit a therapist (in my case that would be a physiotherapist or chiropractor)
- Exercise will oxygenate your system for physical healing as well as providing oxygen for the brain
- Exercise will pump endorphins – the happiness hormones, into the system (we could all do with more of that)
- You will be screen-free for the time you are exercising, giving your visual system a break
- All your senses will be engaged in your physical activity – more than they would be on a screen
- Exercise is a way to build space into your day for yourself when you don’t have to respond to any other demands – emails, children, employees or your boss
- You will not be multitasking during your exercise time which is calming
- You can let your mind wander
Step #3: Take control of what you eat
During the festive season we fall off the wagon, eating at strange times and eating a lot of what isn’t good for us on a regular basis – more alcohol, more sugar and salt, more rich food and more food in general. That’s fine when you can have an afternoon siesta but not when you are having to engage your brain at work and maximise the use of your energy for a minimum of eight hours a day. Some basic tips that I am following:
- Reduce the size of your portions
- Make sure you eat regularly
- Go back to eating more fresh food with lots of fibre
- Drink lots of water to flush the system of toxins
- Add a probiotic daily to help rebalance your gut
Step #4: Inspire yourself
Remember that I said that the brain likes novelty and newness AS WELL AS routine and certainty. As it is a new year, here are some practical ideas for both:
- Clear out your desk – every little last drawer and folder
- Clutter is dead energy
- Only keep what is necessary for you to do your job properly, now and in the future
- Only keep what sparks feelings of joy
- This activity will tick the box for novelty and control – creating order out of chaos
- Read Joy at Work (Bluebird, 2020) by Marie Kondo (famous for the KonMari Method) and Scott Sonenshein
- My best personal development read in December
- It’s about tidying up your physical workspace, digital space, decisions, your network, meetings and your team and restoring order to your job, career and life
- Buy one new thing to liven up your desk
- A new pot plant
- A new pencil holder
- Something that is a symbol of this new year for you and will act as a reminder
- Rearrange the furniture in your office or home
- It switches the energy
- It moves the eye differently
- It feels like you waved a magic wand
- It’s fun – I do this often in my home and my office
- What is your word for the year?
- You can read the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page and Dan Britton for the full inside track if you have the time
- Pick a word that will be a guiding light for you in all your actions and the decisions you make this year
- One word is also a form of novelty for the brain – a hook to hang your hat on, so to speak
- Mine is transformation
- Last year it was joy
- Create your Vision for 2021
- Download my PowerPoint template here and have some visual fun creating these three categories:
- The brain loves novelty and colour – give it some pictures in technicolour to work with
- You could also create a vision board for yourself and keep it somewhere where you can see it every day
- Make a list of people who inspire you and make sure you have a quality conversation with at least one of them each week to ‘fill your cup’.
Step #5: Make yourself supportable
We human beings are funny creatures. When change throws us a curve-ball and we feel uncertain, we tend to withdraw. This is partly to take stock and partly because we are embarrassed, fearful and don’t want to publicly admit that we might feel out-of-control. Withdrawing and being alone is a very necessary part of dealing with, and processing disruption, but don’t stay alone for too long or you might land up in a deep, dark hole. I’d like to suggest:
- Creating a mastermind group (so easy in the virtual world!)
- A group of similar or diverse people who are all having to adapt to change
- Meet regularly – some meet daily, weekly or monthly
- Great for brainstorming ideas and then supporting each other with experimentation and implementation
- More heads are better than one
- Find yourself a coach or counsellor
- Someone neutral who can be an objective sounding-board for you
- Don’t be a victim
- Don’t look for others to name, blame or shame
- Look for how you can affect change in your life
- Take responsibility for your choices, attitude and actions
- Keep perspective
Step #6: Think differently
Now is the time to think differently. The 2020s provides an invitation to think differently about the future – to re-imagine life and work as we know it, rather than doing the same thing quicker, better or more cost-effectively. The same old thinking is not going to get us where we need to be to survive and thrive, today and in the future.
- Challenge yourself to think from the future backwards, even if you can’t project too far ahead
- What do I think the future might look like in 1, 3 or 5 years’ time?
