I’ve noticed a shift in the world lately. We used to endlessly speculate with each other about when things would get back to normal.

  • Do you think we’ll get back to school this year? (Answer: nope)
  • Do you think we’ll go to a restaurant for Abi’s birthday in May? (Answer: nope)
  • Do you think that people will feel weird coming back to campus when we go back this fall?” (Answer: nope, because we’re fully online until 2021)

Lately, as the realities of the breadth and depth of this outbreak settle around us, the conversation is shifting. We’ve begun to wonder: Where are we going? What are we heading towards?

Only one thing seems certain; we aren’t headed back towards “normal.”

I’ve largely opted out of these relentlessly speculative conversations because I hold two things to be true no matter what:

  1. The human brain can get used to anything.
  2. So very much of what happens next is CHOICE.

We Were Built For This

The blessing and the curse of humanity is our ability to create familiarity and normalcy in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. And this is true even when that circumstance is wildly different than what came before. You’ve experienced this!

If you have kids, you can remember the way the world went from black and white to technicolor when you brought your child home. Suddenly a million entrenched beliefs you had about yourself and the nature of life flew out the window. “I need my sleep! I’m not touching poop! Going to the bathroom is private!” It was a shock for a minute, but then it became life. You built plans and had ideas inside of that new normal, no matter how radically different it was from what came before.

Or if you’ve lost a dearly beloved you might remember how that loss made every mundane thing sacred for a minute. Every single time you ate food, you looked at the place across the table. Every single time you had the impulse to reach out, you were gut punched by absence. It was painful and visceral, but then it began to settle. You began to feel the scar instead of the raw wound, and you built a life, reluctantly, in the new normal.

That’s what humans do. We settle and we build a life in the new normal.

We will do that this time, too.

I find that endlessly calming. I don’t need to know the details because I believe that whatever it is, we got this.

The second reason I avoid these conversations is that the primary assumption in most of them is that we will somehow be delivered to a reality that is constructed somewhere beyond our control. There are forces that shape the nature of our world, we recognize, but they are out there. In here (in me, with us, right now), we have no role in that.

And that, to be frank with you, is a bunch of cowardly bullshit.

We Are Creating This Reality Together

In the same way that we created the reality we have left behind, we’ve created the routines and tenor and the substance of today. And, we will create the new normal, too. There is a finite group of people on this planet whose interactions and leadership and intentions are the ONLY THING* driving what happens next.

On a global scale, how we care for our planet and negotiate our interactions literally creates the health and wealth of our entire species.

On the scale of our country, there are mechanisms for change coming our way. How we engage with those ideas and listen to each other changes everything, immediately, if we choose it.

On the scale of our communities, the way we support each other and appreciate each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt creates the culture of our schools and our homes and our grocery stores.

On the scale of your business, what you choose to declare about who you are on your website and in your message about why you’re here and what you’ll never stop advocating for, decides what happens next.

The truth is, we get to choose. We’ve been choosing the whole time, and we are choosing right now.

There is no externally mandated new normal that is coming to conquer us. And there is no pain in this change that can defeat us if we choose to begin imperfectly and move forward with intention.

Now is the time to decide what you deeply, truly want. As the new normal takes form around us, how do you want to show up? What do you want to create?

*P.S. – I firmly believe in a higher power. I also firmly believe in our free will. Together this means that our higher power is in us, and when we move with our greatest intentions and our highest self we will create a more perfect world. The great news is that we don’t have to agree about this: whether we are staunch realists connected to the chaos theory of reality or we have bought into a directed flow of intention from a higher power, our own impact is undeniable. When you are hungry, you operate inside that chaos/god sphere to make a sandwich. Regardless of what you believe, this is the one thing you cannot deny: your choices matter. Your intentions shape your reality.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.