The “Shoulds” and “Shouldn’ts” of COVID-19

Right now I’m hearing a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts circulating about how to act, respond, or work during this pandemic. “Now is the time to do all the things you didn’t have the time to do!” “Move your business online!” “Use Zoom for all the things you need!” “Contact every client you’ve ever worked with and pitch to them!”

I get it. I want someone to tell me all of those things too. I want a leader to help me navigate this crisis. Some suggestions have wisdom to them and some do not, but the important piece I think is determining which is which. Glennon Doyle says, “As Kathleen Norris reminds us, the Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift,’ as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most.”

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That certainly rings true for me right now. I’m learning what’s important to me and what’s not. But more than that, I’m learning about my inner compass. I’m easily swayed by other people and also susceptible to suggestions. If someone tells me the best way to grow my business is to beat down 10 doors, I’ll beat down 10 doors. If someone else tells me the best way to grow my business is to let the doors open for me, to offer everything up to the universe, I’ll offer everything up to the universe.

I’m like a ping pong ball batted around a table. Every few minutes I’m changing my mind about what to do, about what makes sense. I’m letting other people lead and become the authority for, well, everything. The reality is almost none of us were alive the last time this sort of thing happened with the Spanish flu. And furthermore, technology back in 1918 was vastly different than it is now so we’re truly navigating something brand new. No one knows what they’re doing. Not really. The best any of us can say is, “This worked for me and it might work for you.” But who wants to say that? Don’t we all want to seem put together or authoritative? That people should come to us for the answer?

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Through this crisis I am indeed learning to sift, but I’m not sifting what I anticipated. Instead I’m filtering through the noise. I’m wading through the 10 million advice columns people are churning out. Don’t get me wrong, I think advice columns are useful and I’ve written a few myself, but often what’s missing is choice. You get to choose what’s best for you and nobody else knows what that is. Sometimes even I don’t know what’s best for me, but that’s what I’m figuring out.

What’s best for me one minute might be resting. The next it could be answering all of my emails. Or going for a walk. Or writing an article about the shoulds and shouldn’ts of COVID-19. In this time of uncertainty and chaos, perhaps the best thing we can do is become our own authority. To ask ourselves what’s best for us and remember we don’t have to do everything other people tell us we “should.” I’m not a fan of the word “should” and I try my best not to use it. Instead I say “could.” I could reach out to all my old clients. I could wash all my dishes right now. There are many things I could do but what do I want to do? What feels best to my soul? And that I think is the best possible use of my time. And maybe yours too. I’m not sure – I’ll let you decide.

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