We are now headed into our third year of a global pandemic if you start the clock when COVID-19 appeared in China. This prolonged time of adaptation has tested us on so many levels. It has caused us to see the fragility of our health, education, economic, social, and political systems. On an organizational and personal level, it has asked us to let go of normal practices and accelerate how fast we adapt to changing conditions. 

After nearly two years of adaptations, we are at a different place than we were before. Some people I talk to still think things will return to being familiar and predictable – a new normal with a little bit of change. I think something more significant is going on, where our future will be continual adaptations that will significantly change who we are becoming. There is a growing consciousness and mindfulness that seems to be emerging. Before the pandemic, our lives were frenetic and filled with things to do. Now, the pandemic has slowed that life down and allowed for space to reflect and question if we still want to live on a treadmill, generating wealth and power for others that are not distributed across the system.  

In place of the frenetic pace of life, we have been forced to change just about everything. So, our adaptative responses have increased in speed, urgency, and importance. At the same time, we have had more time to reflect and practice adapting to change. If there was ever a recipe for deep transformation – this would be it. We are letting go of forms and seeking purpose.

In nature, form follows function. In human life, our forms need to support our purpose. When forms no longer serve the larger function, nature seamlessly lets go of the form to serve the system. For example, a mountain stream doesn’t hesitate at the top of a cliff as it flows down the mountain toward sea level. Instead, it seamlessly shifts from a stream flowing over rocks to a waterfall and then back to another form. 

In human systems, we often fall in love with our forms and hold tightly to them even when they no longer serve our purpose or the organizational purpose. COVID-19 and its variations have been an exercise of forcing letting go of forms that no longer serve a purpose. In the end, our organizations, and we as individuals, have learned to question more deeply the forms that we are holding on to. This has caused us to look deeply at our habits of extraction of natural resources to see if our short-term thinking and consumerism will serve our future. For example, our views of social justice have changed deeply as we see the forms that are not serving large percentages of our communities. Further, during the pandemic, we have had to redesign restaurants to accommodate staffing challenges. 

In closing, I invite you to take some downtime over the final weeks of 2021 to nurture your mind and body. Take time to enjoy family, friends, and yourself. Then, as the new year emerges, I invite you to reflect on how you have changed over the past two years.

What forms have you let go of? In what new ways are you structuring your life? How are you thinking differently about things? What won’t you do in the future that you used to do unquestionably? I’d love to hear your answers in the comment section.