The Cost of Perpetual Crisis

I was speaking with a colleague recently who confessed that he was lacking ambition. This is a man recently promoted to a challenging position and very active in his profession. Yet now he was wondering if it was time get a new job. As we talked it occurred to me that his true problem had nothing to do with ambition, it was all about being stuck in perpetual crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented leaders across the country with a new type of challenge. Normally when we face a crisis there is a limited time frame in which it happens. For example when a hurricane threatens there are stages of events from tracking the storm, boarding up, hunkering down as it passes, then cleaning up afterwards. Due to the short term duration of most crisis we often move on shortly afterward with our longer term goals secure.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

However, when a crisis persists we face a different struggle. COVID-19 is a long term problem that has placed many aspects of our lives on hold indefinitely. Vacations, conferences, social events, and more have been replaced by virtual meetings which provide limited appeal. Long term disruptions force us to place our ambitions off to the side while we handle the slow day to day grind of survival. When we lose focus on long term goals, the short term needs become a path to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Is there a secret to staying ambitious in the face of a long term crisis? For me, I realized that it is okay to let long term goals lie fallow for a while. In fact, it is a good test to see they were really wanted in the first place. The crisis can serve as a reflection point to see if the direction you are heading is still one worth traveling. Our goals may still be desirable, but we have to practice flexibility to keep them alive. For example, as a seminar presenter I no longer have the option of in person training. However, virtual presentations allow me to keep my toes in the water. In fact it provides valuable experience so that down the road when in person events resume I will be able to offer more training options than before.

2020 has been a very long year. It is okay if your ambitions and goals have been set aside. With 2021 closing you may want to be kind to yourself and allow your goals to lie fallow for the rest of the year. Even COVID-19 will pass, allowing for a restitution of normal to take hold and a long term perspective to return. Crisis leads us to reevaluate our lives. Allow yourself the freedom to explore new opportunities with the lessons learned from this year. That will help make 2021 the best year yet!

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