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Following Your North Star in Times of Uncertainty

Working the Way Through Pandemic Disruption

In these times we are living, if I had to choose one word to describe my life, a good choice would be “Disrupted.”

A combination of events we’re all experiencing has  disrupted of our lives in ways that can only be described as shocking.

  • We grapple every day simply with where we can go and who we can see, trying to impossibly balance protecting our own lives and those around us, while trying to live our lives, the only life we have here on earth to live.
  • We’re dealing with our work, and how we deliver our best to customers and to our organizations through the limitations of contact with one another.
  • The children we frantically ferried to a myriad of school events are now live steaming their lives  academically and socially from living rooms and kitchens. 
  • The stability of the world around us is in question—to what extent is a world in lockdown sustainable?  Will the solutions we are presented to us for ending the pandemic really work?  Will the social structures we have always depended on for stable lives of opportunity sustain multiple assaults?
  • We are all in a a constant state of wondering, “What’s next?” 

In the midst of all this, the resilience of business has been amazing.  The ability of front-line workers from health care to home delivery who go out every day to serve us is a story I believe will long be told around the globe because they show the very best of humanity.  There is the tragic story of failing businesses and unemployment, yet many businesses are innovating, expanding, hiring, and growing.

Yet how are we reacting to the personal disruption we’re experiencing?   In the midst of this unprecedented lifetime disruption, the survival mode kicks in.  It’s more the sense of “flight,” in the “fight or flight” model.  We have little control over the basic dynamics of the pandemic, so our tendency can be the “bunker mentality,” to pause life and wait things out.

Looking Up to Find Our North Stars

Most of us are as busy or even busier than we were when we were out and about each day and engaged in social events.  Yet I know it’s not lost on many of us that we have also been presented with important time to assess where we are in life and what’s really important to us.  We have the time we always wished we had had to find our North Star or reconnect with it.  Rather than feeling on hold, the time we now have is the gift of a lifetime.  It is so important that we don’t squander it, but use it to locate and follow our personal North Stars. 

  1. Be Sure to Look Up—Your North Star is There—My West Texas relatives always valued the saying, “Keep your nose to the grindstone.”  What they meant was to do the next important thing in front of you and not get pulled away by bright, shiny distractions.  Having come through Depression and War, they knew that survival meant focus.  You could have a good time on Saturday night, but it was backbreaking farm fields come Monday.

    As important as it is to focus on what keeps life moving, the disruptions of today are counterbalanced by this incredible opportunity:  To think and meditate and explore what gives us meaning.  Our North Star is that part of us that guides us through all circumstances.  It is a combination of our dreams, aspirations, and values
  2. Be Sure to Look Back—Our Roots are There.  It’s time to walk back through what you always wanted to do but decided you couldn’t.  It’s time to look at the basic assumptions you’ve had concerning who you are and what you are capable of.   It’s time to discard the paralyzing thought, “If I had only known,” and replace it with the moment of celebration, “Isn’t it great what I know now—it’s amazing what I’ve learned.”  What you have always wanted to do or be is right there in your past, ready for you to pick it up and move forward.
  3. Be Sure to Look Forward—the Future is There.  I often have the feeling when I look back at my life that I’ve kind of messed up a lot of things.  People are still dealing with the results of bad decisions I made decades ago.  The future is there and it’s yours. 

    The mind keeps telling you that it’s too late to do the things you started out to do—I always tell people that it’s true that life is short, but you have a lot more time on the play clock than you think you do.  Fank DeCaprio, the producer of The Godfather, has had a lifetime of huge successes and incredible flops.  When he was asked how it was that he could keep initiating new things at this age, he said, “Every day I go out and pretend I’m 21.  In my mind my life is before me.”  The most important part of our lives is still ahead.

In spite of everything that’s happening as a part of what we experience daily, we are amazed at people’s resilience.  Businesses and careers are moving forward in spite of huge job losses and people’s suffering from the virus and its impact. 

Yet there has never been a time in our history for people to be thrown off personally by everything that’s impacting them.  When clouds obscure the night sky and there’s thunder and lightning all around, when we look up into the wind and rain, sometimes we don’t see stars, only darkness.  It’s then that we focus our eyes on the skies and through the storm to look for our North Stars.  No matter how strong the storm is raging, we’ll see our North Stars shining above us, and we will follow that Star.

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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