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How to Embrace ‘the Next Normal’

Change is a constant we can and should expect—and even embrace.

The 'next normal'
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There’s something that’s always bothered me about the phrase, “the new normal.” After all, if it’s new, how could it possibly be—or even become—normal? By the time any change or transition is normalized, that means it’s been incorporated into our daily routines. By then, our expectations will have gone through the process of fully adjusting.

So my heart leapt when I started seeing references to “the next normal” in articles, books and internet memes. The phrase was popularized early in the pandemic by the management consulting McKinsey & Company. In the business context, “the next normal” means that after COVID-19 finally, mercifully fades into the rear-view mirror, we should calibrate our expectations to reflect two truths:

  1.  Life will not go back to “normal” as we understood it before the pandemic.
  1.  Change is a constant we should expect and even embrace in the months and years to come. 

The myriad changes we’ve endured in recent months—from shutting down completely when the pandemic first struck to understanding and accessing vaccines, changing masking habits, stepping back into social activities…and then re-adjusting as the Delta variant surges—cleanly capture the notion of “the next normal.”

Whether we have done so with grace or impatience, tears or fortitude, we have navigated many transitions in rapid succession since spring 2020. Most of us, I’d wager, have walked through this time with a combination of calm and challenge. At each step on the journey, we have needed to recognize a “next normal” that required us to assess our behaviors and adjust our outlooks.

I believe life will feel this way for the foreseeable future. I also believe that the “next normal” mindset is a helpful addition to a life of authentic positivity. Think of the energy we can save if we stop expecting the world to revert to some “before” state—or to stop changing like the tides against the shore. 

Instead, imagine the beauty we will be able to notice in the world if we pivot toward embracing change, sharpening our flexibility skills and recognizing that we are stronger when we bring our full, authentic selves to whatever next normal life sets before us.

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