moving forward after pandemic

Are You Going Back or Moving Forward?

moving forward after pandemicContributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. A version of this article originally appeared on Johal’s LinkedIn blog

When the coronavirus crisis hit, people reacted differently—but nobody could have predicted the seismic shift it would have on the world. The unthinkable had suddenly become reality as we hunkered down with our loved ones, staying in our homes to ensure our safety.

As the weeks advanced, we took many rides on an emotional roller coaster. From appreciating seeing our kids and spouses again, to worrying about our financial situation—things we thought we’d never have to worry about suddenly became points of real concern.

Some days have been filled with hope, while others have sent us into despair. Most of us had to pivot in some way. We have learned new technologies, changed the way we communicate and adapted our schedules to balance our time the right way, but only as much as the virus allowed.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

Today, countries are opening up at different speeds. Traffic is starting again, almost to the same levels we were accustomed to before confinement. Construction sites are back at it, and capitalism is raring to go. Some have even unbelievably suggested the economy is more important than human lives.

I watched a very impactful video this morning, The Great Realisation. You may have seen it. It’s garnered 6 million views in a short period of time. The video does a quick but deep dive into how the world has fundamentally shifted because of the virus.

Pollution levels globally are down; our human habits have changed; we are being purposeful about spending time listening to our loved ones; and many of us have realized our previrus lives were in fact…a mess.

We prioritized work, we left our families for “in-between” moments, and we cared little for the environment. This new perspective has been refreshing and transformational. But will it last?

Living in Fear During the Coronavirus Crisis

As brave as I try to be, I have often found myself very worried in the past weeks. I am working more hours than ever. The story I tell myself is that it’s a natural reaction to facing a huge loss of revenue.

Relaxing has felt irresponsible: If I am not spending hour after hour rebuilding my business platform, I question my commitment and use fear as a tactic on myself to motivate my own actions.

Is it the right or wrong approach? I have no clue, but when I’m feeling calmest, I remember to focus on the positive: I have taken this forced moment of quiet shift to dedicate my time to high-impact projects I hope will have a lasting effect for years.

And yet, am I not simply back to my old ways? Am I once again choosing professional work over my family? I have to catch myself in the moment when I find myself using the virus as an excuse to spend 10 hours a day in my home office, asking not to be disturbed by my two young teenagers.

Sure, they are independent. But at 14 and 11, these are the last few years I will have them with me. In no time, they will move on to their own lives, out to conquer the world. And as parents, we will be an afterthought for a few years. The proverbial cycle of life happening before my eyes, and I am sitting in my home office away from my kids as it happens.

Fear is powerful, but it can also be blinding. I’ve tried to remind myself to take a step back and mindfully analyze if my current actions are a reflection of the anxiety I feel.

My advice? Ask yourself if you are doing the right things and for the right reasons. We know time is precious. We’ve had a forced but necessary reminder of this during the pandemic.

As much as we need to get back out there and rebuild our professional lives and our businesses, please remember to prioritize. Use the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity for change that will last. One day we’ll be able to look back and say with confidence that the virus helped reframe the way we lived our lives.

Old Versus New

In the coming months, certain aspects of our lives will go back to what they once were before the coronavirus crisis. We will return to our offices, perhaps begin visiting our favorite local stores again. Things won’t be exactly the same, but very similar.

Now is the time for planning. Make a list of the elements you miss that brought you happiness before this crisis—and figure out creative ways to build on those. Make another list of the terrible tasks you had to deal with. What can you do to eliminate these moving forward? Use the crisis as a time to rebuild your path, the way you want it to be.

One thing is guaranteed: It is easy to fall back into our old ways. It’s our natural tendency as human beings: The familiar is where we feel most comfortable.

It will take discipline and will-power to avoid the trap we were stuck in previously. Be ready: Big business will do everything to get you back. We will be bombarded with marketers telling us what we need, but only you truly know what you need. Only you can decide how your life should be lived. Be mindful about it: make the conscious choice today.


Author Greg McKeown wrote an excellent book before the virus. His book,  Essentialism, encourages readers to take an disciplined, essentialist approach to their lives. This means gaining back control of our time and only working on the most important priorities. When we eliminate the need to do everything we can finally begin to focus on our true goals and desires.

Right now we have a unique opportunity. The coronavirus crisis has afforded us a massive reset. Use this gift (it can be seen that way) to adapt to the new reality in your own way. Our constant need for more has often led us down the wrong path.

I am all about pursuing successful outcomes: I’ve spent my life trying hard to impact the world everywhere I could. And yet, I had to learn it the hard way myself: the goal right now is to stay focused on how to remove ourselves from the cycle of things we “just did,” as if on autopilot, and to put our focus in the places, people and work which really make a difference in our lives.

Forward or Backward

As much as the world has changed, we can see the “new normal” isn’t so new. In many ways, it is much easier to go back than to move forward. Be courageous and make the conscious decision to build a new normal for yourself. The choice is yours. Take the leap and create a life by design. You can do this!

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.



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