- How might I have to be doing my job differently?
- What do I already have (skills, technology etc) that I could implement or use differently?
- How can I use the intelligent assistance I already have at my fingertips, better (eg. your smartphone) – this is a friendly way to look at AI (artificial intelligence) in a less scary way
- On a personal front:
- It’s easy to look at your family budget and say we need to cut the spending here and here and you might succeed by spending less, reducing insurance premiums etc. However, how about looking at changing your behaviour and habits by using technology and knowledge to keep yourself healthier or lower your risk on the road, for example.
- Are you still going to the shops a few times a week for groceries and why, when you don’t have to?
- Have you thought about what you could be doing with your time if you weren’t going to and from the shops?
- Maybe you should automate certain kinds of shopping and make a novelty out of other kinds of shopping
- This is a great place to start, with something as simple as how you shop. Can you think of intentionally disrupting yourself in this area of your life that is so habitual?
- On the professional front, how are you working with your technology differently to deliver more value to your customers or to streamline your own work processes with your team members?
- The fourth industrial revolution is not about inventing new technologies as much as it is about using the existing third industrial revolution technologies to re-imagine how we do work and life completely.
Step #6: Hold your focus
With so many challenges surrounding us, trying to find solutions, and with external circumstances being out of our control (think the second wave of the Corona Virus and increased lockdown restrictions), you may find yourself jumping all over the place. Shiny Object Syndrome is a real thing. We bounce from one good idea or solution to another, never fully immersing ourselves in something, or completing anything before moving on. This can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction, causing demotivation. Shiny Object Syndrome can be extremely counter-productive. Here are some tips:
- Look at new ways of doing things
- Look at better ways to use the tools you have at your disposal
- Give all these things some good thought before jumping in
- How will it help you on the road to…?
- How much time will it take?
- How much money will it earn me?
- Will it waste my time and energy?
- How interested am I?
- After some critical analysis, make some clear decisions
- Narrow down the number of things you are going to work on
- Decide, truthfully, if it is serving you and/or your organisation, or not
- If not, stop and do something else
- Switch off your phone and email alerts for periods of time for uninterrupted focus
- Completion of tasks will give you a level of satisfaction which also raises the levels of happiness hormones, competence and confidence in your system
You don’t want to be a Jack of all trades but master of none, because it’s unfocused. It will not give you a sense of growth or progress which you need in order to raise your Satisfaction Index. If your effort leads to a sense of satisfaction, even if you land up discarding what you are doing, that is fuel for your fire that will keep you going.
Take-aways for winning at work
- You will have newfound energy
- You will create focus
- You will be coming from a space of exploration, enquiry and curiosity and not fear
- You will be kickstarting your journey of re-imagining the world of work in the future
- You will feel a sense of greater control and sanity despite the changes you are facing
- You will generate feelings of progress and satisfaction – even small incremental ones
- You will be an example of self-leadership
- You will be consciously embracing disruption rather than being a victim of it
Take-aways for winning at home and life
- Your sense of purpose will make your family feel more grounded
- People will feel safer and will be less reactive because you are calmer
- A regular routine provides family sanity – it’s the order of how things happen in the day
- Clearing your clutter will enable everyone to follow suit, shifting the energy of your whole home
- You are an example to the rest of the family of taking responsibility for yourself, showing self- leadership
- Help other family members to get clear about their year, their purpose and direction
- Consciously embracing disruption as a family by making technology and relationships work for you will result in these positive outcomes:
- Your children will be able to teach you a thing or two about the functionality of your tech that could revolutionise the way you connect and organise yourselves
- Be invitational to them
- Be more open-minded. Togetherness is an important feeling to create in a home, especially when so much is changing and uncertain – what are you creating together?
I hope that you can see how you can combine routine AND novelty. In fact, you must! Your brain and your body need both routine and novelty in order to feel sane AND alive. Novelty and newness will pull you forward while routine will keep you grounded.
Wishing you a year of actively embracing transition and transformation in 2021. May your feelings of competence and confidence rise in new and unexpected ways.