When the pandemic struck, I found myself thrust into a new reality of fear and uncertainty. Suddenly, with work on hold and no pressing agenda, I felt as though time stood still for what was seemingly an eternity.
My business had survived the economic meltdowns following 9/11 and the global financial crisis of 2008. But nothing could have prepared me for this unanticipated new change of circumstances.
Alone in my office, I thought about my purpose as well as a future that I hadn’t anticipated. I found myself in a dark place, watching my confirmed conference bookings evaporate in a slew of emails that flooded my inbox. Suddenly, I was staring at an empty calendar in a state of shock.
The irony of being a “leading through change” expert hit me. Massive disruption was taking place in real time. Was I ready? Were my clients ready? How would world and business leaders respond?
Like millions of people, experiencing a world temporarily on pause afforded me time to reassess life’s priorities. A new path to self-actualization begun. Through a process of deep reflection, I remembered my own words from my first book, Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life: I had written the following:
“We are conditioned to think of ourselves, our values, and other people in terms of either/or. By polarizing or thoughts into society’s concepts of good or bad, right or wrong, etc., it becomes difficult to discern our own unique values regarding work, career, money, and success. Ultimately, we do have choices. We can create our own future.”
Today, I continue to work with organizations that want to solve their biggest workplace challenges. The context, as well as their questions, have shifted dramatically.
They are now asking: Where did all the employees go?
The answer is directly linked to the collective quest for deeper meaning and purpose in the aftermath of the most transformative event in recent history.
Simply put, many people changed their perspective regarding life and work, making the decision to create their own future. The focus has shifted from job security to a desire for work that is meaningful, engaging, and supports a fulfilling life.
The collective yearning for greater purpose can be explained as follows:
Reassessment of Values
The upheavals caused by the pandemic, including lockdowns, economic uncertainties, and social isolation, compelled people to rethink their values. Many realized that the pursuit of material success or conventional markers of achievement did not bring the fulfillment they sought. As a result, people are increasingly seeking work that aligns with their core values and provides a sense of purpose.
Mortality and Reflection
People became acutely aware of their own mortality as a result of the pandemic. Facing the impermanence of life, individuals began reflecting on the significance of their existence, both personally and professionally. This introspection often sparks a desire for more purposeful and meaningful pursuits.
Burnout and well-being
Burnout and stress were already prevalent before the pandemic hit. The significance of health and mental wellness became more apparent as people struggled to meet the demands of both their professional and personal lives. Recognizing that a fulfilling and balanced life involves more than achieving professional success, more people are seeking jobs that put their health and happiness first.
Remote work realities
The widespread adoption of remote work during the pandemic disrupted traditional work structures. The blurring of boundaries between professional and personal life prompted a re-examination of work-life balance. With increased flexibility, individuals are seeking careers that allow them to integrate personal values into their work, creating a more harmonious and meaningful lifestyle.
Community and social impact
The sense of shared vulnerability during the pandemic highlighted the importance of community and social connection. Individuals are increasingly drawn to work that contributes positively to society, recognizing the impact they can have on their communities and the world at large. This desire for a broader social impact contributes to the search for more meaningful and purpose-driven careers.
Emphasis on personal growth
The disruptions caused by the pandemic forced individuals to adapt and learn in new ways. As a result, this emphasis on personal growth has translated into a desire for work that provides ongoing opportunities for learning, development, and a sense of fulfillment.
The rise of purpose-driven business
There has been a notable transformation in the corporate world, with many companies re-evaluating their missions and values. A focus on purpose-driven business practices that prioritize social responsibility, sustainability, and employee well-being is replacing the traditional bottom-line mentality.
Building meaningful relationships
Lockdowns emphasized the importance of community and human connection. People are pursuing meaningful relationships, whether with their families, friends, or broader social circles. Communities have evolved into vital sources of support, empathy, and common purpose.
As we navigate the challenges of the post-pandemic world, the quest for meaning drives individuals and businesses towards more authentic, purpose-driven paths. People are learning that true fulfillment comes not only from overcoming obstacles but also from embracing a life and career that are rich in meaning, connection, and opportunities to define their own future.
© 2023. Michelle Ray, Lead Yourself First Enterprises