How quickly life can change – in the blink of an eye
It’s been a rough few weeks living in the brave new world of business that has resulted from Covid-19.
My business might looks the same on the outside, but on the inside it feels quite different. It’s like a stranger came in and rearranged the furniture while I was out. The shape that I left it in a few weeks ago, with plans drawn up and strategies organised for 2020, has changed. Everything has gone out the window and I’m starting over. My first thought, like everyone’s was, ‘How will I make this work now? What form should my business take in the short term to give it the best chance of survival?
Business takes many different forms: online, shop front, door-to-door, contract work or any combination. Whatever form your business was in a few weeks ago, it’s not likely to be in that form today. Even businesses that are booming from the shutdown such as toy stores or medical supplies, are operating in a vastly different form than they were a few weeks ago.
Seeing yourself as your business
Because our world is built on the idea of form – of making and building and creating stuff, from a way of life to the millions of products we use every year, inevitably we see ourselves IN and often, AS those forms that we create. I think this is especially true of business. When a business is created from the ground up, so much of it is based on the heart, soul and ideas of its owners. The form it takes is inevitably reflective of ourselves.
However, there are dangers in seeing ourselves as our business, believing that our self-worth is tied up into having the business continue. When we place our identity ‘out there’ in the world and not in a calm, centred place within, our sense of self wobbles during major change.
By believing that we need the business to be successful, or our job to last the year so we can feel safe or valued, we set ourselves up for disappointment. That attachment to the way something must look or should be, causes all our pain in the world.
Are you attached to the form?
When Buddha said, ‘Attachment is suffering’, he meant that attachment to things of form means we don’t want them to change. We cling. We rant and get depressed and feel lost when the form changes, dies or disappears. We hand our power over to that form when we say, ‘I can’t live without this. I NEED it in my life, the way I planned it, the way I want it to be.’ Attachment shows us where we believe we are not whole without that form remaining in our life.
Many women have identified this issue in the Claim Your Confidence online course discussions. They share their belief that their business must succeed in order to prove to themselves and others that they are worthy and acceptable as individuals. Our united challenge is to see that our worth as human beings is not dependent on the form of our business – successful or not. You don’t belong trapped in a form, no matter how inspiring it looks from the outside. You are far too expansive for that.
Form versus content
This current experience offers us a golden opportunity to look at what we are attached to, and where we hand over our power to ‘stuff’ we think we need to be okay. Because as much as we love form, life is not really about form is it? It’s not about the millions of things that we own, or the many habits and routines we set up around us to help us feel safe. Life, surprisingly, is not about making sure that everything we took for granted yesterday, will still be there today.
Life is actually about content – what you do with your energy and your focus every day. It’s about the experiences you are having right now. Not judging those experiences or your life as good or bad, this or that, but just being where you are right now, giving yourself permission to feel how you feel about it all. And if that means sitting with the frustration, anger and fear that all this change has triggered, that is perfectly okay too.
I’ve been facing this too as I resist the idea of ‘hibernating’ like a bear in winter, curled up with my business sleeping away in a ‘home-cave’ for the next six months. I want to be active, out in the world, doing things and making stuff happen! The frustration and resistance I feel to the idea of hibernating is enormous and shows me exactly where I am attached the way things were, not how they are.
Safety comes from within
The suffering we all feel from these immense changes is normal and to be expected. We are not used to thinking about life as content. Form is so much fun! We love building a business and watching it grow. We love creating something from nothing and nurturing it. We love the form of becoming someone, with a title and a role. There is no escaping the fact that form is what this world is about, and we love it.
But what we have now is an incredible opportunity to see the forms that we are attached to. We don’t usually get this opportunity because rarely do all forms just disappear overnight, unless a disaster took everything you loved in a moment.
As you notice the forms that you are missing, the ones that you hope will return or go back to normal when this crisis is over, also notice where you feel safe. If your safety relies on everything returning the way is was, then you will feel unsafe for a long time. Form will always change, especially during global disruption. Which means that you will never feel safe if you are relying on things ‘out there’ in the world to stay the same. As I’m fond of saying, safety lies within not without. Safety is finding your centre in the storm that is unfolding.
