The last 18 months will be remembered for the obvious reasons, however key trends have emerged that at least deserve a footnote in the history books. From a personal perspective, the key trend is not upward or downward, nor horizontal, but rather eerily still. The resolute perception and at times strongly held belief, though often not reality, that progress has halted in its entirety and key areas of life have become stagnant.
Too much time.
Back in February and March of 2020 as the pandemic took hold across the globe, life changed for each and every one of us. In a work setting – entire industries ground to a halt and millions around the world lost their jobs.
For those who remained in employment, new working arrangements were required. Many were required to work from home, whilst others were placed on schemes such as the “furlough” scheme in the UK. Those in key front line roles were to adopt new ways of working to maximise safety whilst ensure critical services were maintained.
But whatever the work situation you found yourself in, the one thing we all had far more of was time… even for those who were required to work longer hours than ever before.
That seems counterintuitive, but unpack it slightly. Once work has finished, even if its later than usual think about these 2 questions;
- What did you do?
- Where did you go?
Unless the rules were not adhered to, the answer will be pretty straightforward for most. For me;
- What did I do? Moved from one room of the house to the other to watch TV and have food before bed.
- Where did I go? Nowhere.
Now what about free time and weekends;
- What did you do? Went for a walk or baked banana bread with varying degrees of success
- Where did you go? Remained within a 3 mile radius of home.
Of course the number of hours in any given day or week remained constant. However with no plans, no social life and no events, the number of truly free hours – hours with no plans, increased significantly. We found ourselves with more free time, whatever our work situation.
The question was, what the hell do we do with it?
For me, as was the case for many others, I chose to use this time to analyse every element of my life. The starting point of the analysis was a feeling of unhappiness, and so the results were unsurprisingly negative.
I was wasting my time doing things that I didn’t want to do. Getting drunk each weekend, watching a lot of TV / Netflix, ordering takeaways and occasionally going for a walk in the local area. I live with my partner, I was seeing people on video calls each week, and yet I felt so lonely and unfulfilled.
From the outside my life would appear brilliant – a great job with a salary to match, engaged to be married, new house, new car. So what right did I have to feel lonely and unfulfilled? Numbing myself of these feelings seemed easier than accepting and addressing them.
For all intents and purposes, my life was stagnant. I felt as though everything was passing me by as I remained rooted to the spot, out of control and unable to drag myself forwards.
This all stems from the pressure that we all feel to continually make progress. Through this lens life is continuous motion – either forwards, or laterally initially with the goal of advancing in the near future.
The easiest way to satisfy this urge is through work. We strive for a career in a certain industry and we base our success on that of our peers, either at work or in our social lives. We see promotion and salary increases as progress, without giving much consideration to the destination. We spend far more time making sure we are seen to be moving that the destination almost becomes irrelevant.
And then it hits. The feeling of being stagnant.
Normally this is the time we become restless and strive for the next step just to keep moving. We seek to advance our careers and progress up the chain. In essence, to do what it takes to maintain the trajectory we have set for our life.
Keep busy, work hard, move forward.
But this time it was different. The thought of progression in my career wasn’t providing any sense of satisfaction. It dawned on me that I have spent so much time focussing on progression in my career that I haven’t taken the time to think about where I want to go and what I want to achieve.
Too much time?
If you have shared that feeling of being lonely and unfulfilled, and despite all the success you may have had in life there is still that unavoidable feeling of emptiness, a sense that you are yet to find your purpose, then it may be an indicator that you too have been focussed on the journey and neglecting the destination.
What better time than now to make a change! We all have more time on our hands to define our passions and dreams. We all have the ability to chase those dreams.
The direction of travel isn’t important. Life isn’t a graph, and you are not a business with “growth potential”. It’s about your destination – and as long as you are on your path that’s all that matters.
My journey began at the start of this year. Now in to month 8, I have identified my passions and defined my dreams. You guys are all sharing the journey towards that with me! It’s not easy, but I can promise you it is rewarding.
Remember to stop and appreciate the progress of the journey to date, and review the next leg of the journey ahead. You don’t need to be continually moving to be successful.
Have a good ‘un guys.