Monday, 27 April 2020

#19: Knowing when it is over

Is the end nigh? Current times are characterised by great uncertainties, but don’t be tempted into inertia, being proactive can still make for a happy ending.

Are you unsure if your work, project, business or relationship is over? Take a moment to reflect back on a time when you knew something was over and when it finished. Perhaps you knew, deep down, it was over some time ahead of it actually ending? Or maybe the end came like a hammer blow totally out of the blue? By reflecting on previous endings you can be better prepared this time around.

I like running marathons. Well, to put it more accurately, I enjoy signing up for marathons and I like the finish line. There are numerous hours of hard training and hard miles in the race itself that, to be honest, I don’t always enjoy. The finish line of the marathon is a definitive endpoint. The vast majority of people who sign up to run the London Marathon do indeed finish, regardless of their fitness or training regime. Knowing there is an endpoint to reach, after which you can stop and collect a medal, is enough to keep people going. Whilst running marathons can teach you a lot about yourself, not all situations in work and life have the neat ending we sometimes crave. Often the finish line is frustratingly hidden in the fog of daily life. Understandably there are fears and worries about the impending change.

I was talking with a shop owner the other day, in a retail business on the high street. Her business, like many, is on hold because her customers need close personal contact and interaction before purchasing her products. We were talking about if and when she would re-open again. “I really don’t know if I will have a business to go back to”, she said. So like our friend, if you are contemplating whether something is reaching an end, or whether to put fresh energy into it, try these steps:
  1. Sitting it out. Try sitting still, calming and quietening the mind. Probably best to do this outdoors if you can, perhaps in the garden or on a balcony, or if you have a view out of the window.
  2. Pose the question. Ask yourself out loud “Is this over?” And wait for an answer to come. Many times, with hindsight, people did intuitively know when something was over. Listening to your inner voice and your own intuition is as good a guide as any in uncertain times.
  3. Don’t wait, do something. Whilst it is tempting to wait for the answer to become clear to us, or a magical lottery-winning solution to emerge, don't give in to inertia and do nothing. Be hopeful but be proactive, for example, plan your future framework, clarify your purpose and set new goals.
  4. Write down what you need right now and in the future. Write down what you want now and in the future. Pay special attention to anything on both lists.
  5. Accept where you are right now. Remind yourself you are doing the best with the information you have to hand.
In a way, my marathons are never really over. As soon as I finish one, briefly pausing to look at the medal, I am planning the next one. I often sign up for another one on the same day as finishing the one I’ve just run.
Runners walking over the red start line of the London Marathon
Runners at the start of another London Marathon in 2019
Times change, new information presents itself, a relationship flourishes again when you thought it had burnt out and new projects and business ideas emerge where you couldn’t see them before.

To a degree, there is a sense that nothing is really over, forever. Just different at different times.