The Months Ahead are a Marathon

Pace Yourself

Jackie & Kevin Freiberg

“People are sprinting through what has become a marathon – and the pace is not sustainable.”

Are you sprinting through what has turned into a marathon?

When the pandemic began, with grit and die-hard determination, many of us and the organizations we work for were able to pivot and adjust quickly. And as we all mobilized and responded to the crisis, morale was buoyed by leaders’ inspirational messages and actions hailing, “we can get through this… together.”

Kudos and hi-fives are absolutely in order–we accomplished the unthinkable. And yet, there’s still no end in sight. We thought we’d be back to some kind of normal by now, but many of us are reeling and feeling more isolated than ever. Even though the adrenaline rush has faded, our work/life balance is anything but in check.

It seems people are working longer and harder than before.

When you ask people how they’re doing and get beyond token responses of: “I’m fine” or “I’m managing,” stay the course and ask again. It’s likely a deeper level of truth will emerge, something more like: “I’m anxious, overwhelmed, and lonely,” “I’m completely burned out,” “I’ve lost my sense of optimism,” “I’m not sure how much longer I can do life like this.”

No doubt, COVID-19 has challenged our treasured beliefs about what the future will hold. Generally speaking, people are feeling discouraged, disappointed and exhausted because of prolonged isolation, accelerated pace and uncertainty.

But, don’t lose hope, these feelings are normal.

The key question becomes, how can we stay strong through it all? Here are 4 strategies to help you and your team stay strong and relevant in the face of personal and professional struggles with the challenges of COVID, racial unrest, political mayhem and national economic crisis.

1. Practice bounded optimism

Early on in the pandemic, we shared a blog suggesting leaders communicate with bounded optimism and we’re still advancing the same message. Why? Because it works and it’s powerful. Engage in hopeful messages that are less about returning to normal and more about accepting what is no longer. The chances of going back to the way we were pre-pandemic are not likely. But bounded optimism is not about false hopes and unrealistic expectations, it’s about believing we’re going to be better than before at some point later in time.

what can you do?
Let go of the “Forever Myth.” Shift your narrative from what’s been lost to what’s becoming possible, in a balanced and realistic way. Although this is prolonged, it will end at some point; the current situation is not permanent. Give yourself and your team something energizing to work toward each week, celebrate accomplishments and recalibrate when needed.

2. listen carefully for signs of exhaustion & stress in others

Unfortunately, the mandatory pivot to video connections quickly became back-to-back, all day, every day, and has left us feeling more disconnected than ever, especially from leaders. Since we first started working from home, online hours have increased as people struggle with the discipline to set their own boundaries, in part due to worries about job security and being seen as offline and irrelevant. This lack of work/life boundary is one of the strongest contributors to energy drain.

what can you do?

Make it safe for people to set boundaries for work and life. Take the lead, let your team know when you’ll be on and offline. Dare to model vulnerability, show people through your own example, “it’s OK to not be OK.” And if you notice your mental health is declining, do one small thing that brings you peace, text or call a loved one, step outside, go for a walk, take a shower, listen to your favorite song. One small gesture is all you need to remind yourself that this is not permanent. Emotions are meant to move through your body. When you’re feeling emotional, one of the best things you can do is MOVE and let the emotions move through you.

3. focus on building relevant skills

Your ability to grow and develop, especially during times of change and stress should be a high priority. Up-skilling your adaptability and resilience is a powerful way to improve creativity, innovation, well-being, speed and overall performance. Organizations that invest in the well-being and energy of their people see 4x higher profit and more than 20% gains in productivity and innovation. And an added bonus, up-skilling better prepares us to handle shocks such as COVID-19 or other business-model disruptions with greater speed and resilience.

what can you do?

Practice a learner’s mindset and go on a quest to learn more about any skill you want to develop. Skill-building is a learning journey; it helps you stay relevant and interesting. The more you learn, the more interested in learning you become. Learning is a tremendous asset in growing a marriage, becoming a better parent, building work relationships and friendships, and rising strong to become a more courageous leader.

Some of the professional skills du jour are: all things AI, adaptability, resilience, courage and leadership. And the good news is, all are skills that can be trained, observed and measured. If your company offers training options for any or all, sign up, and if not, there are countless free online resources available. That said, it’s also okay to up-skill in areas that will enhance you personally. We are complex people who live integrated lives; the entire point of this blog is to help you stay strong in work and in life.

4. be curious & re-imagine the future

Prioritization is a struggle that long predates the COVID-19 crisis. With work and life blurred and boundaries constantly being stretched, now is a great time to reimagine you and your work post-pandemic. Start by finally tackling unnecessary and unwarranted busyness. Focus instead on engaging in work and activities that really matter.

what can you do?

The biggest drains on productivity can usually be solved by simply removing some unhealthy foods, toxic people and non-productive habits from your life.

What if you start 2021 by committing to a 30-day challenge? Subtract one unhealthy food, toxic person and non-productive habit from your life and replace each with a more enriching addition to your life. Here are three more questions to help you focus on doing what really matters:

  1. What are you really passionate about?
  2. What are you really good at?
  3. What makes you money or grows revenue?

The intersection of all three answers is a bullseye for prioritizing your time and engaging in work that really matters.


As the New Year fast approaches, we challenge you to refresh and retool personally and professionally, re-imagine your future, detox if you need to, and do it all with a spirit of bounded optimism.

Cheers to Rising Strong and Enriching your Story.