Turning ‘being adrift’ into an adventure

The ‘pandemic of 2020’ has disrupted our personal and work lives. For some, this disruption has been to be cut adrift, to be untethered, from an organisation or employment.

So much daily structure, personal identity, and validation comes from having a job. To be adrift is functionally unsettling: routines are lost; skills are not used; and activities remain undone. It’s emotionally destabilising: there’s a shame element to say “I’m unemployed”, is if my value ceased when nobody nor an organisational identity, is seeing and utilising the value I have to contribute. In being adrift, it’s also to lose touch with resources and opportunities to gain personal value and contribute value. You are lost in limbo.

Actually, that’s just one perspective.

A matter of perspective

I invite you to take a fresh perspective. If you were a business, not an employee, then the fact that you don’t have any client delivery work at a period of time, does not mean that you cease to exist or operate as a business. You would shift into more R&D activity to increase your capability and diversify your offerings; and into Business Development activity to enter new markets to find new, or connect with current, customers. The business is not redundant – simply operating differently for a time.

You could adopt this perspective as an individual.

The essence of Self unLimited is to see yourself as an organisation-of-one. However, no organisation is alone. It exists in a web of relationships, so too your organisation-of-one exists in a web of relationships. Chances are you’ve not given your relationships much attention when you felt there was little need of them, as an employee inside an organisation. And now might be the time you need them the most.

Being an employee of an organisation is actually a temporary gig in the grand scheme of things. This is why the Self unLimited philosophy is to see yourself as having a workscape – not a job at an organisation – so you can exercise sovereignty over that whole territory. You lead your workscape; you choose its flavor and intentions, and you make choices to act to serve your best interests.

You are invited to turn your time adrift into an adventure for your workscape. How might I do this (I hear you say)? See it as an opportunity for learning and growth! And not just in the traditional sense, I’m advocating something more creative and proactive.

Moving to a better zone

You might have seen this ‘Growth Zone’ meme below, or a version of it, floating around on social media. I draw your attention to the Learning and Growth zones. Here lies opportunity to shape your adventure.

The statements in this image are all propositions that can help you shape up the scope and nature of your personal adventure, something that’s a fit for you and your circumstances.

There’s a connection between what’s in this image and being Self unLimited. The Self unLimited framework consists of seven Responsibilities. Four of these are most vital to people who are adrift: Reign; Relationships; Renewal and Revenue. Let me map some of these statements from the Learning and Growth Zones against the four responsibilities.

Reign – the responsibility to lead and navigate my workscape adventures

  • I start to give up what I can’t control.
  • I become aware of the situation and how to act.
  • I live in the present and focus on the future.
  • I’m empathetic with myself and with others.

Relationships – the responsibility to connect with others meaningfully and help each other

  • I think of others and see how to help them.
  • I recognise that we are all trying to do our best.
  • I thank and appreciate others.

Renewal – the responsibility to adapt myself and shape my workscape

  • I look for a way to adapt to new changes.
  • I identify my emotions.
  • I practice quietude, patience, relationships and creativity.

Revenue – the responsibility to define and create the value I seek from work

  • I look for opportunities.
  • I make my talents available to those who need them.

I share with you about these Responsibilities, because they are used to organise the content in the Self unLimited collections. Our collections contain Stories to read and listen to; Articles to muse upon and Activities to do (with tools) to develop new practices.

What you can control

Being in limbo or adrift, is to be amidst uncertainty and ambiguity.

Can you image what could be more uncertain and ambiguous than right now? And how do you prepare for that? Looking back, if you had known this was the situation you were going to arrive in – what preparation would you have made to ease the current situation?

Like insurance or vaccination, there is value in thinking ahead, doing a bit of mental time travel to ‘see’ what could happen, and decide how you want to prepare for that or mitigate the severity of that.

A useful capability for the modern employee, is to be savvy in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. What does this actually look like? Much is said about this, but little is practically offered as insight or action for individuals. One aspect of ambiguity and uncertainty is to realise what you can have control over and to exercise that control.

Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind
comes we can catch it.
~ E. F. Schumacher

It’s the belief that you have some control and can exercise that control to serve your own interests, that’s at the heart of being Self unLimited.

Where to start

When you are in limbo, the discomfort of such a state can be stressful if you’re not familiar with navigating such in-between spaces. Let’s not kid ourselves – this is a vulnerable state to be in. Stress can trigger some basic human responses of flight, fight, and freeze. It’s okay to admit that we feel vulnerable. The very first step in your new adventure is self-care – to get some semblance of calm and wellbeing to be able to think straighter and act more purposefully. Consider enrolling in the Self unLimited micro program on self-care practices.

If you are not used to leading yourself or you feel unable to be creative in resolving issues, then get some help. This might come in the form of a professional coach (we have coaches available). It can also come from connecting with trusted people in your community.

Even in Limbo or not tethered to an organisation, you continue to have value. It’s up to you to recognise what this value is and take personal action. Figure out how you can contribute value in creative fresh ways; and how you create value for yourself and others. There are plenty of opportunities if you open your eyes to the possibilities.

This is doable. Very doable!

Possibilities of personal action include:

  • Make a personal project to come up with an idea for a community session and implement it.
  • Reach out to a small business; social enterprise or not-for-profit organisation you know and offer your services pro bono to help them with developmental activities.
  • Make and implement a plan to identify and enrich a village of people within your community.
  • Make a personal project of learning and development to acquire new skills and practices to become more able and ready to navigate workplace changes.

[Side note: In one derivative of the Growth Zone meme, a fourth zone is added: Action Zone, with a call to transformative change. Read more here.

 

Limbo-time could be an adventure of your own making, not a time to regret or hide. It’s your choice. There are people willing and able to help you figure this out. All it takes is a decision on your part to believe in yourself, invest in yourself and reach out to others.

Will you invest your time, belief, attention, and even money, in self?
Who will you reach out to start this new adventure?

 

Author

Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has not followed a traditional path in her ‘career’, nor does she intend to. It’s been her personal experience that she’s made plans, then life happened and things went in a direction that wasn’t anticipated. As a consequence she’s fascinated by the emergent and serendipitous approach to life and work. She thinks about ways to help others navigate the future of work, given the ambiguous possibilities and opportunities if there is courage to take that journey. And for good measure, she likes to inject humour and originality into her work.

 

(Amended) Photo by Jeremy Ducray on Unsplash

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