So how can your household effectively adapt to the uncertainty and dislocation that accompanies this new abnormal?
While you’re in a new abnormal, your underlying needs and wants remain the same. You just need to figure out different ways toward satisfying them.
You might have heard of Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation and the pyramid of needs based on his work. More recent research, summarized in Scott Barry Kaufman’s excellent book Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, revises this model to show that our fundamental needs consist of safety, connection, and self-esteem, and we will feel deprived without them. We also have needs that help us achieve our full potential through personal growth, what Maslow called “self- actualization” and what Kaufman more clearly defined as exploration, love, and purpose. A good approach to adapting to the new abnormal is evaluating your life through the lens of these needs and ensuring that you can still satisfy them.
Connection to Others
The most challenging element for Susan stemmed from the fundamental need of connection to others. It’s a topic I describe in much more depth in my best-seller, The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships.
First, consider your immediate connections with members of the household.
If you have a romantic partner in your household, you’ll have to figure out how to interact in a healthy manner given that you’re together 24/7. You’ll likely get into each other’s spaces and on each other’s nerves. It’s much wiser to anticipate and work out these problems in advance than have them blow up down the road. The same principle applies to other members of your family. If you have older children who moved home after university closed, or younger children who aren’t going to school after it closed, you’ll need to figure out how to deal with them being cooped up inside. This includes staying in touch with their schools to get updates on online school work.
You’ll have to put more thought into dealing with older adults over 60 or anyone with underlying
health conditions in your household (including yourself if you fit either category). Given their much greater vulnerability to COVID-19, you and other members of your household need to take serious measures to prevent them from getting ill. That means being more careful yourself than you would otherwise be, since over half of all those with COVID-19 have no or light symptoms.
Second, what about your connection to those who you care about who aren’t part of your household?
Your romantic partner might not be part of your household. Depending on how vulnerable to COVID-19 you and other members of your household might be, you might choose to take the risk of physical intimacy with your romantic partner, but you have to make this decision consciously rather than casually. Or you might choose to have a social-distance relationship, meeting at a distance of 10 feet or by videoconference.
During one of our coaching sessions, Susan said she hadn’t realized how strained her relationship with her husband was until I had pointed out the need for healthy interaction while being together 24/7. After our talk, she sat down with her husband to have a serious conversation about the situation. Together, they decided to stick to their own separate routines, have their own spaces apart (with Susan spending time at her home office and her husband and child spending the days accomplishing school work in the living area), and come together as a family after the workday is done – as they would have before the pandemic – so that they wouldn’t get on each other’s nerves.
Soon after, they also sat down and conversed with their young child regarding COVID-19, remaining calm and simply discussing what they, as a family, needed to do to stay healthy. Due to their reassuring manner, their child expressed more willingness to open up to them about any worries he might have regarding the pandemic.
Towards the end of our coaching sessions, Susan informed me that she had finally established a balanced work-life routine that suits her and protects her relationships with her loved ones.
While the new abnormal ushered in by COVID-19 has brought unprecedented changes to our lives, there’s no reason you as an executive can’t survive and thrive in the new abnormal while we wait for a vaccine. You just need to identify, anticipate, and take care of your fundamental needs.
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