The main character in the film The Matrix, Neo, was faced with a decision that many of us will be faced with in the coming months.
Will he take the red pill or the blue pill?
In the movie, the red pill reveals the uncomfortable truth that humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality, created by machines and artificial intelligence, that use our bodies as an energy source. The blue pill, on the other hand, allows Neo to remain inside the simulated reality, completely oblivious to the truth about himself and others.
The decision we must make is not one of science fiction. However, similar to The Matrix, many of us live our lives blissfully ignorant to the patterns of behavior and addictions that keep us trapped. COVID-19 has been a red pill for many, giving us a vision of how things could or should be. Many consider it a gift, to force them to slow down and take a hard look at what is most important in life.
Please don’t hear me making light of the devastating effect of this virus to families who have lost loved ones or are out of work; that is not my point. Personally, I am now working longer hours, for less money, than I was before COVID-19. At the same time, watching the world come to a sudden halt has forced me to prioritize things differently than I did in the past. Hopefully, this will be a lesson I don’t soon forget. I don’t want to take the blue pill when this is over and return to the old normal.
In my book, Leader Farming, I introduce the idea of a seasonal growth mindset. Prior to the Coronavirus, many business leaders who I shared this concept with had difficulty relating to the idea of a winter season in business, aside from the slow months (typically January and February for most in my industry). The majority of businesses have been in a perpetual harvest season for quite some time, well over a decade. However, the idea that every quarter has to be bigger and better than the previous quarter is completely unsustainable. It doesn’t take into account the concept of seasons that are a natural part of life, let alone the sudden changes in season brought about by a recession or pandemic. If you are like me, your business was thrust into a winter season that you never saw coming. You probably wish you had been better prepared. However, we are where we are. We can’t change the past, but now that we are in this winter season we must not believe the lie that tells us we aren’t growing if we aren’t producing anything.
We must change our definition of what growth looks like during a winter season. It is not upward and outward, as it is in the spring and summer seasons that ultimately lead to a harvest. Instead, our growth in this season is inward. We may not see anything happening on the surface, but our roots are growing deeper, just like a tree in winter.
Prior to COVID-19, we spent most of our days like a rock skipping across the top of pond—barely touching the surface, focused on going further as fast as possible. Now, we find ourselves in a place we have never been before. Those of us who historically found our identity in our work or how much we could produce are likely struggling a great deal with doing “nothing”—relatively speaking.
In this season, we must shift our focus to our inward growth, to the things that cannot be seen by others. To growing our character, shaping our core values; the things inside of us that make up who we are and don’t change from one season to the next. As my friend Noble Gibbens always says, “Roots before fruits.”
Friends, let’s face it: We are in a winter season, and we may not see the fruit we are accustomed to for some time. However, we can use this time as an opportunity to deepen our roots.
Here are some thought-provoking questions that may help you in this process:
- What were you doing before all of this that you now realize wasn’t serving you well? Or, what do you need to stop doing?
- What is it that you were not doing before that you wish you had done to prepare you for this time?
- What used to matter to you but doesn’t any longer?
- What didn’t matter to you but now does?
Write these things down and place them in a place where you won’t forget them. You will soon be offered the blue pill, but you must resist it if you want to see the growth that took place in this season become a permanent part of your life.
COVID-19 was an unexpected gift for many of us, especially the overworked, overscheduled, and overcommitted. It was an opportunity to push the pause button and reset some things in our lives.
We will have an opportunity to choose differently in the coming months.
Will we fight to get back to normal, returning to our old habits or, might I say, addictions, or will we choose a different path this time that will become our new normal?
Zach Thomas is an entrepreneur, Chick-fil-A franchisee, business/life coach, public speaker, blogger, and author of Leader Farming: Growing Leaders to Grow Your Business. His next book, Pioneer Parenting: A Guide for Raising Kids in Uncharted Territory, is expected to release in 2020. Download a free preview chapter at www.pioneerparenting.org/about.