Repacking our bags
Do you research your destination? Do you make a list of things you simply *must* do (or avoid)?
How about packing – do you open a suitcase and shove in whatever is near? Do you always pack the same kit?
I’ve spent a fair amount of the last year talking to people who have had journeys – physical and metaphorical – interrupted, postponed or cancelled. One of the common themes is a recognition that we each carry with us tools and ideas that are no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Many of these ways of thinking, being and doing were once beneficial or even essential – they are not bad in and of themselves – but it takes clarity and courage to recognise habits and practices that have had their day.
We were all forced to stop or radically alter many things ‘we have always done’ as we grappled with the impact and threats of lockdown life: where we work, how we travel, who we physically see, how meetings happen…
We needed to put some things down, and pick other things up – to repack our bags.
And now – as we dare to hope that we can re-engage with more familiar ways of living – we have a chance to critically reflect on what our next step should and could be, and how to take it.
There will certainly be things that we have put down that need to be carried again, and things we picked up that were only ever a temporary measure. But we have a unique chance to decide what things we take with us, and what things we leave behind.
A few examples of this:
- A church leader I work with is thinking about their community, specifically how it meets together. For as long as anyone can remember, the main moment for this has been the Sunday morning service in the church, but this needed to change when such physical meetings were no longer possible. Like many others, they know some people have struggled with the lack of physical interaction, but they have also noticed people attending online services who rarely – if ever – were able to attend ‘in real life’ due to illness, commitments or other constraints. If the church simply returns to ‘business as usual’ then their engagement with and support of such people will again diminish.
- A youth worker I work with is thinking about how they build and maintain relationships with the young people in their care. For a while, there was considerable anxiety about the mechanics of keeping in touch, and the necessity of shifting focus from running youth groups to working with individuals, often exclusively online. They have noticed some real benefits, but acknowledge that they will not be able to sustain some of the ‘new’ ways if they try to pick up everything of the ‘old’. Some of the things they used to do have been delegated to others (including young people themselves), while other things will happen less regularly or cease altogether.
- A parent I work with has come to appreciate the benefits and costs of working from home. They are having conversations with their employer about flexible working hours, and how often they need to be back in the office. Prior to the pandemic these conversations could have been framed as selfishness or laziness, but now they have reflective evidence to back up their ideas, and can argue the benefits not only for themselves, but for their employer too.
Coaching (and mentoring) can give you the tools, time and space to have this kind of reflective conversation with yourself, and to notice decisions and options available to you that you otherwise might miss.
Wherever your next step leads you, take the time now to think about what you need to pack, in order to get the best out of it.