What NOT To Do As You Navigate out of COVID-19

The world is showing signs of emerging from its long, COVID-19 fog. As restrictions lift, groups gather, and businesses bounce back, people are expressing excitement to return to some kind of normalcy.

But if you aren’t prepared for the changes we’re going to be experiencing – both individually and within organizations – the transition into a post-COVID world may not be comfortable or successful for you. Here are 4 important problems to avoid as you shake off the COVID fog.

Trap #1: Going back to “The Plan” Post-COVID

Most of us were raised to believe that successful people make a plan, work hard, and get rewarded. So it’s no surprise that we want to cling to The Plan at all costs, even when circumstances change.

In 2021, I worked with the University of Northern Colorado to conduct research on how well people can adapt, and 74% of respondents expressed an unwillingness to improvise, change, and learn as they go in unfamiliar situations. Most of us struggle in some way when forced to redirect our plans and goals.

The Plan is alluring. It feels comfortable. It feels like the shortest path to success. But it’s not the same world as it was in 2019. You’re not the same person. To more easily let go of The Plan, remind yourself that The Plan 1.0 had problems, too. You may not have gotten far along enough on the journey to find them yet, but they were there. Spend your energy focusing on how to make The Plan 2.0 (or 3.0, or 117.0) the best it can be.

Trap #2: Expecting to Feel Better Right Away

There’s a lot to celebrate as more people get vaccinated and regular activities can start to resume. There’s also a lot to feel conflicted about. How do we celebrate when so many have died? How do we get excited when so many have lost everything?

Even if you’re personally MORE than ready to had back into the office or send kids back to school, and you have no fear of variants popping up, you might run into unexpected grief for the months you missed.

For the healthiest re-entry, don’t ignore the potential for grief to pop back up in surprising ways. Allow yourself to have mixed feelings about letting go of The Plan 1.0 (see above). In my research, the younger you are the easier it may be for you to move on to a new plan, possibly because you’ve invested less time than if you’re older (and committed to your plans for a longer time).

Trap #3: Thinking You Have to Operate at 100% Immediately

If you’re a “do-er” like me, you may be chomping at the bit to resume what feels like normal levels of productivity. But trying to go from wherever you are to top speed may surprisingly make you less successful.

Because of something called action-bias, many of us are primed to jump to action before we fully evaluate our options. Scientists who study brainstorming say the ideas that come up later in the brainstorming process that are more innovative and creative. Take advantage of this time to come up with new goals and strategies. Maybe the pandemic exposed new opportunities for your business or your life. Maybe it revealed gaps that you now know how to fix.

Resist the temptation to dive in and make up for lost time post-COVID. Instead, use this time intentionally to create new goals and new ways of operating that will lead to greater accomplishment in the long run.

Trap #4: Navigating Change Alone

What do you think of when you think of a resilient person? Many people imagine someone with a sense of toughness who draws on internal strength. In reality, studies show the most resilient people aren’t lone wolves relying on their own inner power, but those with strong support systems.

Many of us have spent parts of the pandemic alone or in small bubbles. We may be (or feel) less connected than we’ve ever been. But lone-wolfing isn’t a good way to accomplish your goals. In my research, the older you are, the better you get at leaning on others to help you… and the more you seek input and advice from others, the smarter the decisions you make!

Ready or Not…

If you’re expecting to run headlong back into “the way things used to be” at top speed, be prepared for a rude awakening. The changes we’re about to experience as we go *back* to life post-COVID are not that much different than the changes we faced when the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020. There will be changes, both operationally and emotionally. But if you’re prepared for them, you’ll be able to successfully make the transition back.

What I DIDN’T Accomplish in 2020

I’m seeing a lot of people post about what they managed to accomplish in this crazy year. Lots of posts: “What did you accomplish in 2020?!?!” Don’t get me wrong – I’m super proud of people who have fought against the fear, confusion, and general “blahs” of 2020 and come out with new skills and triumphs.

 

But I also realized it could feel a little… shaming. Personally, I’ve had lots of moments this year where just getting out of bed and turning on my computer felt like a feat of strength.

 

So I decided to write about what I didn’t accomplish this year! Those things I thought in April I’d get to do with alllllllllll my new free time. But I didn’t.

 

(I may have to add to this list over time, as I remember)

 

  1. Sourdough. Yeah, it sounded like a good idea when I watched all the rest of you do it. Sourdough bread is my favorite bread. But keeping myself alive this year was feat enough, so sourdough starter shall have to wait. 😉
  2. Regular Zoom calls/game nights with all my friends and loved ones. I was so happy when we all started inviting one another to virtual gatherings! Yay – I can be there even when I’m not! I had big plans to call or text several people a day, and just generally be better about keeping in touch. The Zoom invites got overwhelming. Sorry, folks.
  3. Ukulele. I learned one new chord. I wrote silly COVID-inspired lyrics to one song. Then I got bored. Whoops.
  4. A new book. In 2019, I started my research on the topic of Adaptive Thinking. When all this free time hit without any travel, it dawned on me that it might make sense to start working on a book now. Spoiler alert: there’s no book. This right here is as much as I’ve written in months.
  5. A better workout schedule. It’s hard to get into a consistent workout routine when you’re on the road a lot. I had big plans that I’d use my time at home to ride my spin bike a little more, and maybe lift some weights. Instead, I’m writing this from underneath my comforter.
  6. Crochet. See #3, ukulele. Crochet is harder than I thought, y’all.