Content is the experience
However, content is experience – looking at whatever life brings you and acting on it. Going with the flow, with whatever turns up, rather than needing the form to stay the same. We like to hold onto form so it won’t change, but we can’t hold onto content. Content changes every moment, washing gently in and out, asking us to accept how we feel in this moment and staying open to whatever new thing might turn up.
You are not your business. You are not the identity you had in the job you owned last week. You are not a role or a title or a career. You are so much more than any of those. But you can’t bring back the power that you gave these forms to determine your happiness, confidence and self-belief, until you see where you have given it.
Call yourself home
Do you remember the quest in the Harry Potter books when Harry went searching for the Horcrux’s that contained the evil Voldemort’s soul? Voldemort had split his soul, putting a part of himself into each Horcrux, leaving Harry to search them out one by one. I think of that analogy when searching for the forms that hold my sense of self. I find them by looking at where I feel wobbly. Where do I no longer feel safe and secure because I want this or that to return the way it was? As I see how shaky the ground feels as these attachments disappear, I realise it is time to call the bits of myself back home.
The call to bring yourself ‘home’ is to choose not to see yourself as needing the forms that surround you to validate your success or your worth. What we all need instead is a calm and safe centre within ourselves to stabilise us now and going forward. If you don’t know how to do that, I’ve developed a Practice here to get you started.
You won’t hear this a lot in this crisis. Mostly there will be lots of advice about how to hold the forms of your life together, to make your business come back the same, to pick up where you left off. That is okay too. Human nature is to want the stability of a familiar form. Take what works for you and use it to help you move forward anyway you feel is right.
Finding your centre in the storm
If you are interested in finding your centre in the storm, here are a few ideas for how to get started.
First, I’ve included an example on the Practices page, that you can use to find your centre and stabilise yourself in the tumultuous seas of change that we are experiencing. If you need to find a place in yourself to come back to and be calm when everything at home and work is upside down, then this practice might be for you.
Once you feel centred, in your quiet moments, ask yourself:
- Where have I split my power and handed it over to someone or something else?
- Do my beliefs about myself rely on something outside of me being a certain way?
- How do I feel about myself if my business ‘form’ is gone or has changed substantially?
- Do I feel safe with all these changes? Ready to face them confidently, even if nothing goes back the way it was before?
Finally, choose to practice viewing your life as content, not form, going with the flow and with what presents in each moment. Find something you enjoy and just enjoy it, in the moment. Deal with the situation in front of you and nothing else. Release your belief that it all has to go back to the way it was for you to be happy.
Some of the ways I am practicing:
- I start the day with some quiet time to get my self-talk straight. I often wake up worrying so I try to silence that as soon as possible so that it doesn’t escalate.
- I choose not to look at news until 6.30pm so I’m not emotionally swamped by the constant fearful talk all day.
- I focus on tasks that I know give me ‘flow’, like writing or cooking. When I’m in the flow I’m involved in the moment and not listening to the fear voice in my head. I’m also open to new ideas surfacing which helps build my confidence.
- I’m staying open to the idea that the business might close or look very different and practicing detachment from that. I see it as a form ‘over there’ while I’m here, safe in my centre.
- I’m withdrawing my belief that I won’t be okay if it closes. This takes practice because it sneaks back all the time, but I try to catch it and use the safe centre image to remind me that the business is separate to me, and I will be okay even if it isn’t.
Whatever life becomes in the coming weeks and months, watch it and try to be free of expectation as to how it should look. Honestly, no one knows.
Allow whatever new thing is forming in your life to be like the mist. Watch it rise and fall, swirl and dissipate into nothing and then become something new again. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities and your mind free of fear. Fear shuts down insight and creativity and you need both right now.
If you’d like to explore the challenges of uncertainty in your life, or the anxiety that comes from facing business closure, you can join the Claim Your Confidence online self-paced course at any time. I support you to work through the issues that hold back your self- confidence, and the online discussions with other women are a wonderful source of inspiration and guidance. For more information, please click here.