Coffee with Ali: There is No New Normal

As the sun sets, it promises a new dawn

“We must get used to a new normal.” A phrase that is used more and more to help us cope through the uncertainties of the current Coronavirus pandemic. A phrase I refuse and will not accept. To be clear from the start, I am not against the practices of wearing masks or other preventative measures. if anything this is a practice that we must employ to move forward. Yes, we have public health challenges and they must be managed. However, the concept of “new normal” although appearing inviting, even comforting, is a dangerous premise to live with. Especially now.

  • There is nothing normal about kids not attending education in person, not mixing with their friends, not debating in person
  • There is nothing normal about conducting meetings over a Skype call and missing all non verbal communication
  • There is nothing normal about not hugging and limiting social contacts (even me as an introvert!!)
  • There is nothing normal about isolating and not gathering together in groups
  • There nothing normal about going shopping when they are laid out like a prison and whatever you touch needs to be destroyed
  • There is nothing normal (enter your own here)

I could go on with this list, but the point is accepting that this is now the standard, although may give temporary comfort of the nightmare surrounding us, in the long term, it actually is prohibiting ourselves from accepting reality. All it does is make us believe that our present is okay. It is not. Accepting reality is the true coping mechanism we need right now. It is critical to have the time to process to acknowledge our losses. This in turn drives change. 

I say change, because let’s face it, even the word “normal” is also not right. Even before this pandemic hit, were things really that good? Was the normal before the utopia we seem to constantly reminisce about? The harsh truth is no, it was not. This pandemic has highlighted the fact that things were not ideal before and we must continue to innovate.

Let’s take education as an example. During lockdown and even to present day, students are still faced with virtual learning. Fine, the physical contact is a managed measure to move forward. Yet focussing on the virtual learning aspect, all that has happened is shifting content online, rather than learn and employ a distance based learning model that takes the advantage of online education. In other words, learning for the majority has now become transactional as opposed to transformational.

This example and ideology is what we should be expecting from our leaders, to ask those questions that they should have asked before. To think about the answers to the questions that they were previously afraid of being asked. Then subsequently taking action. Now, more than ever, is the need of empathy and action from our leaders. Thus, having the acceptance, is the enabler to shift from normal to greatness. I know, it’s not easy, it takes not only empathy but courage to aspire to more than just normal. However, I truly believe we stand to lose far more if we don’t. Our freedom and liberties, our thirst for joy and creativity, our future.

But what about on a more personal level. How can we help adopt and ultimately use this concept of not accepting “new normal” and driving change for ourselves personally. Back in March which feels like 84 years ago, I wrote an article on my takeaways and approach to coping with Social Distancing. Reflecting back on it, I realised the same still applies: structure in our daily lives, maintaining connections and be grateful for what we have. I’ve been working on this premise every day, some days it was hard, really hard. Yet heading further into Autumn and to the end of this bullshit year, not only have we got to keep going and working on this frame, we must also work on the actions. For me personally, the key area point is focussing on appreciation and gratitude. Being grateful is an act of being thankful – yet It’s easy to just say thanks. However true gratitude goes beyond that feeling of being thankful. It is a deep conscious feeling of appreciation from within. It is the manifestation of love, devotion and commitment to those who mean something to you. Gratitude influences a process of catharsis in addition to promoting the exchange of positive emotions. This aids our acceptance of reality of how life is now. From that it will naturally drive actions, even supporting the other two parts of the frame; structure and connections. The outcomes of those actions will enhance our own well being, strengthening our relationships, enhance our optimism and our pursuit of happiness, just to name a few.

You all know I’m an advocate of writing down thoughts, and one tool to work on this is to keep a gratitude journal. To help, and in the spirit of being together with you, I will each week publish The Gratitude Sessions, highlighting what I have been grateful for in the past week. I would love to hear your entries. Let’s use the power of gratitude, one of our greatest human emotions to accept this time in history is not the new normal, and act for a better tomorrow after this temporary new now. Peace & Love.

Having over 15 years’ experience in freight forwarding and supply chain management, Ali has led numerous multi-disciplined projects and operations globally. A change management specialist having worked within multiple industry verticals. He is also a coffee-obsessed, solo-travelling introvert.

Ali is also a published author with his latest book; Building Your Bridge: An Introvert’s Art of SuccessA personal journey to help guide professional introverts to realising that as an introvert, the skills and traits for success are already within their grasp. Available now here.