 

If you didn’t accomplish as much as you wanted to this year, you aren’t alone. If you had big plans for skills you could pick up in your free time, but you mostly just binged Netflix, I feel you. If someone asks you “what did you accomplish in 2020?” feel free not to answer. I’d give you a hug if I could.

 

“Free” time isn’t free when we pay for it in depression, anxiety, and disconnectedness. This year people found things to enjoy and celebrate, and I’m really happy about that. But in our desire to find sunshine after the rain, we need to offer an umbrella to the people who are still caught in the downpour.

 

It’s okay to feel depleted by 2020. If we’re being honest, I think we all do.

The Virtual Critics are Raving!

Critics are raving!

In a world where conferences are cancelled and everything is virtual, Courtney Clark takes meeting attendees on a thrill ride to a land of resilience.

See what her clients and attendees have to say about Courtney’s energy and engagement at virtual meetings. These testimonials are just a sample of recent comments from Courtney’s 2020 virtual keynote speaker presentations.

Are Naps Good for You?

Do you know the truth about naps and success?

I’ve always been a big fan of naps (I got it from my Dad), but I recently read something VERY interesting about naps and our brains.

If you love naps or you hate naps, this is probably something you should know!

Because of something called the “default network” in your brain, your creative problem-solving is at it’s peak right as you drift off to sleep. Plus, if you’re tired, your brain shifts into threat mode, and the resulting linear thinking isn’t very good for being creative.

So feel free to take a nap – research shows it’s good for you!

What’s “Adaptive Thinking” and Why Does it = Success During COVID-19?

I couldn’t keep my new research to myself any more. Dealing with COVID-19 is actually the PERFECT time to bring the concept of “Adaptive Thinking” to the world.

If you’re struggling with the new reality of your work, your business, your home life… whatever, Adaptive Thinking is a concrete, constructive way to pivot and find a way to be successful when the world is uncertain.

Yesterday I gave a short presentation on the Adaptive Thinking concept to a group in California, and I realized that with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and its impacts on the way we’re working and living, I couldn‘t wait any longer to send it out to everybody.

I’ve been learning a LOT over the past 18 months researching how people can develop Adaptive Thinking (and there’s still more to learn!), but here’s a very short introduction into something you can do TODAY to help you start thinking more adaptively and getting your brain primed for survival and success in this new world.

If you’ve got more questions about what Adaptive Thinking is and how it can help you – ask ’em! I’m going to be shooting more videos in the coming days and weeks.

Why Choose Courtney for a Keynote?

If you’re wondering “how do I choose a keynote speaker for my conference?” you’re not alone. It’s a tough job to find a speaker who will keep your audience engaged, teach them something, make them laugh, and motivate them – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

 

Courtney Clark isn’t your average keynote speaker.

 

She’s inspirational, for sure. She’s high energy, interactive, and fun. But she also grounds all her work in research. She offers what she calls “content-based motivation,” so when you work with Courtney, you’ll create a customized blend of research, strategies, interaction, humor, and stories. Your participants will leave with both the *feelings* and the *skills* to be more successful in today’s fast-changing world.

 

If you’re looking for a keynote speaker on change, resilience speaker Courtney Clark will bring your group the tools and attitude they need!

The Risk of Avoiding Change

Change feels risky. But there can sometimes be greater risks if you AVOID change.

 

I had a great conversation this week with a guy who was stuck after 40 years of the exact same behavior, and he’s finally ready to change.

 

If you’re avoiding shooting your shot because change feels risky, remind yourself that staying static is risky, too.

Why is it So Hard to be Happy?

You want to be happy. You want to be less stressed. You want the good times to outweight the bad. So why is it so hard to be happy, even when you want it?

 

For many of us, we’re going about happiness the wrong way. Thanks to our culture, the media, and just plain misunderstanding, we’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places. (And I want to be clear, here: if you struggle with mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, it’s not your fault. You aren’t depressed because you’re looking for happiness incorrectly. For you, it’s hard to be happy because of the chemicals in your brain, not because of your behavior. Keep reading if you want to, or bookmark this for later, but know I’m not talking to you).

 

But for most of us, a better path to happiness is possible. It just requires a few behavior shifts.

 

The Bad Stuff Really Does Outweigh the Good

 

Your brain isn’t your best friend when it comes to happiness. Your brain is wired to be much more sensitive to bad news and threats than it is to good things That makes sense when you think about your caveman ancestors, who needed to be ready to run if they caught even the smallest glimpse of a predator. It’s called negativity bias, and it’s a system that evolved to keep you safe from threats. But in today’s world, you don’t need to run from predators quite so often, yet your brain still pays more attention to negative experiences versus positive ones.

