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Making Sure the Next Step Is a Step Forward, Not a Step Back

It's time to re-enter our new normal with a new take on life.

Key points

  • Post pandemic we are not going back to how it used to be, but forward to how we create it.
  • Self inquiry can help us orient toward new steps we want to take in life as we move out of the difficulties of the past.
  • The past can guide us. The future will invite us. We are the only ones who can direct that unfolding.

We are all anxiously awaiting each step of the next new normal, whatever it may be, however it may slip and slide. Masks? No masks? What’s okay? What’s not? Inner and outer confusion of what is normal. And often we say to ourselves or others something along the lines of how wonderful it will be to get back to life as it was before the pandemic. But we won’t ever get there, because that’s the past, which lives only in our minds, our memories, our photos, our stories, and often in our longing.

If nothing else had happened in this long 18 months, we all got older. We all lost things we valued, from loved ones to an easy feeling of safety, to health, to jobs, to time, or an imagined sense of having lost time. And now it is the present. We are likely not out of these specific woods yet (pandemic woods), but we see the light, we have more freedom, we are looking toward a new future. And doing that, looking toward a new future is a better idea than wishing for that good old past. That too, though, can be a trap. Seeing our future, building toward it, being excited by it, or afraid of it, is all happening in the present.

What if we stop the shuffle between the good-old-days and the whatever-the-future-holds and come back to Now?

Breathe. Experience your body, in this moment, for all its good and yucky feelings. Breathe again, a little deeper. Sigh on the exhale. Shake your body a bit, freeing it of stagnant energies. Be here now, as a wise man once said (and wrote the book to anchor it—Be Here Now by Ram Dass). Really there is nowhere else to be, no other time to experience. There is no one else to be, in spite of the many years we have conjured up images of a different us: a better me, stronger, smarter, thinner, richer. All the wanting, the shoulds, the messages from the past, the internalized projections of other people. The list goes on: every image of me that is not me. An imagined future; an imaged me; a regretful past fraught with better options. “If only I’d__." “Why didn’t they?” Or that good old day's past: “Remember when__?” “Oh, to be young again.”

Flip a coin on your future and your past fantasies. That’s what they are. And yet, we don’t want to ignore them, let them go, be all “here and now” and nothing else. The past tells us our story. The future, as we envision it, sets our intention. Let’s just make sure that as we step out of the present, we step into the deepest, most important memories of our pasts: the ones that remind us of our goodness, our resilience, the qualities that most truly define us. Likewise, setting our sights on the future, we want to see ourselves in our growth, in our emerging to what is calling us in our own evolution. What is our Ideal Model?

As we consider the future, which we must do, to make plans, set intentions, create visions, manifest dreams, and make sure we buy everything we need at the grocery store, we can begin to imagine and then empower a new normal for ourselves. And that new normal will be us, having learned, grown, changed, honored our deepest calls, committed to our most important values, and internalized the qualities of our being that we want to be the ground of our new normal. One step into our next blossoming.

Every year, we grow. Sometimes a year (or a week or a decade) feels wonderful and sometimes awful. But what is amazing and empowering is that we can and often do grow and thrive in difficult years as much as we do in great years. Take just a moment to notice that you have grown, in some positive ways, even during this difficult time. And remember how you have done that in the past. And turn your attention to the future that is emerging every minute and ask yourself: What is growing in me now? How will I step into a new normal in which I am living closer to my truth, my values, my passions, my self?

To help, play with these questions:

  1. What qualities, attributes, behaviors do I want to bring with me as I step into the future?
  2. What do I want to leave behind?
  3. What is emerging in me that is new, calling me towards ways of being I am not used to?
  4. What do I want?
  5. What energies are carrying me forward?
  6. What am I willing to do to step into my future?
  7. Can I make my own growth important enough that I give it time and energy?
  8. How awesome am I anyway? (Have fun with this one.)

New steps, next steps, true steps, best steps.

More from Dorothy Firman Ed.D. LMHC, BCC
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