First of all, I want to thank our incredible LYP Alumnae and amazing LYP Co-Founder Jean Kim for sharing their experiences during the pandemic through videos, photos, and blog articles as part of the #TagAnLYPAlumna Series. I could relate SO well to many of the experiences you shared – feeling isolated at times; overwhelmed and exhausted mentally and physically; struggling to balance self, family and work; having a stronger sense of gratitude for things I often took for granted; and absorbing and appreciating small things in life in a very different way.
One of the biggest take away for me in this situation has been an extended period of self-reflection and introspection. Re-thinking, re-evaluating and re-inventing myself!
As I tried to focus on the positive sides of this unprecedented situation, I realized that similar to any societal change, the pandemic and our new reality can provide us with new opportunities to excel. So, how do I prepare myself to see these opportunities and be ready for them? I believe, what we need is a new outlook into things and certain traits and skills that allow us to adapt quickly and see those windows of opportunities.
I would like to share three traits and skills that we can focus on to succeed in the new normal.
1. Adapt to change and build resiliency This unprecedented pandemic took me, like most of us, off guard. For months I craved routine and normalcy. This surprised me, since I have always embraced change – the thrill of something new and the opportunity for me to challenge myself, learn and grow. Of course, this situation was different – the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, busy life with two young kids constantly at home and in need of 24/7 attention and care, and possibly also me getting older. I did not feel I could or wanted to adapt to this change, and was hoping and waiting for things to go back to normal.
One spring day, as I was playing in the backyard with our two young kids, my son, who was almost 4, mentioned to me how much he loved the “extra” long weekend (this is how we explained to him why we are all at home for weeks and months). And even though he said he missed his friends, he loved spending time with parents and his younger brother every single day.
Kids are a perfect example of adaptability and resiliency. They are flexible, get used to new circumstances so quickly and typically thrive in constant change. As we get older, we become more attached to our ways, our realities, and our routines, resisting and often avoiding change.
What matters the most is not what circumstances we are in or what challenges we face; but how we see them, and how we react to them. This is what determines how we will overcome them successfully or even possibly thrive because of them.
HOW: Regardless of different challenges we are facing because of the pandemic – keep calm, evaluate rationally and realistically, plan and act.
2. Be comfortable with uncertainty
I am so grateful for the stability we have in Canada. We can plan our lives, years and decades ahead of time. Even during times of uncertainty, like a pandemic, the government provides support to create some stability for us. Being an immigrant to this wonderful country, I did not always have this luxury. Moreover, I worked with young people from across the world, whose reality was far from being predictable and certain. I know the value of stability and predictability in our lives.
Now, the other side of the coin – living in a stable and predictable environment, we have less tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. (If you are curious to learn more about uncertainty avoidance, I suggest you to read Geert Hofstede theory on dimensions of culture). In a way, we live in our cozy cocoon of predictability and have an illusion that we control things. The pandemic has exposed that illusion, leaving many of us with a strong feeling of vulnerability. I believe those who learn to be more comfortable in uncertainty are the ones who will better adapt to the new normal.
HOW: Think of areas you can control and focus on them. Practice stress reducing activities, such as mindfulness or meditation.
3. Grow Your Support Community As we started the LYP Program, Jean and I knew how important it was to build a supportive community of like-minded women for individual success and well-being. We are so proud to have a strong community of amazing program graduates and mentors who invest in each other’s success and well-being.
This same community has been the biggest personal support system for me during the pandemic – checking on the well-being of our LYP alumnae and supporters, sharing our challenges, encouraging each other to stay positive, sharing tips to focus on self-care and many other ways. These amazing women have given me energy to last long days of toddler care and full time work, reduce my stress in the initial weeks of the pandemic to be able to sleep at night, be OK not to be productive, and create some time daily for self-care.
I came to appreciate having a support network even more during the pandemic. In times of uncertainty and challenges, we need a strong support system to remind us who we are and give us the encouragement to push through.
In this new reality when face to face meetings are still so rare, I have promised myself to intentionally make an effort to nurture my existing network and grow my support community larger.
HOW: Be intentional in growing your support community. Invest time and effort to nurture your network. For example, reach out to individuals in your network to catch up or check on their well-being.
I hope, with this blog post, I was able to provide you some food for thought and useful tips on how to position yourself for success during these challenging times.
In conclusion, I wish everyone to be safe and in good health. I look forward to reconnecting with you virtually and, hopefully soon, in person. Lilit Simonyan Co-Founder of LYP Program