 

Scientists say it takes 5 positive experiences to outweigh 1 negative experience. But the real key isn’t to just have 5 positive experiences, you have to notice that you’re having them! So as you go about your day, take note of the good things that happen. Did someone let you merge on the highway instead of being a jerk? Did your colleague praise your work? Did your kid say “I love you” without being prompted? If you force yourself to pay attention to the good stuff, too, you’ll find it easier to outbalance the bad stuff 5 to 1.

 

The Happy Social Media Effect

 

Social media has its good points. It can help us feel more connected to our networks, which is a strategy that can build happiness. But many people feel more dis-connected when they spend time on social media. The online world allows us to glimpse all the fun, happy times other people are having, and we naturally compare our own lives to what we see on the screen.

 

I love the Anne Lamott quote “Never compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.” But that’s exactly what we do on social media! We see the bright shiny image that the person on the other side wants us to see, and that’s all. And then we compare that to our own internal worries, doubts, and struggles, and we come up short in comparison. But the person posting on social media has worries, doubts, and struggles, too! They just aren’t posting those moments. If you need to take a social media break, do it. Or at least hide the people who make you feel less-than. Make social media work for you, not the other way around.

 

You Can’t Chase Happiness

 

If you want to be happy, it makes sense that pursuing happiness should be a priority. But that’s the exact wrong way to go about it. In fact, research suggests that pursuing happiness can lead to decreased happiness. Especially in the US, our cultural expectations for pursuing happiness can lead us down the wrong paths, like expecting a big work promotion to make us satisfied.

 

Instead of chasing happiness, it’s more important to chase “meaning.” Meaning is the idea that we know our purpose and are fulfilling our purpose. Meaning isn’t as in-the-moment joyful as happiness might be, but meaning provides the long-term satisfaction and contentment that lasts. To start chasing meaning instead of happiness, think about the moments when you feel like you come alive. Think about serving the greater good. Think about what drives you to keep going. When you tie all those concepts together, you’ll be on the road to finding your meaning. And meaning makes your heart glow for a lifetime, while happiness can be fleeting.

 

It’s not easy to be happy. But it IS possible, if you pay attention to the things that truly matter.

Why “The Bachelor” Winners Are Pretty Resilient

It’s not hard to figure out who’s going to win and who’s going home on The Bachelor! ?(…and yes, I’m a reluctant fan!) 😉 ?

Watch how the women handle stressful situations. Do they make The Bachelor comfort them? Do they show no fear? Do they handle it themselves? There’s a pattern on the show of who gets sent home and who gets the rose, and it applies to life, too!

As you watch the show, see if you can guess the final four based on their patterns of resilience. I swear by it!

How to Avoid End-of-the-Year Work Burnout (Part 2)

Tidings of comfort and joy may be what the popular song calls for, but they can be pretty hard to find during the stress-filled holiday season. Here are a few resilience exercises to calm the storm and get through the end of the year in peace. Missed Part 1 of this series? Check it out here!

 

Step 3 – Make Time For the Truly Important Things, And Ditch the Should-Be-Important Things

Along with setting realistic expectations, the holidays can also cause us to think we have to celebrate in a certain way.  Maybe because family tradition dictates it. Maybe because we saw a beautiful layout in a magazine. Maybe because we used to work somewhere that had an awesome Christmas party and wicked Secret Santa exchange, and we wish our new boss did that.

In your home life, sit down and make a list of the things that are the most important to you and your loved ones, and prioritize those things.  By making space for them, instead of cramming the holidays full, you will actually be able to enjoy them more and stress less.

At work, think through the most important, big picture pieces of what needs to be accomplished before year-end in order to start the next year strong. When I’m thinking of my to-dos, I like to picture a target. The outer rings aren’t worth nothing, but I get the most points for aiming toward the middle. What’s the middle of the target? What’s the highest value activity that will set you up for success moving into the new year?

There are only so many hours in the holiday season.  Trying to incorporate every single possible activity, tradition, and to-do into a few short weeks isn’t enjoyable, it’s stressful.

Step 4 – Seek Moderation

For years we’ve been hearing health professionals tell us that the holidays shouldn’t be an excuse to indulge. Whether it’s food, wine, shopping, or anything else, the end of the year doesn’t need to be a free-for-all, because having a “feast or famine” type attitude to indulgences means you’ll only rebound harder when the celebratory season is over.

That same attitude holds true at work. Don’t get distracted and let off the gas, or spend work time online shopping. But on the other hand, December isn’t the time to panic and try to get everything finished. You may be trying to show off before a December review or a January bonus, but the odds are good that the impression you made the other 11 months of the year is what really matters.

Just like your pumpkin pie intake, try to balance the last month of the year with work and play. Think “consistency” instead of “get it all done.”

By the end of the year, most of us are running on an empty gas tank.  But these four techniques for powering through December will have you avoiding stress and burnout, and feeling like celebrating by the time you ring in the New Year.