After The Tragedy, How Do I Get Back To Normal?

Today is February 28th, 2018. I live and work in Parkland, Florida. Two weeks ago today, my community, a little-known, sleepy bedroom town, became world famous for all the wrong reasons. A horrific school shooting took the lives of 17 students and teachers, and has galvanized our little town.
Led by the example set by our own youth, survivors of the massacre, we have spent these last two weeks focused on turning our grief and anger into productive steps to prevent a tragedy like this from occurring again. Perhaps this is an idealistic goal, given our failures as a society to fix these problems in the past. But I can see that we, as a community, still have a sense of optimism. We are inspired by the strength and the poise of our children, and we are committed to making a significant difference in the long term, in the names of the 17 families who will never be reunited with their lost loved ones.
We have participated in candlelight vigils, political rallies, funerals, town hall meetings, shiva visits, prayer services, facilitated counseling sessions, and countless informal conversations regarding what must now be done. We have spent our days poring over our Social Media feeds, writing our elected officials and companies, and living with the din of 24-Hour TV news networks constantly in the background. We have lost track of time, and our normal business schedules have somewhat gone out the window.
Today, school is back in session at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for the first time since the incident. And while it will undoubtedly be a while before anyone ever feels like things are “back to normal”, the time has come for most of us (those of us who can) to resume some semblance of normalcy in our schedule and our routine.
But the most popular question these days seems to be “How do I get back to normal?” How can I resume my regular schedule, when so much work on public safety issues is still undone? How can I just move on, when so many in my community are still suffering so much? These are difficult questions, and I don’t have a definitive answer. But I have come up with a plan that has started to work for me, and I am sharing these thoughts below, in case they are helpful to anyone else in my community trying to find their way forward:
1) Do something “normal”, work related, to start.
Pick something. It can be a simple task like issuing a monthly report, scanning your e-mail backlog to determine what are the most urgent issues to take care of -- anything. Don’t bite off too much at once, but commit to completing at least that one action. That first step will lead to the next, and the next. And soon, we are back to something that bears some resemblance to our routine.

2) Continue your advocacy, but time-bind it.
Many of us, both within and outside Parkland, have become a lot more aware and active regarding social policy and how it relates to school safety. Inspired by our students, we have chosen causes and strategies, and have spent time and energy trying to exert influence. This race has barely begun – when the media circus finally leaves town, and when the cameras stop rolling, there will still be much work to be done. Rather than feel guilty for losing sight of this as our focus returns to our businesses, we can continue our advocacy – but we need to schedule it. We each need to ask ourselves questions like “How much time each week can I spend on advocacy and influence?” I feel compelled to keep the pressure on my elected officials and keep the dialogue moving, but I can’t afford to keep spending 12 hours a day arguing with internet trolls on Facebook. Once we determine the right amount of time to spend, and the most important tasks upon which to focus, we can then proactively make “appointments” with ourselves to spend the right amount of time on those activities, while reserving time for work, family, and other critical items. That way, we can keep ourselves honest and ensure that we don’t lose sight of these things that are critically important, but that we are also working to sustain our businesses, which provide our families with income and which provide us the sustainable economic platform from which we can engage in this advocacy.

3) Remember your business’ “Why”

I often recommend that my coaching clients check out the video of Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk, “Start With Why.” (Google it, after you finish reading this!) Sinek helps us remember that our business has a PURPOSE beyond that which is self-serving. We earn an income for ourselves, sure, but at the core of our business lies a desire to serve others, to create value in their lives through our work. No matter whether you are a contractor, a lawyer, a veterinarian, or a merchant, your job and your business is essential to the lives of those whom you serve. So remember, your customers cannot possibly get back to normal if you aren’t there to help them get back to normal. Turning some of your attention back to your business isn’t “selfish” at all, particularly if you’re keeping in mind the people whom you are serving. Our community is in a lot of pain at the moment, and I’m finding that helping my clients (especially my local ones) find their new ‘normal’ is a pretty valuable role that I can play. Who you are in difficult times is who you are. Be the person whom you want to be, now more than ever.
I’m honestly not sure whether these tips will be helpful to anyone but me, but they are the things I am trying to do to extract myself from the deep sadness of recent events and move into a sustainable path forward. I’m forever affected by the tragedy that has rocked my beloved Parkland, but that doesn’t mean I will be beaten by it. Just as I firmly believe that Parkland will lead the way for a better, safer future for all of our schoolchildren, I also want to be a part of creating the path forward for our business community, which has always held a deep connection with our students and our schools.
If you’re still struggling with how to get started, I’m here for you. You can schedule a phone call with me, pro bono, at my online calendar . I’m not a mental health professional, but as a business coach, I am a good listener, and I suspect that any conversation we have will be as beneficial for me as it may be for you. Feel free to reach out to me. I’d like to be part of the path forward.
And now, perhaps more than ever, please remember: Whatever You’re Going To Be. . . Be Outstanding.

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