When the pandemic first hit and we were sent home and told to stay there, I remember wondering, “Is this the wake-up call we’ve been waiting for?”
Now you may be asking why this was one of the first things I contemplated when faced with the uncertainty of homeschooling my then eight-year-old, having to suddenly close our doors at the office and preparing for lockdown.
Perhaps this intuitive download came from my spiritual knowingness that everything happens for a reason. Or perhaps it came from my years as a professional athlete, which brain-trained me to believe that adversity is just an opportunity for growth.
Regardless of its origin, as someone who has spent the last 15 years coaching some of the highest-performing leaders and teams on the planet, I believe this deeply curious question was most inspired by what I knew my high-achieving leaders needed the most out of the disruption itself—some larger cosmic force sent to disrupt their autopilot so that they could create the space for the healing, growth and evolution toward the fulfillment they craved most.
What I’ve witnessed coaching these self-sacrificial, all-or-nothing, perfectionist “human doings” is that their autopilot is what’s most responsible for their suffering. I’d guess 95-97% of their decisions each and every day come from their autopilot (the subconscious mind)—which is governed by their mindset.
The high-achiever’s mindset is hardwired to believe that safety lives outside of themselves, in the form of seeking to constantly, chronically secure external forms of validation. In other words, the thing that they value most is achievement, and therefore, achievement gets the majority of the playing time in this psychology—meaning a disproportionate amount of time, energy and focus gets invested toward all things achievement.
While this is the success strategy that society “sells us” most (work hard, sacrifice yourself and earn the amount of money that will someday make you happy), this deficit strategy is not what sets us up to win at life and business sustainably as human beings.
This maladaptive strategy hardwires us to believe that we are not enough and our hard work is never good enough—and therefore, it (the achievement) will never be enough to satisfy our psychological famine. Hence the suffering. This mindset is what sets us on a track toward burnout, “dis-ease” in our mental and physical health, and broken-down relationships with ourselves, each other, our work and our planet.
So when the pandemic first hit and the hamster wheel went into out-of-service mode, this is where my mindset went as a high-performance leadership coach: How will we capitalize on this sudden influx in time, energy and focus while stuck inside the four walls of our “bunkers”?
Having witnessed in my own experience the effect radical disruption can have on a high achiever’s autopilot, I knew that those leaders who leaned in and did the mindset work required to heal, grow and contemplate their beliefs and values would be the ones to find the most value in the disruption. They would be the ones to come out on the other side more aligned with the beliefs and values that create a meaningful life—and perhaps even find themselves working in more meaningful ways.
One giant silver lining comes from realizing success is an inside game. The quality of our decisions culminates in the quality of life we get to experience in this lifetime. Those who met the adversity of the disruption would be the ones thrust from surviving into thriving.
So how have we shown up for this opportunity?
We are still going through the disruption caused by this radical shift toward learning how to lead, not just live, our lives in more meaningful ways. But the data thus far shows that many of those people and businesses that showed up to the lesson have seen big-time changes. The old way of working isn’t enough in 2022. It’s bearing out in the statistics:
• About 50% of the U.S. workforce is “quietly quitting.”
• Toxic company culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to attrition than poor compensation.
The Great Resignation and quiet quitting are the most compelling evidence that we’ve seen thus far. People are walking out the front door, and others are checking out of their jobs, proactively searching for organizations that value meaningfulness, empathetic and empowering leaders, growth in career development and compensation, and psychologically safe, inclusive environments.
So was the pandemic the wake-up call I truly believed this world needed to receive?
We are starting to see evidence that it has been for those who actually woke up—those who used awareness, consciousness, mindfulness and serious intention to realign their beliefs with their values and re-architect their mindset in more meaningful ways.
For those businesses led by leaders who personally transformed their mindsets, we are starting to see a migration toward curating professional conditions that set people up to thrive, not just merely survive.
The power is in the people, and the people have spoken: A paycheck is no longer enough to justify our full engagement professionally. We are awakening to core truths as human beings: Money doesn’t buy happiness, and our health is our greatest wealth. Our level of fulfillment comes from how aligned our mindsets are with our values, and that allows us to make more meaningful, human-being-centric decisions.
So if you didn’t hear the call when the pandemic first hit, and you missed the lesson that would lead you to a purpose-driven life, rich with fulfillment—I sure hope you hear it now, because this opportunity still exists for each one of us who hears it and chooses to responsibly show up to life’s greatest assignment.
Find more from Susan on Forbes.