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Three Ways to Future-Proof Yourself in the Next Normal

Three Ways to Future-Proof Yourself in the Next Normal
Do something today that your future self will thank you for. -Anonymous

We often hear that with every challenge comes opportunity. If you have been waiting for a sign to make a change, the next normal may have sped it up for you.

Research states that we learn and innovate best during turbulent times and from failure. With an uncertain post-COVID-19 future ahead, we can no longer follow business as usual. Instead, many of us have been gifted with the momentum to focus on ourselves, and by doing so, we might be able to take a leap forward into the next normal.

[Related: The Post-Pandemic Paradigm: Gearing Up for the New Normal 2.0]

Embracing an innovative mindset.

An innovative mindset typically consists of social attributes such as resilience, creativity, empathy, curiosity, and collaboration. Nine months into the crisis, it has become clear that there is no playbook for COVID-19.

Therefore, developing and embracing an innovative mindset is key when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. Resilience helps us keep productivity and wellbeing levels high by focusing on a sense of purpose and anchoring on self-compassion; hence, an appreciation for allowing ourselves time and space to work through challenges.

Since the outbreak, many of us have become more empathetic, which is considered to be one of the most powerful skills in the future of leadership as we breed inclusivity. As we move deeper into a virtual world, we are also being challenged to listen more to verbal cues and observe facial expressions.

Our levels of curiosity and creativity have been stimulated by the limited choice of activities. To distract ourselves and fight boredom, we have been discovering new things to do that we may have never considered before, such as painting a picture.

Although boredom is often perceived as a negative, research states that it can lead to high states of curiosity. Hence, it can be seen as a spark for innovation.

We thereby strengthened some of the emerging skills that, according to the World Economic Forum, will be key by no later than 2022. By forced adaptation, we started identifying creative and alternate ways of doing and should feel encouraged to further stretch our limits.

Three tips to practice:

  1. Make an extra effort to listen, including allowing more pauses before you respond.
  2. When feeling uncomfortable about uncertainty, try reversing your assumption and embrace it instead of fighting it.
  3. Build in a creative activity at least once a week to shake up your routine.

Cultivating authenticity and imperfection.

In an already fast-paced and often superficial social media world, the power of authenticity is increasingly gaining popularity. Instead of showing off, appearing as our true authentic self by embracing imperfection and being real about our current struggles enables us to form deeper and more meaningful connections. During uncertain times, we put a higher emphasis on the relationships we hold dear and feel more connected to individuals we can relate with.

Living with authenticity also allows us to align ourselves with our personal values and pursue what we truly desire. Many of us have already questioned our way of living and doing since the outbreak and how we want to move forward post-pandemic. We are more eager than ever to spend our time doing meaningful work that has a true impact.

Embracing authenticity ignites our creativity, increases our productivity, and ultimately leads to an improved wellbeing. Embracing uncertainty, questioning our way of being, and permitting ourselves to show up authentically will help us transition into the next normal.

Three tips to practice:

  1. Imperfection over perfection.
  2. Actively accepting weaknesses.
  3. Following desires and values.

[Related: Building the Mindset to Thrive in the New Normal]

Filtering through the noise.

As everything has moved online, a fierce battle for our attention has begun. The line between work and play is blurry and we are faced with information overload. We need to improve filtering between who deserves our time, who we trust, and how to set personal boundaries.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have become techno-stressed. Being reachable around the clock and immersive screen time require us to take measurements to set more boundaries. By doing so, we are more likely to keep our energy tank full and productivity levels high.

Trust plays a key role when it comes to deciding who we listen to. Trust isn’t built in a crisis, which is why we tend to reach out and connect to individuals and organizations who have proven themselves to be trustworthy in the past.

Three tips to practice:

  1. Be aware of who we give our attention to, including how much attention we give to ourselves.
  2. Revisit our personal boundaries and clearly communicate them.
  3. Get creative when it comes to competing for people’s attention.

It starts with us.

It is worth questioning our most important relationship – the one with ourselves. Our thoughts direct our energy. When we are stressed and filled with negative thoughts, we are hindering ourselves from properly processing information and thinking clearly.

Complex problem solving, logical and analytical thinking, and reasoning will be equally as important in the future as they are now. Hence, it is worth paying attention to our inner dialogue and thoughts to keep our energy levels up.

One way is to observe whether our mind tends to wander to the past, which we cannot change, or whether it is focusing on the future, which we can design. By shifting our energy to clearly visualize a goal - for example, giving a TEDx talk - our brain neural pathways are lighting up as if we are already doing what we are visualizing. In doing so, our brains prepare themselves for the next big thing we want to achieve.

Every challenge is a catalyst.

The competitive world is only becoming increasingly competitive. Nevertheless, the beauty of the current situation is that it has been a catalyst to us future-proofing ourselves. We are polishing certain skills and replacing other skills with automation, while dealing with uncertainty. Bringing back human skills such as creativity will result in being more employable as organizations place a high value on future skills.

To quote lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho:

When there is no turning back, then we should concern ourselves only with the best way of going forward.

[Related: "I Have No Idea What to Do"]


Saleema Vellani is an innovation strategist, teaches Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking at Johns Hopkins University, and is the author of Innovation Starts With “I.” Sign up for her free biweekly newsletter, Impact Insights, and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sarah Gädig (MBA) is an executive consultant and coach. She is helping people and organizations by enabling and guiding them through their transformation journeys. She has a passion for bringing out the best in people and in helping individuals to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life at ease - privately and professionally. Connect with Sarah via LinkedIn and her website.

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