If you’ve been waiting for just the right moment to make a life change, now is the time.
Times of disruption lead to new opportunities for growth and change. Perhaps the most notorious pandemic in history, the Black Death, may have caused the Renaissance. The Covid-19 pandemic kicked us out of our routines: some of us have been mourning, others were left languishing. But now, we’re given the blessing of a fresh start in our lives. Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School and author of a new book on personal change, believes that this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “We have this blank slate to work on. Everything is on the table to start fresh.”
People are more likely to meaningfully change their lives around temporal landmarks. That’s why we keep making New Year’s resolutions, regardless of our ability to follow through. While longing for a palingenesis with broad, vague goals will set you up for failure, there are points in time that make a fresh start more attainable. Right now, there’s a huge opportunity to rethink your life.
Perseverance and Ingenuity
In her book When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity and the Transforming Illness, Tobi Zausner presents the stories of great painters who fell gravely ill during their lifetimes. Zausner concludes that those illnesses led to the creation of new possibilities for their art. Artists broke away from their old habits and were able to find alternative creative strategies to reach their goals. Nowadays, there’s lots of evidence for post-traumatic growth – the idea that we can come out stronger after going through negative life events. This awful pandemic time can then be way more than something you’ve just muddled through.
A New Chapter
Stop for a moment and look back at your life. There are those fond memories of childhood that you miss. Then high school years come to mind, whether you loved them or you hated them. Flashbacks to your college years or to a certain job may follow next. The point is that we usually think of our lives in chapter breaks – as if we’re in a novel. We don’t think of the passage of time as a continuum: it’s made up of unique periods. Now we’re all leaving the pandemic behind. This means that we’re opening up a new chapter, a new beginning where we can leave our shortcomings and our older selves behind.
Listen To Your Emotions
While the start of a new chapter is a great time for personal change, it’s also when pages turn the quickest. Pretty quickly, we’ll have new mental patterns and routines established, and we won’t think about them for a while. So, take the chance right now and be deliberate about what parts of your pre-pandemic life you want to change. Ask yourself: How are you feeling, really? Create a vocabulary for your feelings so that they can guide you. According to Chinese philosopher Mencius, the right way to live our lives is by keeping our hearts open to emotions so that we don’t get trapped in overly rational – and often cynical – plans. You don’t have to mindlessly obey your emotions, but right now it’s crucial to accept them and to trust that they have some message for you.
I know times are difficult right now, and it may seem so hard to start fresh. Nevertheless, we will most likely come out of the pandemic stronger, more creative, and with a deeper sense of meaning than we ever had before. If you’re dreaming of a New You, you’re right on time.