As the world struggles to regain its footing, so too are many of its people. Just as the global economy has taken a hit, once-successful careers have taken a tumble, leaving talented staff scrambling to stay afloat. Jobs have been sliced, wages cut and family budgets battered. Promotions are no longer on the cards and pay rises far from feasible. Some have been forced to go part-time, others into sudden unemployment. For many who have been able to keep their jobs, working from home throws new challenges and disruption to routine.
This unprecedented situation that COVID-19 brought was without warning, without a survival guide and without a clear way forward. Months into the pandemic, there is still confusion, overwhelm and a massive sense of loss on every front. We mourn the passing of people, our security, our autonomy and a certainty we once had. Businesses must now re-set parameters, realign staff and re-evaluate the path ahead.
Before us is a whole new set of challenges, both personally and professionally, but how that looks is largely dependent on one thing – your next move. While the outlook may look scary, you have to stand up, take control of your own destiny and make sure you and your team thrives in the new world ahead.
In times like this, there is no better teacher than the queen of motivation and inspiration, Oprah Winfrey. Her deep spirituality, passion and authenticity sees no bounds, and her openness to sharing her trials and triumphs gives hope where none could be found before.
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a different way to stand,” she is often quoted as saying.
Oprah has a long history with adversity. Born to a very young single mother in rural Mississippi, she grew up on welfare, was shuttled between family members and suffered abuse at the hands of a very strict grandparent. Her hardship continued into her teen years, with more abuse, neglect and poverty, until she finally went to live with her father, who insisted she pursue her education. As she grew, found her calling and discovered her true passions and talents, she never once forgot where she came from.
“I am so grateful for my years literally living in poverty…because it makes the experience of creating success and building success that much more rewarding,” she told David Letterman at a Ball State University interview.
Over the years, Oprah has continued to experience contrasting ups and downs of life, and even as she became a familiar face on our screens, her learning was not over.
Her early television shows were quite different from what they became known and loved for. On one such early show, back in 1989, she recalled having a guest on who announced to his wife, live on stage, that his girlfriend was pregnant. This shocked not only the audience, but the host. Oprah was appalled and decided then and there that her show must reflect her intension – to become a “force for good”.
“I live by the third law of motion in physics; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is my religion; I know that everything I am thinking and feeling is going to come back to me in a circular motion. What propels the action, is the intension,” she told an audience of students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It was this notion of intention and strategically working out her next move that then shaped her future shows – and her incredible success.
Now, as we attempt to put the pieces back together after the monumental shift COVID-19 has brought, you have the opportunity to reflect on your own intention and how you can become a “force for good”. As Oprah has proven time and time again, there is no such thing as failure. Each time something shakes you apart, you have the opportunity to reshape your life and move in a direction that better aligns with your passions and purpose. You have the power to decide your next move.
“There are no wrong paths. There are none. There is no such thing as failure really, because failure is just that thing trying to move you in another direction. So, you get as much from your losses as you do from your victories, because the losses are there to wake you up.”
This shift in mindset is, in itself, challenging – but the ability to refocus and reframe in this way can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Careers are fluid, ever-growing and never without potential, no matter what setbacks appear in the fray. Nothing can take away your experience, and just as Oprah has famously proved, adversity can become a powerful drive towards greatness. Take stock of your own situation, and focus on not where you have been, but where you are going.
“The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, what is the next right move?”
COVID-19 has created a massive wave of disruption across both personal and professional realms, but if, in some small way, we can each turn that into a victory, we will emerge stronger than ever before.